Christian Mur is a member of Glion’s external faculty – visiting experts who bring specialist industry knowledge to the classroom. For Christian, who teaches governance and strategy to students of the MSc in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, it’s also a homecoming…

Christian Mur graduated from Glion in 1991. Now, almost three decades later, he’s back on campus as a guest lecturer. In between, he’s worked in Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa and Ecuador, in a globetrotting career mostly spent with Swiss multinational Nestlé.

Christian also worked just down the road from Glion campus, at Nestlé’s global headquarters in Vevey. And now he’s back in Switzerland, having left the food and beverage giant to become a consultant to scaling businesses.

We sat down with Christian to find out more about his background and what he aims to bring to the classroom at Glion.

Q: You’ve had a very international career – how has that shaped your thinking in the area of governance, compliance and strategy?

Christian Mur (CM): In each of these countries, as I lived and interacted with people from these different cultures, I learned a lot and shared a lot more than anything else. I also started realizing that the rules from one market don’t necessarily apply to other markets; and that ideas are all over the place. The strengths of brands are different, the acceptance and the relevance of brands are different. The perception is different, which was an important lesson in my career.

Q: What for you were some of the highlights of your time with Nestlé?

CM: Food and beverage has always been my passion, so Nestlé was an obvious choice. I worked for the division now called Nestlé Professional, and many of the projects I was involved in were about setting up, expanding or turning around businesses in various countries. In those days it was a very ‘intrapreneurial’ set-up, which meant we had the time and the freedom to turn the strategic ideas conceived in Vevey into real businesses on the ground.

Q: And now you are consulting with entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. How did this come about?

CM: I left Nestlé Professional when the entrepreneurial spirit started to vanish. I completed a Master’s in Digital Business to get myself up to speed with new digital trends, then earned an Executive Master of Business Administration in Corporate Finance. So I am really a student! On the consulting side, I escort start-ups about different markets and how they can attract more than one pool of customers, as well as the financial aspect of start-ups and other strategic and leadership topics.

I am now increasingly working with scaling businesses rather than start-ups, as these have generally been through their trial period and have something that has been proven people want to buy.

Q: You are a Glion alumnus and now you are back on campus – how did this come about?

CM: I met with Marie-France Derderian (Director of the MSc in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship and Innovation) through a common connection. We discussed her requirements for the course and then she recommended that I lead it.

Glion for me is a great teaching platform. We often think that because we are in a hospitality business school we can only work in hospitality, but that is definitely not true. Looking back through the years, what I think Glion taught me the best is not only the theory, but putting it into practice, which made a big difference in my career. It means working a lot with people, with clients, with customers, with teams, you name it. Hospitality is a great school for everybody, because it brings this practical aspect and it pushes your boundaries. I learned a lot from that experience. When you do your first internship in the operations of a hotel, you learn that you can be physically tired, but if you are strong mentally, you can achieve anything. And this is a valuable lesson for any business you will work at in the future.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your course?

CM: I have been executing entrepreneurial ideas my whole life. However, the course that I give here in Glion is not precisely about the execution, it is more about governance, compliance and strategy (for execution). My fundamental interest of this course, besides teaching, is to make sure that the students retain something, so I adapt the course to each of their needs. We will go through governance, but also through ethics which should be an interesting topic to them. The academic part of the course brings important value and provides the basics, but the content should be well balanced with the interactions and real-life examples.

Also, I do not want them to be bored, so making the course fun is very important to me. We need to go through the basics, yes, but I still want the students to enjoy the course rather than just read and memorize academic texts. There needs to be a good balance. I use a lot of real-life examples – there are plenty around from the corporate world but not so many known ones in the hospitality business that you can get your hands on, and I want to show them both.

Q: For you, how important a topic does governance need to be on the entrepreneurial agenda?

CM: The corporate scandals we’ve seen in recent years have brought governance into focus; so now every businessperson values good governance in a company. It is complicated to explain this to entrepreneurship students sometimes. They would say, “We are just two people in the business, what are we talking about?” But they need to understand that if their objective is for their company to grow, they need to establish the right frameworks from the very beginning. Once you start having employees, you start having stakeholders involved and people putting money into your business, you need a credible, inspiring and transparent set of rules that will differentiate your business from competitors. If this is what the students are aiming for, then they’ll have to define some level of depth in governance.

Q: How tough a challenge is it to deploy good governance?

CM: Governance itself is not rocket science, but implementing governance can be challenging. Creating documents that support a company’s culture, its strategy and entice desired behaviors is a full-time job for someone. It is huge. You need to address many aspects today, using the knowledge that you gained in the past. But you also need to look into the aspects that will lead you to tomorrow, and then put all of that in black and white, sign it off and execute accordingly. Governance is expected: it is no longer a “nice to have”. So you have to choose things that you will do as a company – and things that you will not do. This also depends on the size of the company and the number of stakeholders. This topic is a lively discussion that we have during the class, and the students seem to be very interested. Soon we will move on to the ethics area, and I think we’ll have lots of fun there too!

Q: Governance requirements vary widely across international jurisdictions. Does that make teaching the topic extra difficult?

CM: We have people from many countries in the class and when I ask them about governance in their countries, they often don’t know. Well, right now they don’t have to know; but if they decide to focus on that market when they open their business, they better know all about it! Learn for yourself and then get some advice from a lawyer or a specialist with the right knowledge. But first make sure you know the basics. For example, if you are from Egypt and you want to open a business in France, you will need to know what the rules and protocols of that country are. Depending on the type of company, there are also some things that you are required to have by law. For instance, in the Nordic countries 50% of company boards must be women. This is really important, and it may prove to be a challenge if you are not mindful about it.

Q: How has Glion, and its students, changed since you were studying here?

CM: First of all, the methodology of studying has changed a lot since I was a student. When I studied here, we didn’t use universal search engines and the web, we then only had printed material, which makes a massive difference. Because now everything you say or do or suggest or recommend, you can double-check online. And because you can do this, the students might believe they know the topic because they read about it online. And it is not simply about knowing what the topic is about: it is to analyze it and understand its implications, ask yourself about different cases, “what ifs”, and implement the knowledge. This is why you study a Master’s like this one.

In terms of the students themselves, the mix of nationalities has definitely changed. When I studied here we were more European in the class, but now there are students from everywhere in the world. You have many more people coming from new markets, which is natural if you look into the development of the global economy. Also, the gender balance is very good, so it is well mixed. Their experiences and inputs are diverse and insightful, which adds to a fun and rich learning experience during the class, as we share things from our different backgrounds.

Q: Finally, what is the one thing you want your students to come away with? What is the most important thing you want them to learn?

CM: I have many “one things”, so this is difficult. I guess that one thing I like them to embrace is “venturing”. I think that it is very important for them to dare to do things, but not be blindfolded. I want them to use what they learn in the course to make better decisions and dare to do things knowing that they are doing the right thing, and doing it in a proper way. Related Articles:

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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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