From September 2020, our industry-leading MBA program will offer a choice of two new specializations. Recently we uncovered the Revenue and Performance Management specialization; now we’re turning our attention to Hospitality Entrepreneurship and Business Development, with the help of Clinical Professor Franc Avila.
Accor Hotels, Bloomberg, Moncler, Peninsula Hotels… this isn’t just a random selection of revered brands in luxury and hospitality. They’re some of the organizations which have worked hand-in-hand with Les Roches MBA students, on real-world business projects.
It means entrepreneurship – and its corporate sibling intrapreneurship – are already embedded firmly into the MBA experience. And this is one of the factors that drew Clinical Professor Franc Avila back to a school he first joined in 1996.
“I don’t believe that education has to be about ‘dry’ learning just through books and lectures,” he explains. “I want the students to ‘get their hands dirty’ through applied learning and business projects, where they have the opportunity to think creatively and take risks. With a case study you know the outcome; it’s like a multiple-choice question in narrative form… but with our MBA projects the students have the chance to determine the outcome!”
Franc was around when the MBA first became a part of the Les Roches portfolio. Then, after leaving Switzerland, he spent time in the UK university sector, primarily finding commercial partners to fund and collaborate on research and consultancy projects.
All this entrepreneurial passion and experience will now feed directly into the new Hospitality Entrepreneurship and Business Development specialization, which – for those who choose it – will round out the second semester of MBA study.
Why choose this specialization?
For Franc, the choice of specialization comes primarily down to personality. “You’d pick this specialization because you want to be an agent of change… to create something,” he says. “This is an active specialization for an active personality. If you want to take decisions that make a difference; to lead teams and build foundations for sustainable business, then this specialization is for you.”
The specialization’s curriculum will be an evolved and expanded version of the Business Modeling and Entrepreneurship course that Franc has been teaching in the first semester of the MBA.
“Around a third of all Les Roches graduates go on to run their own businesses.”
Among the key content that will be carried through is a business start-up project. This sees students develop and pitch product or service concepts to an expert panel of potential investors. This works in a similar way to the popular reality TV show known in many countries as Dragons’ Den, in which contestants try to secure funding from a panel of venture capitalists.
“Around a third of all Les Roches graduates go on to run their own businesses. And at the same time we know that a good proportion of our MBA students come from family businesses. So the entrepreneurial demand is certainly there,” Franc adds. “Many students want to go back to those businesses and make changes from the inside out, to adapt to new competition or transform their businesses to the digital era.
“However, our specialization will also be perfect for the ‘intrapreneurs’ – those who bring an entrepreneurial mindset to the corporations that employ them. Our intrapreneurs want to go back to their businesses and use their MBAs to secure a promotion; or maybe to push a new business idea that will impact the bottom line positively. We show them how to get those ideas supported internally, how to deal with the politics, secure funding and get the human resources allocated.”
Real-world projects; real-world learning
The business projects – and the clients – are real. So that means mistakes can be made; ideas may not always work in practice. That, to Franc, is the real power of the Les Roches MBA. “Unless mistakes are possible – in a safe environment – then students will never develop the ability to take the sort of calculated risks that push things to the next level.
“The learning process is not just about coming up with the idea; it’s bringing it to market, then assessing if it’s been a success or failure. And this really happens: right now a project we worked on with Peninsula Hotels is being implemented in the market.
Franc also expects the specializations to have a big influence on the ever-popular business field trips, which are true highlights of the Les Roches MBA. For their field trips, students get to visit Chicago and Shanghai – two dynamic, global cities, that deliver what Franc describes as a “wow factor”.
He says, “We go to these cities and meet with CEOs and General Managers. And they just open up completely to the students, giving them the unvarnished truth about how tough it is to be successful in business and what sacrifices are required. It’s what makes the field trips such an essential part of the curriculum and it feeds directly into the business projects I organize.
So, if the specialization is about getting to the “heart and soul of an entrepreneur”, what – for Franc – does this actually mean in the context of the hospitality industry?
“The ‘heart’ of hospitality is the passion to serve. And the ‘soul’ gets to the core of what it means to be a good leader. The belief that we can make a difference with what we do,” he says.
“What defines a Les Roches graduate is their ambition to make a difference; to drive change. It’s not being afraid to jump into the pool and take risks. But most of all it goes back to the core of what hospitality is about: the customer.”
- Watch our video as MBA student Mohamad Seifeddine describes how our focus on entrepreneurship was a big factor in his choosing this program
- Click here to discover more about the specialization in Advanced Revenue and Performance Management
- To find out more about the evolution of our MBA program, check out this interview with Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr Dimitrios Diamantis