Lorenzo Stoll is a proud Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne alumnus with an illustrious career spanning years at Nestlé, and more recently, Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), where he is now head of its Swiss WorldCargo airfreight division. Both as a student and as a business client, Lorenzo has lived the EHL Student Business Project experience from all sides. He is a great advocate of the fresh, thinking-out-of-the-box perspective that an SBP can bring to any company seeking to up its game and carve out new creative solutions.
Mr Lorenzo Stoll
What is an SBP?
Created in 2000, the Student Business Project has been an integral part of the EHL Bachelor program bringing actionable insights to companies large and small. They are real consultancy research assignments carried out by final year EHL students over a nine-week period. Students work full-time in groups of six, guided by a dedicated EHL coach and a pool of faculty & industry experts. Over 1,350 projects have been completed for nearly 850 clients from a wide variety of industry sectors.
In this interview with EHL Insights, Lorenzo Stoll shares with us his enthusiasm for why six EHL students - rather than a high flying consultancy firm - can actually bring a business client greater insights and results.
Did SBPs exist when you were an EHL student back in the 90s?
LS: It was 1996 when I did my “travail de diplôme”, (the precursor to the SBP back then). I remember that it felt fantastic to work on such a project because it was our first contact as students with the reality of the business. At that time, EHL already had clients providing business cases for the students to solve and give their input. It was a great experience as a student. I’ve since done lots of SBPs as a client and I have to say that they have radically changed for the better.
What is an SBP?
How have SBPs transformed over the years?
LS: I think an SBP is really a part of EHL’s DNA: a quest for permanent improvement, always trying to do better. The SBP spirit has grown over the years because the school expects more from its students. And we as clients, calling on the expertise of the students, have also become more demanding. This philosophy of always looking for improvement is what makes EHL the leader of the pack in hospitality education, offering the best solutions possible for everything that EHL does.
An SBP is unbelievable thought trigger. There are ideas in those reports that we (the client) would never have thought of. And this is the beauty of an SBP: fresh, unbiased views, together with the company’s expertise that collide making a type of nuclear explosion and – wow! - new things emerge.
How many times have you come back to EHL for an SBP as a client and what themes were you looking for?
LS: I’ve returned to EHL an unbelievable number of times! I always feel great at Chalet à Gobet. We did one SBP when I was at Nestlé and three since I’ve been at Swiss – all on different topics and each SBP delivering far beyond my expectations.
The reason why I come to EHL for an SBP is essentially to get a fresh look on some of the areas where we might have become a bit biased because we are so stuck in our daily routines. Working with students means you won’t get the ‘consultancy’ viewpoint. Instead, you’ll get a fresh approach: a mix of latest academic development as well as good common sense from students who haven’t yet got a perfect vision of the world. This is what makes an SBP so precious: it’s a fresh view on things.
The research an SBP brings is always the latest and top notch. Students have no barriers, they demonstrate orignal, creative thinking while taking into account the constraints of the client and the realities of the market.
We did an SBP on Swiss International airport lounges - pre-Covid times - when lounges counted! We were working on the concept of what could be the next generation of airport lounges – and that was a very creative, open project. The latest SBP we did was on pricing and revenue management (very important for an airline) – this one was a bit more scientific, hard facts and numbers-driven.Both SBPs are circulating right now around the company and around the Lufthansa Group as food for thought. This is exactly what we at Swiss would expect from an SBP.
In the lounges SBP there are definitely ideas that would have been implemented had it not been for the pandemic - which has slowed down a lot of the development projects – but the ideas are still around. As I said, those reports are circulating, being looked at and used as important ideas.
With each SBP that you’ve commissioned, what are the main takeaways that you hold dear?
LS: The main takeaway from the SBP on our airport lounges is that lounges will still be part of the travel experience but the offer needs to be more customer-type specific. So, for example, instead of having lounges per class (business class, first class, etc.), you might have business traveler lounge; a women only lounge; a family leisure lounge – this takeaway was very important to us.
With the SBP on pricing and revenue management, the key fact that came up was that airline pricing is too complicated for the customer to understand, you must simplify it – which we are currently working on.
It’s important to be open to being sometimes challenged or questioned on what you think is your usual working business model. This group of young men and women come along saying “We have an idea” that you never had before. It is precisely this idea that would never have occurred to you that creates the real value of an SBP. And it’s much cheaper than going to a consultancy firm!