John Crossman is the youngest inductee into the Florida State University Business School Hall of Fame (he was just 43 when they inducted him in 2013). He is the President of Crossman & Company, one of the most successful commercial real estate companies in Florida. He has an honorary degree from the University of Florida and serves on boards of many colleges and universities including the FSU Alumni Association, the FAMU Foundation, Valencia College, and Bethune-Cookman College.
Yet, for all his success and contributions to his community, John graduated with just a 2.9 GPA at FSU. It wasn’t because he was partying or not showing up to class. He went to all his classes, got tutors, ran for the FSU track team, and claims he worked extremely hard as a student to earn that 2.9 GPA. He has an incredible work ethic. He just wasn’t the best learner. It was only in recent years that John found out that he had a learning disability: dyslexia. He must not have ever used that as an excuse to get him to where he is today.
In 2006, John joined his brother’s firm, Crossman and Company, buying a 50% share in the company to become a full partner and serve as President. While his brother Scott handles the operational side of the company, John focuses on business development. Today they have 75 employees, operating 5 offices in 8 states in the Southeast. John’s philosophy that he brings to work everyday is “servant leadership.” He is a servant to his clients, his employees, and to his industry.
“Leadership is a process of influence,” says Crossman. He first learned this from his father, Kenneth Crossman, a pastor and civil rights leader in Central Florida. John was brought up in a family that valued education and diversity. And his personal philanthropy reflects that well. John has endowed real estate scholarships and programs at Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College, the two leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Florida. This philanthropy allowed him to start opening up a dialogue about how few people in the black community were in the real estate market. In 2014, he was invited to address the Congressional Black Caucus on the subject of real estate and HBCUs.
A husband and father of two beautiful daughters (ages 13 and 11), John also serves as a mentor to many of his employees and other young professionals and college students. He frequently lectures on college campuses (you can watch some of those lectures on his YouTube channel) and recently published a book, Career Killers / Career Builders: The Book Every Millenial Needs to Read! In it, he gives examples of basic things to avoid and specific things and people to seek out. He has proven that a man with a 2.9 GPA, with a hard work ethic, can build a successful career by just doing a few simple things – and working hard at those things each day.
With so many recent examples of people who had it all and messed up, Crossman says he wants to help young people — and those that work with them — to avoid these trappings that have ruined other people’s careers. But he isn’t throwing stones. He shared with us some of his own personal experiences. “What I want to be is vulnerable. I want to be as vulnerable as I can and I try to give that away so that I can help people.”
He tells us he after some recent professional counseling he also discovered that, “My addiction was work in a way. When something sad would happen to me on a personal level … instead of dealing with it, I just doubled down on my work.” He says many people you see that are successful often use work as an escape instead of dealing with their problems. This is where his advice on having mentors, seeking professional counseling, and finding the right friends and peers to build relationships with can help us deal with our problems and help with a better work-life balance, and ultimately help us build the right career and life for ourselves and our family.
“Balance is very tough,” says Crossman. Despite a full plate of professional and philanthropic involvement, he tries to set firm boundaries as to not overdo it. “If you add anything major to your life you have to take something major out of your life.” He describes this as doing different things in different “seasons of life.” He loves college football, but since his daughters came into his life, he devotes his time to them and has barely seen a college football game since they were born. He also tries to include his wife and daughters in as many of his work functions as possible in order to spend time with them and involve them in his work life.
John Crossman has his priorities right. And his new book will hopefully help thousands of others get theirs right too. Be sure to listen in to our interview with John Crossman on Episode 26 of the Agents of Innovation podcast, which can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.