Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

CEO shares some secrets of success

Xavier Crimmins giving his talk after formal dinner

When he spoke at the College on 28 August, 2013, the Chief Executive Office of the Campbell Page employment service, Mr Xavier Crimmins, told Warrane residents the story of how his not-for-profit organisation grew to be an industry leader.

He explained that the service had grown from finding employment for 1,000 people each year in 1999 to the point where it now helps 100,000 people every year.

Mr Crimmins stressed the importance of having a strategic plan. He said after he became CEO of Campbell Page, he set the goal of expanding to 12 employment offices, then to 30. After that the goal was to expand interstate, setting up offices in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, as well as continuing to expand in NSW.

“Well, we got there,” Mr Crimmins said. “Our goal then was to grow to 100 offices and we got there again. Our next goal was to expand outside Australia and we now have 8 Officers in the UK.

“What has driven it all? We wanted to be very good at what we did. We wanted to be the best in the country at helping the most disadvantaged in to work.

“And why did we want to do that? It was about our purpose: we wanted to pull people out of poverty. And for that we believe that work is central. You can’t stop poverty without work. Each person we get into work means another person not living a life of poverty.”

Mr Crimmins said in the process of helping Campbell Page to achieve its goals he had found his own purpose in life.

“I was interested in Catholic social teaching and the idea that everyone has a right to participate in society,” he said. “I have seen amazing things in terms of life-changing moments.”

One of them involved the story of one young woman whose own parents had injected with heroin from the age of six and who had also introduced her to prostitution at an early age.

“She was just a mess,” he said.

But after coming to Campbell Page, the girl had managed to complete school and had entered university.

“You can’t give up on people,” he commented. “You have to support them and help them to discover their purpose – we all have a role in life. We all need to understand our talents and gifts as well as the things we don’t do well.”

Mr Crimmins said it was also important for people to find an organisation that they felt comfortable with – one that has values that fit with your own.

Speaking about his own experience in the workforce, he said he had found it very important to take some time out. Each year he spent four or five days on retreat at a Benedictine abbey near Wollongong. He spent the time in silence, reflecting on “what I am here for and where do I go next”.

He said one of the things that had helped his organisation over the years was getting employees to reflect on a story about a bunch of frogs in a competition to reach the top of a high tower. All the onlookers were convinced it was impossible and voiced their doubts loudly. Only one frog reached the top. When he was asked how he did it, it turned out he was deaf.

“So don’t listen to people’s negativity and saying you can’t do it,” Mr Crimmins said.

“I told our employees that people are going to say we can’t do it and I continue to tell that story at every staff induction.

“Sometimes you need a simple way for people to engage in a vision and sometimes a simple story can do it. When there are tough times, it’s the deaf green frog that comes out in people…

“So don’t be scared to dream. Be a deaf green frog. You have to have confidence in your self and take some risks – low risk, low return.”

Mr Crimmins emphasized that if one was to get ahead in life it was important to keep up to date with knowledge and skills.

Asked during a question-and-answer session if poor numeracy and literacy levels were the main cause of unemployment, he said he didn’t believe this was necessarily the main cause, but the “main barrier” to people getting employment.

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]