Life’s a Circus

MBA alum Steve Crombie talks joining the circus, scaling the Amazon and building companies

Joining the circus at age 17 was the first sign of the unpredictable life in store for Steve Crombie. Indeed, the circus stint was merely how Steve earnt money before the real adventures began. Inspired by National Geographic magazines, Steve launched his first survival-oriented challenge in Thailand, venturing home to Australia via land and sea. This was just a warm-up for a trip down the Amazon in a homemade canoe, and a two-year, 90,000km global odyssey from Antarctica to the Arctic, mostly by motorbike.

Steve has parlayed his travelling obsession into a lucrative career as an author, entrepreneur and keynote speaker.

He has written 12 documentaries for Lonely Planet, Discovery Channel and BBC, and attracted millions of hits and sponsorship deals through a website which documents his travels. From telling his own compelling story, Steve has gone on to help businesses and other organisations do the same. His business, Totem, is now one of the nation’s leading consultancies for social media and video strategies.

What he didn’t learn from the school of life, Steve gained through education.

Between epic journeys, he returned to Australia to study IT, graphic design, change management and finance, before consolidating it with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Western in 2004. “My MBA gave me a comprehension of how to leverage my skill sets to do something that I loved,” Steve says. “It helped me with managing the book, documentary and brand deals that sustained my existence on the road, and with launching my own company without financial backing or partners.”

However, he says, “I like it when shit hits the fan.”

Surviving a motorbike ride through an arctic storm, dodging bullets in South America and battling exotic diseases are just some examples. “These things taught me that the only limitations are in our minds. I’ve applied this notion to business and been very successful because of it.” Steve is now preparing to put Totem on hiatus and spend six months travelling, planning his next adventure. He plans to be operating a digital business in the US or China within a year, but the details will depend on where the road takes him. “I’m going on an adventure to expand my knowledge, improve what I do, and come back bigger and stronger.”