MBA puts a fire under management skills

Assistant Chief Fire Officer of the South Australian Metro Fire Service & AIB Graduate

After 38 years as a firefighter Greg Crossman has made a career out of tackling tough issues. But when he needed to drive his skills as a business manager he turned to an MBA with the Australian Institute of Business to meet the challenge.

Not long after accepting the responsibility as Assistant Chief Officer for the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service, Fire Chief Grant Lupton asked Greg to complete an MBA.

“I had just been promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief Officer and I was holding a lot of responsibility for Search and Rescue, major hazards and Human Resource Management,” he said.

“I spent a lot of time managing problems in HR, so when I sat down to think about what the focus of my MBA would be, I thought I’d use it as a way to grapple with all these HR issues.”

While Greg had previously completed a Graduate Certificate in Business, the theoretical basis of the study and the exam process made it difficult to translate his skills to benefit the team.

“From a university context it was difficult to make the link back to operations and when I went back to the Fire Services to explain what I’d learnt it was like I was talking a different language,” he said.

While navigating the challenge as well as maintaining his position at the South Australia Fire Service, Founder and Chairman of AIB Professor Selva Abraham gave the team the opportunity to learn the qualification in a way that would help them apply the theory to their actual role.

This process allowed many of the leadership team to make better strategic decisions for the business, impacting not just the company but the entire community they serve.

“People’s lives are literally in our hands when we are making very important decisions,” Greg said. “We are not only talking about operational decisions on the field, but about strategic decisions about where we best place our resources and all we need to do to ensure our systems are efficient and sound.”

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Greg believes his MBA allowed him to not only understand the interrelated systems within a business but helped him manage the business of fire better.

“The MBA gave me a lot more understanding about finance and business, setting strategic goals and development strategic plans, which was a useful mechanism for me to apply across my life,” he said.

“Once I realised I could use a systems approach to manage all the complexities that were coming at me, it made things so much easier.”

Greg was one of the first in his leadership team to complete the MBA with AIB and quickly noticed how his new skills helped not only his own understanding but benefitted the business as a whole.

“Our organisation is built on a hierarchy – one man sits at the top and everything filters up to the Chief Officer,” Greg said.

“We started to ask, ‘How can we be efficient when everything hangs on one man who even signs off everyone’s leave?’ As a result of that we did some process engineering – getting the employees involved to tell us how to do things better,” he said.

“We process-engineered our meetings process as well, as some days we had meetings merging into meetings, and we were not getting any time to actually do anything.”

Greg believes his MBA encouraged him to become more organised and helped him to find better and more efficient systems within the company.

“I got a lot of value out of my studies – I became a lot more focused, and have a lot more priorities in work goals and personal goals,” Greg said.

While enjoying the material during his MBA, he also credits the AIB environment with helping him forge close friendships with alumni and colleagues.

“I have been a firefighter for 38 years now, and the interaction we had with colleagues during the course was invaluable,” Greg said.

“I’m still in contact with most of the team I completed the MBA with, and when I see them at AIB’s alumni events it encourages me to ask what more I can do in my field of endeavour,” he said.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (