Tony Groves is taking lessons learned in high-pressure combat environments in battlefields of the Middle East and using them to create professional development courses in the Waitaki Valley.
After an 18-year career in the military, Mr Groves, with his partner Maria Topia, set up Halo Training in the Waitaki Valley in 2015.
Their business runs courses across the South Island, but one of its most popular – Frontline Leadership – is based out of Valley Views Glamping in Otiake, near Kurow.
“A lot of people come into it thinking the courses are going to be easy because of the luxurious accommodation, but we work them hard and they need the rest at night,” Mr Groves said.
“We teach the participants about the importance of functional fitness and a healthy lifestyle, and a good night’s rest is part of that.”
Mr Groves spent 11 years in the Australian Army, specialising in battlegroup intelligence, and a further five years as a private contractor to the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Making the transition back to civilian life, he noticed some differences in how professional training was delivered in the military and civilian worlds.
“With Maria, and a few of my former colleagues, we started to have a discussion about gaps we had identified, and the way we knew a different approach could fill those gaps,” he said.
“The training I experienced personally was attendance-based where you had to show up for however many days and then you are qualified in whatever competencies they designated, it might be something like a PowerPoint presentation.
“And you wonder how much of that style of training people take in or apply when they leave the course.”
Mr Groves believed some of the lessons he had learned in his experiences in high-pressure combat environments would be relevant to the development of others.
“In Iraq, I was a tactical commander, which involved things like planning and co-ordination of a task, the ability to communicate effectively with your team and also navigating uncertainty and decision-making under pressure – all relevant in a professional environment.
“Why does the training of those skills be limited to just military when it applies equally and just as importantly to business?”
Mr Groves said Halo Training aimed to combine the best of the military with the best of civilian worlds.
He said the training impacted on participants’ personal lives, as well as their professional lives.
“It is a journey of self-discovery as much as professional development.
“We teach people to perform above their normal selves, it’s brilliance in the basics.”
Mr Groves said the feedback from the participants had been overwhelmingly positive.
“I just love what we do, I’m excited just sitting here talking about it.
“It’s a completely different buzz to the military, these people will never forget their experience here, and that’s all you need.”
The hills and isolated nature of Valley Views and the surrounding area were perfect for conducting exercises, he said.
Kurow is now home for Mr Groves, an Australian native.
“I love it here.”