Improve your process.

Empower Your People.

Transform Your Culture.

Light a Fire under Your Business
How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership

Two firefighters-turned-management-consultants provide organizations with an innovative way to transform executives
into inspirational leaders.

Authors Tom Pandola and Jim Bird discovered that the management and leadership principles they relied on for success and survival during their firefighting careers also lead to success in business—and in life. The book they wrote on the basis of that realization is for people who face challenges in their business or personal lives, for those who feel a sense of purpose is missing in their work, and, especially, for every senior management team in search of a winning corporate culture.



  • Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, Light a Fire under Your Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An extraordinary read from beginning to end, Light a Fire under Your Business: How to Build a Class 1 Corporate Culture through Inspirational Leadership is very strongly recommended for corporate, community, and academic library Business Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. Ideal and invaluable reading for anyone seeking to establish or improve their entrepreneurial activities.

    Midwest Book Review
  • "Light a Fire Under Your Business draws fascinating comparisons between firefighting and business management that will change the way you lead. Pandola and Bird’s powerful message is for all professionals who want not just to be leaders, but trusted, effective leaders!" - Marshall Goldsmith

    author of the New York Times and global bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

"Inspirational Leadership:
Leaders must earn trust to become influential.
This influence will serve to convince and inspire
others to believe that achieving difficult goals is possible."

"Ordinary to Extraordinary:
Create the expectation that everyone is
continuously improving, incrementally, every day."

"Expand Comfort Zones:
With the appropriate guidance and safeguards,
people can reach new levels of performance,
professional growth, and trust in leadership."

"Improve your organization
by discovering best practices
that will keep you ahead of your competition."

How can strategies for success and survival in firefighting serve business managers and leaders?

Light a Fire Under Your Business is organized in three sections that teach business leaders and others how to improve processes, empower employees, and transform a business culture. Principles are demonstrated using actual firefighting experiences—the authors’ practical classroom—to bring lessons to life. Then, those same principles are applied to business situations to demonstrate their real-world application.

Throughout, the book shares a success formula that will provide managers and other senior executives with effective planning skills, the vision to solve problems, and the ability to inspire the individuals within an organization to become the best at what they do.

Book Features
• Shows how to inspire passion in your workforce
• Explores what ordinary people need to do to deliver extraordinary results
• Raises the stakes of the business game by equating success with survival—something firefighters do every day
• Employs numerous examples from the business world as well as from firefighting
• Presents applications that have been proven through the authors’ consulting business

Purchase Book

Light a Fire Under Your Business is Available Online

Book Reviews

Read Full Book Reviews from the Following Writers

About the Authors

Tom Pandola is a director of communications in the air medical transportation industry. He is also a co-founder of Third Alarm Leadership, a leadership consulting company he started with coauthor Jim Bird. Pandola’s work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire protection administration from California State University, Los Angeles.

Read recent articles from Tom:

The CEO Playbook

American Management Association

James W. Bird served with the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 24 years, rising to the rank of captain and distinguishing himself as an innovative leader. His business career spanned 20 years in the high-pressure environment of the Fortune 500 where he developed new sales strategies and cross-functional processes while also providing leadership for diverse teams. Bird holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from California State University, Northridge.

Tom Pandola


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Tom Pandola is available for Speaking Engagements, Coaching and Consulting.

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Excerpts from the Book’s Forward

Written by G.H. Worth Founder and CEO, St. Ives Laboratories, Inc.

Light a Fire under Your Business is an exciting guide to better business practices... Click here to read the full excerpt by G.H. Worth

Light a Fire under Your Business is an exciting guide to better business practices. The authors are two former professional firefighting leaders who successfully transitioned to become professional business authorities in their respective industries. They offer real firefighting experiences that result in the saving of lives and protecting properties and show how these experi­ences are relevant to improving similar business practices with the goal of saving business lives and inspiring initiative in leaders and employees.

I met Jim Bird, a coauthor of this book, during my early years as a strug­gling entrepreneur. In such early days, as you surely already know, your business is built on hard work, long hours, and choosing the right people. Sometimes—more importantly, in critical times—the decisions regarding whom to recruit to assist in helping you overcome obstacles, rectify seem­ingly insurmountable difficulties, or take on a project of many unknowns that could be vital to your future existence really come down to a gut feel­ing. Jim fulfilled that role on a number of occasions over the years for our company, St. Ives Laboratories, Inc.

As my small company grew, I called on Jim, since I knew that he was a firefighter and that he had a varied work schedule, to complete several tasks important to the growth and expansion of our consumer-packaged-goods company. Money was tight, and I needed dependability, honesty, and confidence that any task or project I assigned would be completed satisfac­torily. Over the years, there were many occasions, in several diverse dis­ciplines, when St. Ives faced obstacles or projects critical to our business’s growth that required special handling. We needed a person with no estab­lished St. Ives responsibilities to be able to focus on the assignment.

These projects, over several years initially, were taken on and managed by Jim on his off-duty days from the fire department. His work with us assisted in the rise of St. Ives Laboratories, Inc., to become a multi-million-dollar, international health and beauty care corporation.

Although I never worked directly with Tom Pandola, the other coauthor of this book, over the years, Jim has shared Tom’s business world accom­plishments with me. Following the end of his career with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, Tom’s full-time duties included managing and admin­istrating a fleet of rescue helicopters and emergency personnel for many years. It was explained to me that Tom’s nontraditional business leadership practices, initially, were not acknowledged by his supervisors as anything special. Then, one day, a business consultant working for the company asked him what he was doing differently in his region. The consultant had noticed that those under his leadership had a more positive attitude, they demon­strated appreciation and respect for others, and major problems just didn’t seem to occur. Tom simply said that he handled his region the same way he handled his battalion while serving as a fire battalion chief with the LAFD.

To the point, Tom had taken the initiative, within the scope of his respon­sibilities, to make changes by training his subordinate leaders to be more influential and inspirational. Jim emphasized to me that Tom’s actions had created improvements that are supported by the principles in this book.

I am certain from the values, the assessments, and the experiences Tom and Jim share throughout their book that their suggestions, instructions, and advice will be insightful to any business management professional like you. They have taken their lives as firefighters—ultimately as fire captain and fire chief—and used the fire service management values and princi­ples by which they survived and prospered in their professional firefighting endeavors and then excelled when they each adapted those same principles to their particular business world.

Jim’s successes ranged in the tens of millions of dollars annually, eventually exceeding nearly $200 million in total sales. This department that Jim designed and administrated, which in the Alberto Culver Company had previously never existed, also took them into a commerce channel in which it had never ventured. Impressively, the revenues realized were incremental to the company and, in fact, had never existed previously. In other words: It was new money.

More impressive were the events carried out by this new department and the methodology utilized to reduce costs through multi-interdepartmental management and leadership. The increases in profitability realized up to 300 percent increases annually at times. These achievements resulted in Jim’s department receiving many corporate goal-breaking awards over many years and personal corporate recognition for Jim and his associates.

The business experiences and successes by Tom and Jim have been quite similar. Both transitioned from firefighting professionals to become suc­cessful business professionals without previous business college training or business experiences. They improved quality and efficiencies through unique management methodologies. They implemented improvements in training regimens, quality assurance procedures, and professional disciplines.

Both have attributed their business successes to their adaptations of the fire service management and leadership principles they each lived by for over 20 years. Both of these former fire officers accomplished these transi­tions and implemented their adaptations of the fire service principles and management procedures to their individual business operations. What is more astounding is that both have accomplished these transformations and successes in completely separate and unassociated industries.

There were times in our business when St. Ives’s middle management and upper management executives would say, “I don’t know how he’s doing it, but Jim’s department is exceeding all expectations.” I’m certain Tom’s his­tory in business has had similar results with similar associates, or superiors scratching their heads the same way.

Many business professionals, possibly including you, have heard in their national, regional, or corporate meetings that the current state of affairs is in a life-and-death situation. They wonder, “How did we get here?” “What do we do now?” “How could this have been prevented?” The fire service principles, the quality assurance procedures to follow, and the leadership strategies and tactics presented in the pages of Light A Fire under Your Busi­ness can be successfully adapted to most business situations and can possi­bly prevent most of those times relating to situations that caused the similar previous three questions.