The value of costs explained by Glion’s new Doctor (DBA) Raffi Chammassian

Dr. Raffi G. Chammassian In March 2016, Glion’s Graduate School finance faculty gained a new doctor:  Dr. Raffi G. Chammassian successfully defended his Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) thesis at the Grenoble Ecole de Management Doctoral School in France.

Dr. Chammassian has taken the topics of entrepreneurial management and value creation to a higher level for his thesis titled Towards a New Cost Paradigm for Technology Start-up Entrepreneurs that focused on how costs are perceived and treated by technology start-up entrepreneurs (TSU).  Based on applied research, he challenged the age old pessimistic notion that “costs are bad” and he is encouraging students to take a more optimistic approach to investing in costs and intangible assets (human, intellectual and relational capitals) to create higher value.


Uncovering the truth about costs

 “We make decisions every day in our lives about what costs we accept, for instance, the cost of taking the car instead of the bus weighed against the time lost on the bus instead of the car, etc. Our lives are full of costs and return value from the time or money or resources we invest. That’s why I was so motivated to look at costs,” Dr. Chammassian said.

“In an institution such as Glion, we have a tremendous opportunity to develop our human capital (i.e., people), and we can use that to develop our intellectual capital (i.e., programs, brand, processes) and build even greater relational capital (i.e., partnerships, reputation, alumni and industry relations), but we have to pay for (or invest in) the costs first. It’s the old adage, “You have to spend money to make money”, or in this case, to create greater value or wealth.”

More importantly, Dr. Chammassian has transmitted this innovative notion to his students, giving them a better understanding and appreciation of the concept of value.

“I would say that Dr. Chammassian has given me a good picture on the importance in finding the value, in whatever project one should embark on, and for whom. One quote of his which will be with me forever: “Value is in the eyes of the beholder.” The wide perspective on how complex, and at the same time simple, the interpretation of Value can be for us. It is a perception, which will influence my every decision,” said Amos Mayer, a student who has taken the PG Entrepreneurial Project Management and the MBA Corporate Governance courses.

Healthy costs for hospitality organizations

According to Dr. Chammassian, “In the hospitality industry, costs or expenditures can easily be outweighed by the return in value. Customer demand is no longer about a room and a meal; it’s about feelings and memories that add emotional value.”

“Intangible assets have incredible power to create that value, far more value than other types of tangible assets, yet most management courses talk about operations. To create real value you have to go beyond that. So to get students to that next step, I teach them to ask questions: What is the value and who is it for? Why would somebody buy my business in 5 years-time, and pay 50 times the ‘book value’? If you run a business with these notions from the start, my research has shown that you are far more likely to advance and create wealth than if you’re just running a business using traditional methods,” he said.

These insights are highly appreciated by his graduate students who seek to elevate their knowledge of entrepreneurship to a level of innovation and creation.

“As a mentor and facilitator, Dr. Chammassian empowers students to participate in his classes and takes their ideas and views under great consideration. He tests our knowledge and capacities and then pitches in at the right moment to either guide us, advise us or share his perspective on the “flip side” of the coin scenario, which he is famous for saying,” said Khaled Kaissi, a Glion student who had taken Dr. Chammassian’s courses on the bachelor degree in hospitality management and the MBA in hospitality.

As a final bit of advice, Dr. Chammassian urged us to understand and appreciate costs for what they really are:

“Look at costs as opportunities, and constantly ask yourself, what is the value that this cost is bringing me. Every decision that we make involves choosing our costs and therefore choosing the return on those costs.”

The surprising lessons that he learned during his DBA have changed the way he thinks about research, teaching, business and most of all value.

Why a DBA?

“When I came to a professional crossroad in 2010, I had the choice: to keep moving up in the corporate world, or to try something different. The DBA program enticed me the most because the DBA is designed for those who want to pursue intellectual challenge, bring experience, and use academic research methods while practicing. I wanted this chance to reflect on my experience and to refresh my knowledge and my views,” Dr Chammassian said.

Overcoming research barriers

“Returning to being a ‘student,’ I learned again about the journey towards knowledge, and I bring that to the classroom, this ability to seize completely unknown concepts and examine them from new angles,” he explained. “When I started doing research in management science, I found that in academic research you must base your research on existing research and identify gaps, and I was surprised by the restrictive nature of that process. We had to follow a pattern and approach based on previous research. My methods didn’t fit the protocols. It taught me not to take anything for granted or at face value, to open the mind to new possibilities, unexplored ideas, to listen.”

Learning to embrace self-doubt

“In people who succeed in a research process, we see that controlled self-doubt is a good thing because they learn to question things instead of just trying to answer them at face value. I’ve learned to look at things from different perspectives in order to find better conclusions or solutions,” he said.

In addition to his academic qualification, Dr. Chammassian brings many years of practical experience. He is a multicultural professional with a diverse background in finance, strategy, business planning, and change management spanning across the globe. He has held leadership roles in large multinationals as well as small, entrepreneurial enterprises. Industry experiences include services, technology, and training and education. In addition to his DBA, Dr. Chammassian holds an International MBA from University of South Carolina (USA), and a Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University (USA). He has lived and worked in Switzerland, the Netherlands, USA, Mexico, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.

Dr. Chammassian teaches four courses on the Bulle campus: Entrepreneurial Finance (S7 of the Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management), Entrepreneurial Project Management (Postgraduate Diploma in Hospitality), Entrepreneurial Wealth Management (MSc in Hospitality Finance), and Corporate Governance (MBA in Hospitality and Service Industries Management).

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