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With his vast experience of global sales, retail and branding, Anthony Salvi was the perfect choice to deliver two courses – on retail management and branding – which are part of Glion’s Master’s in Luxury Management & Guest Experience. We met up with Anthony to discover more about his background and to get his thoughts on the critical ‘business’ element of the luxury industry.

A Master’s degree – as its name suggests – is all about taking knowledge and insights to the next level. Across Glion’s portfolio of professionally-focused MSc programs, specialist knowledge is delivered in depth by a hand-picked cadre of external faculty, many of whom bring decades of frontline experience to the classroom.

Anthony Salvi is part of this select group. He worked in the distribution sector for leading technology brands before spending 12 years immersed in the world of watchmaking, rising to become Vice President of Sales for Swatch Group.

Anthony set up his own consulting business, Sequoia Partners, which provides education and training across a broad range of institutions – including Glion. And at the start of 2020 he took up a new role with the renowned Italian jeweller, Damiani Group.

Q: Anthony, what led you to Glion and this Master’s program?

Anthony Salvi (AS): Working with students was something that I always loved, so I was looking for more opportunities to teach and was ready to take on some new challenges in education. I met someone who had worked in education for many years, and he gave me a few references for good schools where I could teach. One of these schools was Glion, so I contacted Glion and presented myself. During that call, I was informed that Glion was introducing a new Master’s program in Luxury Management & Guest Experience and was looking for experienced faculty.

I got in touch with Nicoletta Giusti, the Program Director. Nicoletta is not only a researcher in luxury business, but also a passionate collector of watches, and she actively uses the Swatch case as the epitome of design innovation. We agreed to meet and exchange ideas, and this is how it all started.

Q: Which subjects are you teaching and what are you looking to bring to the classroom?

AS: In the beginning, Nicoletta wanted me to teach retail management only. But then I got a second course to teach focused on branding, which is really great. During my career at Swatch I took care of three different brands. I also worked in various different positions within the company, so I have a lot of experience and knowledge when it comes to global sales, retail and branding. As I was part of the leadership team, I was able to learn a lot about branding and retail management; and this is something that I will teach the students in Glion.

Q: Why do you like teaching?

AS: First of all, I love teaching because it gives me the possibility to share my knowledge with a new generation. In addition, it is really great for my personal development, because I also learn from them. The new generations have completely different views and different ways of working, so I am able to learn from them and adapt my knowledge.

Teaching at Glion also gives me the opportunity to meet students from all over the world, so I can learn more about different cultures. I travel for work all the time, so I get exposed to lots of different cultures and behaviors, which means I am able to give real-life and concrete, localized examples from the industry. This is very important to me: to keep things ‘real’ during classes and not use only theory, but also share case studies and actual examples from the field. In this way, students are able to better visualize the concept and learn about it. Students seem to really like this approach and I always get a lot of interaction during my classes.

Q: What are the most important skills or learnings you want students to come away from your classes with?

AS: I would like them to learn that a brand needs time to be well created and established, and that its ultimate success depends on many activities. What I want them to realize is that branding happens in the brain of the customer, and the positioning is all-important to whether the customer will identify with the brand or not. So the psychology behind it is vital – and this all happens in the unconscious part of the brain. Therefore, I would like the students to become conscious of that fact.

The second thing I would like them to learn is how to launch a brand. I want them to create a brand and think about all the elements that they have to take into consideration when doing so. This will be very practical, which is important for me in the courses I teach. I will give them the theory, but my objective is that they are able to put this theory into practice directly on the spot. This will also help them learn in a better and more proactive way.

Q: Do you think there’s a demand for this sort of Master’s program from the industry?

AS: I have already taught in different programs focused on luxury industry and I can clearly see that there is a need for qualified and properly educated people in this industry. Many people want to work in the luxury industry because it feels special and it makes people dream. But I think that having a specific MSc program can help students to go deeper into the subject and see the reality of this profession beyond its shiny products. It will also give them the right tools and business insights, so that they are ready to be good leaders and managers in this industry in the future. They need to be structured and have the right reflexes if they want to succeed in this industry – and a specific program like this one can help them to acquire these.

Q: Because the business element of luxury is all-important, is it not?

AS: Absolutely. And what I noticed in other schools where I gave classes about the luxury industry in the past is that the students do not connect the financial and analytical part of this business with the marketing part that sells them the dream when they are consumers. Often, my role is to bring them back to reality and show them that it is a business like any other; and that it is different from simply being a luxury consumer. I need to show them that there are many campaigns which include luxury events, luxury travel, social media etc. that brands create to sell the dream, but they need to pay attention as there are a lot of financial and analytical decisions behind all of this. They will not be the ones enjoying these events and campaigns – they will be creating them and making sure they contribute to the company’s profitability.

Q: You worked for many years in the watch industry, and now you are teaching a luxury-focused Master’s in a hospitality business school. How do you see the connection between hospitality, luxury and watchmaking?

AS: The common element is the attention that must be paid to the guest or client. Today, guest experience is the most important aspect in all of these sectors. The type of hospitality service offered in a luxury hotel environment is exactly what is needed in any retail or luxury brand. However, this connection hasn’t always been as clear as it is today, where we see luxury brands finally starting to understand this and inspire their customer service by the better examples found within the hospitality industry.

The two fields should be connected. Retail can learn a lot from hospitality, but hospitality can also learn a lot from retail. It is a logical attachment between two industries that have the customer at their centre. It is good that students in Glion can learn the best from both worlds in this MSc program, because they will have an open horizon and more professional opportunities with the knowledge and tools from both fields combined.

Q: Do you think that, nowadays, retail brands want to hire graduates with a hospitality education?

AS: It is in the highest interest of luxury brands that have a retail presence to hire people and talents who have a strong attention to the customer; and who know how to provide the right levels of service. During my time in this industry, I noticed that there were many people who graduated from hospitality schools and joined the company. So yes, I think that there is a desire to hire students with hospitality knowledge.

The advantage of a hospitality business education is that it provides a very rigorous training, with a constant demand for excellence. Students are expected to be flexible and to look for the best solutions for customers; and, in my opinion, once the students have experience of working in a hotel, they can do anything and adapt to everything. When I worked for Swatch, which is not a luxury brand, I had to learn to plan and organize everything, and find solutions to many different problems. So once I experienced that, I was ready to do anything and I adapted easily when they gave me the responsibility of the other two luxury brands within the group. It is the same with hospitality students: they are able to use their knowledge from hospitality and adapt it to any industry, because they have developed crucial business skills.

Q: You switched from a corporate environment to working independently. If a Glion student tells you he or she wants to be a consultant, what would you tell them?

AS: Firstly, I would advise them to work for a few years in the industry before becoming consultants. To be a good consultant, and to be relevant, they need to have a lot of experience in the field. But equally important is that they need to prepare their network; and maybe have some potential clients in the pipeline before going down that path.
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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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