Eat Me: The World on Small Plates

Everybody in the class of 2019 knew that entrepreneurship forms a core part of the MBA programme here at IMD, but our first lecture on the subject wasted no time in revealing the reality of what today has become almost a mythologised pursuit.

The subject of our first case was Eat Me, a very popular restaurant here in Lausanne and winner of the coveted Best Swiss Gastro Award for 2018. This was the only time a restaurant from the French-speaking part of Switzerland had won the award. As it happens, I was already very familiar with Eat Me, having visited the restaurant numerous times over previous travels to Lausanne. Eat Me offers a novel concept, best described as international tapas. Guests choose multiple dishes to share, each coming from a different region of the world and country within that region. I can vouch that this format makes for a unique evening of exploring and discussing new tastes, with the added bonus that the food is delicious!

Despite Lausanne’s restaurant scene offering a lot more in the way of variety in recent years vs 7-10 years ago (so I’m told), I found myself going back to Eat Me again and again. So imagine my curiosity at learning how this amazing place came about and indeed who better to hear from than the founders themselves, Serena Shamash and her husband Mark Brownell, who put in a surprise visit towards the end of our lecture. To describe in full the many insights Serena and Mark shared with us would fail to do them justice, not to mention make this post a little lengthy, but some key messages resonated with us.

Do not live the Deferred Life Plan

The deferred life plan (all creative rights to Mr Randy Komissar) is simple and, not surprisingly, signs up not-so-enthusiastic participants everywhere. It goes:

Step 1 – do what you have to do
Step 2 – do what you want to do

…..or so they tell you. But Serena Shamash had no such intention after completing her MBA at IMD in 2007 and knew her real passion lay in building things. Specifically Serena had a passion for creating and developing concepts. She also had a passion for travel and food. During a stint at BCG in Zurich, Serena realised that those two passions could be united to address what she assessed to be a significant problem in Switzerland  – a lack of restaurant variety and uninteresting customer experience at most restaurants of that time. She decided to do something about it.

I think this message resonated with all of us. It is easy to fall into the trap, often neatly camouflaged by societal norms, of believing that in order to pursue our passions, we must first pay dues in the form of a reliable job that we may not like. We are here at IMD precisely because we do not intend to fall into that trap.

Do what you love, even if it’s not quite where you expected

Serena admitted that opening a restaurant was not the exact entrepreneurial endeavour she had imagined when thinking where to apply her passion for concept development, but the landscape of the Swiss restaurant market offered a problem that needed solving. This was also a major lesson for us in understanding entrepreneurship: Opportunities may present themselves in forms and places that you never expect, but you nevertheless have the ability to recognise and take advantage of them. Serena believed that her love of travel and international upbringing placed her perfectly for designing small international plates that would allow her customers not simply to consume food, but to discover it. She had gathered evidence from her network in Switzerland that there was a real desire and need for a restaurant format like this and she decided to make it a reality. I, for one, am glad she did…

Starting a business is not hard work, it’s really hard work

After finalising her concept and developing a working financial model for Eat Me, it took Serena two years to find a location. Rather a long time. Over the period Serena learned to become a hardened negotiator and not to let emotion get the better of her logic in pressured situations. Any would-be entrepreneurs would be wise to heed that lesson, for it is in the most highly charged emotional situations that the biggest mistakes are made.

It took two years to find a location, because it took that long to find a price that made sense. Serena might easily have succumbed to a desire to get going and have paid whatever, but I suspect we wouldn’t have heard from her during our lecture if she had. The dedication required to keep going and stay committed to her vision, despite setback after setback, is awe inspiring.

Serena also shared that, after finding a location in Lausanne and successfully opening Eat Me, she worked 9am to 4am, 7 days a week for a year or so. Creating something is difficult, very difficult, and it requires courage and unparalleled work ethic. Anyone who might have believed in the popular portrayal of entrepreneurship as a teenager creating an app in his bedroom and selling it to Google for $30m a couple of months later would have been rudely awoken by the reality described by Serena that entrepreneurship is about being all-in all of the time and taking knocks on the chin as they come…and they will come.

You need support

Everyone needs the support of those close to them, especially entrepreneurs! Eat Me was the creation of both Serena and Mark. Indeed Mark has now joined Eat Me full-time, having supported Serena and helped build the business hitherto while working a demanding job as an executive. This part of the story of Eat Me resonated strongly, for arguably without Mark’s support over the years, Serena would not have been able to become the entrepreneur she has and we wouldn’t have Eat Me. I think the wider point is that people around entrepreneurs and the support networks entrepreneurs have are often overlooked in popular accounts. We all need support to have courage. Mark and Serena now run Eat Me together, which is in itself an admirable feat for a married couple (I’m not sure I could work with my wife…!).

We are deeply grateful to Serena and Mark for sharing their story with us and imparting just some of the passion and dedication required to create a business. This was a fascinating introduction to entrepreneurship and, looking ahead, our start-up projects will be kicking off imminently. The 90 of us are looking forward to getting stuck in.

Mark, Serena and Professor Benoit Leleux

For anyone in Lausanne or Geneva, my advice would be try out this place called Eat Me.

Richard Pickering, British, MBA Candidate 2019

Blog Team 2019: The Write Stuff

The IMD blog helped me, and many of my peers, during the application process to the MBA program. Shout outs to the 2018 blog team; thank you for sharing your experiences with candor and humor!

Picking up the baton and upholding class tradition to share meaningful, hilarious, and sometimes trying experiences, we, the blog team of the Class of 2019, are thrilled to introduce ourselves in this post. Helena, Lukasz, Uzair and myself will helm the regular blog posts, while Adrian and Olivier are our skilled photobloggers.

We look forward to being the voice of our class and having many of our peers guest blog in the coming months.

In alphabetical order …


Adrian

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Having spent the last year in Western Australia working as an engineer I believe I’ve possibly come from furthest away for the programme. In my spare time, you would find me kitesurfing, sailing, flying my drone or taking photos. Trying to keep an open eye about new angles and perspectives, through the MBA and through my camera lens. Coming to Switzerland proved to be my 6th country of residence and am very much looking forward to seeing where post-MBA life will take me.

Helena

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Hi everyone! I am Helena from Bogota, Colombia. For the past 8 years, I have been living abroad because of my work in the oil and gas industry. It started back in 2010 when I moved to Kuwait, in 2013 I was moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where I was until 2015 when I went to Trinidad and Tobago. In 2017 I moved to Sahara Algeria up until last year before moving to Switzerland. I obviously enjoy traveling and also cooking: wherever I go I try to learn at least one recipe of local food so I can recreate at home. I’ve been living in Lausanne for almost a month and so far, I am loving my time at IMD, everything from my classmates to the incredible professors have been up to my expectations. I look forward to sharing here my experiences this year as it was through this blog and the past classes that I fell in love with IMD.

Lukasz

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 8.54.05 PM.pngPolish citizen by birth, long-term Swiss resident by choice and strategy consultant… also by choice ☺ Although educated in finance, spent last years helping global life sciences companies tackle their strategic challenges. ‘Staying active’ is his middle name. Hiker, biker, and jogger in summer, skier in winter. Passionate about the history of 20th century and classical guitar. Loves dogs. A lot ☺

Olivier

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I’m Olivier and feel rather representative of the average IMD MBA candidate, except that I come from Belgium. I just turned 30, got 7.5 years work experience (for the rest, refer to IMD brochure). In life, I enjoy curiosity, humor, open-mindedness, tackling challenges and killing monkey-businesses. I’m also a great fan of outdoor activities in general and more particularly trekking off-the-beaten-tracks. In the past years, I had the chance to explore Patagonia, Lapland, Nepal, and Greenland just to name a few. Last but not least, I have been a photo enthusiast for about a decade now, which is what brings me here. I particularly enjoy simple shots with pure lines, candid portraits and travel photography.

Surbhi

IMG_8276 copy.jpgHello everyone! I am Surbhi, proud Indian and third culture kid, born and raised in Dubai (I know where to find the world’s best shawarma). During my pre-MBA career over the last ten years, I was a life-sciences strategy consultant in the USA before working on patient-centricity programs focused on Africa and the Middle East. Professionally, I am passionate about bringing innovative medicines to patients and creating efficiencies in the lab-to-bedside process. I am an ardent traveler and most recently went hiking in Bhutan. I enjoy postcolonial fiction, movies, yoga, and love spending time in nature 🙂

Uzair

765e88e9-b7a9-4625-88e9-2528374124ae.JPGI’m Uzair (Uzi) & I come from the highly scenic lands of Jaipur & Hyderabad in India. Previously I was a consultant to an international NGO working in public healthcare and I have also worked for 7 years with a global pharma company. I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast who likes to experiment with new things. I have cycled the Atlantic Ocean road in Norway, Skydived in the Swiss Alps, backpacked through Cambodia, ridden a 5-trotted Icelandic horse through lava fields and traveled across 13 countries. I also train for long distance running & have participated in HM & 10K runs.

Thank you for reading our stories and for supporting us through this journey!

Surbhi

 

 

Brand Thyself

As MBAs in training and future visionaries looking to make a dent in the world (we hope), we have already had experience with brand management for products, or expect to learn the latter in the months to come. A subject less often discussed is the nebulous, subjective, and frankly tough job of branding ourselves. In a world where everyone and their pet chameleon are on social media, branding is as universal as it is essential to conducting business, be it medicine, manufacturing, or mergers and acquisitions.

Which brings me to our Career Development session yesterday with Arjen Iwema from W-Focus on Personal Branding. Most of us have some idea of who we are, and are perhaps less clear about where and who we want to be in the future. Arjen, IMD MBA Class of 2003, spoke to us about his journey towards a clear individual brand, professional and personal, and urged us to use a comprehensive framework to begin our exploration into our branding statements.

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The most rewarding part of the day for me was drafting our personal statements and then sharing them within our groups (also our start-up teams). It was a wonderful way to get to know each other beyond qualifications and years of work experience. We shared our feedback with each other and marveled at the various hidden aspects of each other’s personalities. All I can say is, wine enthusiasts, serial marathoners, and auto nerds lurk among us 🙂

A significant takeaway from the session was the value in being authentically yourself because this cannot be replicated. It is difficult at times, especially since many of us come from cultures where humility is paramount, and speaking about yourself is just plain awkward. As we step into pre-executive roles, it may not be required or even advised, to harp on about our abilities. But it would do us a world of good if we have a clear sense of who we are and where we are headed. In a dynamic environment where many things will not go our way, we can at least have a strong sense of self to share with those we want to influence, and more importantly, ourselves.

Now onto prep for Operations class tomorrow! Have a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MBA 2019 two week warm-up: what was it all about

Second week down.

Monday, January 14th. Snowy dreams of our Villars trip are over. It seems that real study time begins.

Finance, Strategic Thinking, Leadership and Managing Cases were just the few content areas we kicked off this week, next to more soft training around public speaking and team dynamics. It is hard to believe how deep discussions can go around supposedly basic, fundamental topics. How can we evaluate market entry in a structured manner using strategic thinking techniques? What critical strategic decisions can be hidden beyond ‘current liabilities’ figures? What is country competitiveness and why are some nations more competitive? How can the application of a relatively simple toolkit take your presentation skills to the next level? It was impressive.

Nevertheless, while reflecting today about the last two warm-up weeks, one thought hit my mind very quickly. Although we have already learnt a lot, these two weeks were not really about content. The fundamentals we tapped into were just the background music, the first necessary ingredients of our professional toolkit.

These two weeks were about us.

Firstly, about the 90 classmates with 39 nationalities, interacting with each other, broadening each other’s view of this world and pushing us out of the comfort zone to see what else is out there. Whether it was about business or private life, discussions with my international colleagues helped me better understand why things in Portugal, India or China (to name few) happen as they happen. What do people think, feel and believe that makes them act in a certain way? Although I only scratched the surface of a few cultures, it made me so hungry for more.

Secondly, these weeks were about inspiration. Last Friday we visited EPFL Campus Biotech in Geneva to meet top scientific minds working on the Blue Brain project – a Swiss brain initiative aimed at understanding the human brain in order to diagnose and treat brain diseases that are imposing an increasing burden on world’s societies. We learnt about breakthrough technologies under development that at some point would also need business minds to get traction and make a positive impact in our world.

Last, but not least, we also had fun 🙂 On Friday evening, we headed up to the hills above Lausanne, to spend some time building bonds that we will keep for life. Cosy restaurant, delicious snacks and even more delicious Swiss raclette were of great help to keep conversations going 🙂

To all my 89 classmates – thank you for making this experience so rich.

Lukasz

Villars: Of Beautiful Vistas and Good Vibes

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First week down!

The IMD MBA Class of 2019 celebrated completing the first week of classes with a weekend trip to Villars-sur-Ollon in the Canton of Vaud. Known for its top-notch boarding schools and pistes primed for skiing and snowboarding, this beautiful village greeted us with seemingly unending blankets of fresh, white, snow.

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We arrived on Saturday afternoon and explored the local market fair while sampling local drinks and delicacies, including hot wine, crepes, and chocolates. It was a fun way to get to know each other beyond the campus setting, soon to become our second home.

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In the evening we boarded the Red Train reserved for the MBA class that took us up into the mountains where a fondue spread awaited us. Dinner was followed by foosball and then the entire class, including our amazing MBA support team, hit the dance floor and caused much revelry atop an otherwise silent mountain late into the night. All 39 nationalities shimmied it up to Shakira and The Black Eyed Peas. As the next few weeks bring us into the throes of finance and accounting and related academic exercises, I expect this memory of a rousing good time will get us through some late group study sessions in the dungeons.

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This morning, in particularly generous snowfall, we headed out for snowshoeing, a first time for many in the group. Among drifting snowflakes and husky-pulled sleds, we enjoyed a truly Swiss experience before heading back to Lausanne, a bit tired, with our fill of new inside jokes and good vibes.

Tomorrow we begin a new week, with new courses and assignments, and no doubt, new challenges for us to grow as humans and leaders.

But we can leave that for another post. Tonight, we dream of snow-covered fir trees 🙂

Surbhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Magic 90”

The IMD MBA Class of 2019 WhatsApp group was born on a warm June day in 2018. The initial participants were 20 odd folk scattered across time zones. Our initial conversations revolved around polite, formal introductions, mentions of when we had travelled to someone’s country, and program administrative questions. Somewhere along the way, as summer blended into autumn, our comfort levels with each other, and the size of the group, grew. A great indicator of how our equation has evolved over the past months is the name we recently bestowed onto the chat group; “Magic 90”.

There is something magical about a group of people who never knew of each other before, now priming to develop some of the more influential relationships of our lives. The common thread? A shared desire to survive and thrive during the IMD MBA program.

We are different. Sometimes the chat is overcome by conversations in Hindi or Portuguese with the rest of us scrambling to Google Translate. On an average day we motivate each other to finish the pre-reads, discuss who makes the best cocktails, inquire about nannies and babysitting services. Some of us volunteered for a babysitting circle to help out our peers with bambinos. We’ve even discussed wardrobe requirements and shopping sales, a conversation primarily driven by the ladies! And all this shared with people we have not even met yet.

Wait, I stand corrected. Some of us have met. While transiting through Taiwan, Basel, Mumbai and Rio, our peers have met over meals and coffee, and then shared pictures with the rest. It’s almost like a blind date, but set up by IMD, and the big smiles show that a fun time was had by all. It makes
me eager to get on campus and get this show started!

We have also seen a great willingness to help out on the group. Whether someone is sharing pertinent HBR articles or sending across finance reading files that another cannot access, there is a high level of proactive giving happening in “Magic 90”. Our friends currently in Lausanne are generous with their time and wisdom. Swati and Camila, for example, have equipped us with nuggets of knowledge on Swiss door locks, grocery shopping strategies, and insurance and phone plans.

Currently, we are sharing vacation (read: pre-IMD relaxation) pictures and collectively enjoyed the IMD MBA Class of 2018 graduation live stream. As this unity grows, we’re not quite sure where our IMD journeys will take us. But if months of daily chatting are anything to go by, our virtually budding friendships are a prelude to the great times and strong bonds that lie ahead.

Surbhi

The IMD Factor

Welcome to the 2019 IMD MBA Blog!

We’re looking forward to officially welcoming this year’s participants in just a few days. The program starts on Wednesday, but we already have a great team lined up to share their insights throughout the year. Surbhi will be our main blogger, with lots of support from fellow classmates. I’ll let her introduce herself next week, but here’s an insight into the start of her journey to IMD.

Suzy

Transformation literally means going beyond your form.

Wayne Dyer

As I marveled at the pristine perfection and organized calm that is Switzerland, it finally struck me. I was in Lausanne, a bit beleaguered after the journey, anxious and elated in equal measure. Tomorrow I would attend the fabled IMD MBA assessment day, the only admissions event across business schools where candidates are vetted for an entire day, on campus, to understand who they are as people.

My 72 hours in Lausanne forced me to pause, reflect, and walk away changed, with a stronger sense of my place in this world.

“Towards a new horizon”
Photograph taken by Surbhi Puri at Lac Leman

The IMD assessment is an extraordinary experience, unlike any I’ve seen for university interviews. As the day progressed I realized that this process went beyond being just a means to an admissions outcome. The behavioral interview, impromptu case, role play, lunch chat, case review with Dean Meehan (with much animated conversation), and attending Professor Seifert’s operations class; the entire experience is engineered such that, regardless of the final decision, you walk away with new thoughts, ideas, and questions bubbling in your brain that can carry you forward.

When Antonio called to share the invitation, he said that the assessment day would provide an accurate idea of what life at IMD is like. In my excitement I took a mental note but didn’t ponder on this statement much till I was in the thick of interviews. And what a transformative day it was! For those who are selected and choose to attend the program, I can only imagine the impact that a year of this experience can manifest.

Here are 3 mantras that I saw exemplified by the staff and participants of the IMD MBA program during our assessment day:

The magic lies beyond your comfort zone

In our cohort, we had all taken time off from our respective jobs and families to prepare for the assessment, and prepare to excel. This is no small feat. You know you are in esteemed company when you share a meal with individuals in their early thirties, an age when roots of routine and familiarity start taking form, and all of you have chosen to invest time and resources in discovering your greater potential. We are comfortable where we are, educated and gainfully employed. And yet the itch to do more, despite the demands it would place on our relationships and lives, is palpable and cannot be ignored. Stepping outside the comfort zone is preached and written about extensively. To practice it takes a higher level of faith in yourself and the program. This speaks volumes about the kind of people who choose the IMD MBA.

Global citizenship is the way forward

Most introductions during the day and with current participants over lunch went along the lines of, “I’m from Country A, studied in Country B, lived in Country C and D before moving to E.” The global reach represented in a relatively small group of individuals was astounding. Possibly because I have lived almost entirely in cities considered to be ethnic melting pots, the current class mix felt familiar, like home, except with cold winds and mountains as far as the eye could see. Our interview cohort represented both genders, five nationalities, and covered a range of professional roles, from pharmaceutical marketing to military service. As we worked through a case that must have been dissected by many before us, we could breathe new life into the discussion because of the unique experiences that we, quite literally, brought to the table.

The transformation (and struggle) is real

Armed with ten years of experience exclusively in healthcare, I was now required to discuss my views on an airline industry case and share astute insights on company finances. The exercise made me consider new aspects of business practices and evaluate unfamiliar data. After returning home and in the days that followed, as I flipped/swiped through the news I found myself thinking more critically of the sources I was looking at, and I explored topics beyond my usual biomedical interests. Not just because my worldview had expanded, but also because I felt confident that I could understand and question arguments on topics unfamiliar to me.

The change isn’t just cerebral, there was a sense of confidence and pride that stemmed from surviving the assessment, and the knowledge that we are made of tougher stuff than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. An early taste of the IMD program pushed me towards a better version of myself in less than three days. I speak for my peers when I say that we feel honored and excited to embrace the metamorphosis that the coming year will bring. We are ready, with coffee and chocolate on standby. Bring it on!

Surbhi Puri