March, 31 in The Geneva advantage

Behind the scenes of Manor with our EMBA class

At Geneva EMBA, we have a goal: to bring our students to confront today’s world and all its complexity in a responsible way, enabling them to become tomorrow’s leaders. Our courses provide distance, understanding, and intent. Diving into the reality of businesses allows us to grasp how to act on a daily basis. Selim Arcan, the General Manager of Manor Geneva, welcomed us to Manor to share his challenges and courses of action with our participants.

At 4pm, after getting to know the management team – Selim and Andreas Affentranger -, the class immersed themselves in the main building of Manor Geneva. As a customer, a department store seems relatively simple. Shelves, salespeople, cash registers. But behind the scenes, the complexity of activities and strategies quickly became apparent. On each floor, different business models coexist, from consignment – a Fnac or Nespresso boutique within the store – to Lego or Cats & Dogs stands to create interaction with the customer. Through the questions they were asked, our students were able to grasp how placing the most popular chocolates or making fresh dishes in front of customers could significantly increase sales.

As Dinda Kusumawardani, one of our students, says: The visit was really a mind opener. I know now that it takes a village (literally 700 employees) in a day to run a big department store like Manor. Manor has a very incredible system to store foods, manage the production and still maintain its freshness. I could barely smell waste in the food store room. To cater 10 million visitors per year, with all the complexity of the goods distribution and in ever changing environment, required strong efforts and resilience from individuals, managers and leaders to work best as a team.  Of course, our class was challenged to think further: A lot of opportunities that can probably be pursued by Manor to continuously better serve its customers, suppliers and community. Perhaps by optimizing the food segment by enlarging the function and add additional services e.g. Manora & Supermarket opens on Sunday until 12; or pursuing partnership with existing clients and brands for a new growth initiatives, as for example reaching out to tech client for an improvement in IT system.

Another rather impressive experience was going down to the basement to discover the ant nest of the store’s inventory. But what was most surprising was not so much discovering what was going on behind the scenes as constantly encountering active, involved, and smiling employees. Because in terms of responsibility, if there is one thing that is surprising in Manor’s culture, it is the inspiring marriage between a real team spirit of competition, and a human management that is both supportive and demanding

Alexandr Kulinsky, another member of the EMBA class, pointed it out: I personally was impressed with the Manor team. They manage to deal on the daily basis with complex operational routines (very short-term tasks), at the same time they manage to stay aligned with long-term visions/goal and continuously thinking about the future. I would like also emphasize the specific value which Manor brings – customer/user experience, it’s hard to achieve such excellence in retail market, however, as we saw – everything is possible.

As Selim Arcan, the general manager, puts it: Our only resources are our employees. The evening continued in the company’s offices with a discussion on both the logistical springs of the store and the leadership that enables individuals to give their best. For Selim, it’s very close to sports coaching, with a duty of exemplary management in addition. Our executives work much more than usual, they are invested in our mission. But if there is a problem, it is up to us – the management – to be in front and take our responsibilities. During Covid, for example, we refused to make a social plan despite what the Manor group was asking of us. One of my leitmotifs is: Average leaders believe their team works for them. Great leaders believe they work for their teams.

Shared words may seem simple. The reality is complex and requires hard work. Indeed, the only way not to drown in the multitude of challenges that await us in our responsibilities is to keep clear management principles within ourselves. And to apply them with humility, conviction, and perseverance. Self-Leadership.

Let’s conclude with Diana Reyes Pinto, one of our executive students:  The visit was a truly enriching experience. It was fascinating to witness the inner workings of Manor and gain a deeper understanding of how they prioritize quality and sustainability in their products. From an HR perspective, I was impressed by the scale of their operations, with 700 individuals contributing to the daily operations, everything is really well planned. What stood out the most to me, however, was the dynamic interplay between Andreas and Selim’s technical expertise and personal approach, both of which were key to their success. Their genuine leadership and personal touch were evident in every aspect of their work and left a profound impact on me.

That’s exactly what we aim for through confronting our students with the rich local ecosystem. That’s what we call the Geneva Advantage.

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