In early June 2016, the ZHAW School of Management and Law hosted a group of 24 CEOs and business executives from Iran for one week. The study trip included lectures, company visits, sightseeing tours, and networking events.
A delegation of Iranian CEOs and business executives visited Switzerland to learn what factors have helped Swiss companies become successful and find out how to apply them effectively in developing their strategies. Their visit was a valuable experience for all parties and prepared the ground for interesting contacts in Iran. As the first of its kind, the study trip was organized by Hamayesh Farazan, a conference and study trip organizer from Teheran, who had chosen the ZHAW School of Management and Law (SML) as the event’s academic partner and trip organizer in Switzerland. Participants included business executives from a range of different sectors.
Insights from Company Visits
After an informal welcome dinner the night before, the first day started with an official opening talk by Dr. Daniel Seelhofer, Vice Dean of the SML, who emphasized the fact that some of the most prestigious Swiss companies had been chosen for company visits. He was followed by SML senior lecturers Dr. Christoph Ebnöther and Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, who explained the development of a strategy for a company focusing on the analysis of external factors, using successful Swiss companies as examples. At a networking lunch, Professor André Haelg, Dean and Managing Director of the SML, introduced other high-caliber guests, such as Thomas Anwander, the President of the Winterthur Chamber of Commerce. Discussions between representatives of the participating Swiss companies and the visitors from Iran were lively and open.
Swiss Business Excellence
All the visited companies offered a great program, with high-level managers making time for Q & A sessions. Swiss International Airlines gave visitors a glimpse of its new first class business lounge, displaying its competence in quality, luxury, and customer excellence. The next day, a talk entitled ‘Brand Management, Industry, and Culture of Excellence’ laid the grounds for an interesting visit to IWC. The Victorinox factory tour demonstrated a fascinating combination of craftsmanship and engineering, competence and authenticity, as well as perfect brand management and selling skills. As a result, participants’ scheduled shopping time had to be more than doubled. Another highlight was the visit to Schindler and their visionary technology park. It was followed by a dinner in Lucerne attended by Schindler managers, including the country manager for Iran. The presence of these managers was highly appreciated. The visit at Lindt in Kilchberg was a unique experience; a member of the management board gave a presentation on the history and success factors of this famous chocolate manufacturer.
Business as well as Pleasure
A talk by Professor Markus Prandini on innovation and entrepreneurship included an introduction of the business canvas model, providing participants with another perspective of “success factors”. An intensive discussion followed, which showed just how much the visitors appreciated, absorbed, and were ready to transfer the content of this program. A talk on personalized medicine at Roche in Basel, a tour of the highest building in Switzerland, and an exclusive lunch hosted by Roche, were the highlights of the final day. In the afternoon, Khaldoun Dia-Eddine’s presentation on managers, communication, and negotiation had to be extended due to the great interest shown by Iranian participants.
Various networking events took place in the evenings, such as one with the Swiss Arab Network on Lake Zurich. In addition, participants were also able to do some sightseeing, visiting the Rhine Falls, Mount Rigi, and Lucerne. The panoramic views over Winterthur and Lake Zurich were the among the most attractive and sought-after photo opportunities.
An award ceremony on the 31st floor of Swissôtel in Zurich concluded the visit, with Dr. Daniel Seelhofer and Khaldoun Dia-Eddine presenting participants with their certificates of attendance. The positive feedback received from participants underlined the quality of the program and its organization, the expertise of the speakers, and the insights gained during company visits and at networking events. In particular, participants all expressed their intention to apply what they had learned to their companies.
In organizing this study trip, different cultural issues had to be addressed which required a lot of flexibility on the part of the SML staff involved, who did an excellent job. As a result, the visitors from Iran will have a high opinion of Switzerland and, in particular, the SML. The Center for Middle East and Africa Business hopes to develop the contacts made with the Iranian CEOs and looks forward to repeating this experience in the future.