Graduate student Michael Turner differs from many of his classmates in the Engineering Management Program (EMP) because he isn't an engineer and he doesn't currently have a job. But two years in the master's program and a rigorous capstone project are preparing him not only for a job, but a new business opportunity.
Turner, who worked on quality improvement projects for a credit card company before taking a year off to travel, is now developing a customer quality assurance program for the Seminarhotel Sempachersee—one of the largest business hotels in Switzerland.
He became interested in the project, and the possibility of establishing his own consulting business working with similar hotels, after accompanying EMP Professor Jeffrey Luftig on a visit to Lucerne, Switzerland, last year. Luftig is a visiting professor at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, and Turner attended his classes there.
During the trip, Luftig was asked to consult with the Seminarhotel on its business strategy and systems by manager Remo Fehlmann, who had previously attended Luftig's seminar on business performance improvement at CU-Boulder. Fehlmann was one of about 45 students who participated from Lucerne University and Danube University Krems in Austria.
The international exchange was initiated by Walter Mayrhofer, a 1998 alumnus of the EMP who is now on the faculty at Krems, and by Professor Urs Bucher of Lucerne University.
Luftig and EMP Director Barbara Lawton, who are both internationally recognized business consultants and co-founders of the Center for Business Performance Improvement at CU-Boulder, gave presentations on authentic leadership, ethical decision making, and business performance excellence during the weeklong seminar.
The European students received credit toward the MBA degrees they are pursuing at their home universities, and Fehlmann was so impressed by what he learned that he asked Luftig to implement his model for business performance excellence model at his conference hotel.
As part of the consulting project, Turner has been leading a long-term study and analysis of the factors that lead booking customers to re-book or not with the hotel. Luftig estimates that Turner's project could result in as much as a 25 percent increase in re-bookings for the hotel.
"A lot of people work on improving things they ‘think' will help their businesses, but they don't have any relationship to their bottom line," Turner says. That's why it's important to identify the trends and prioritize the factors that correlate directly with re-booking.
Luftig describes Turner's capstone project as "beyond an internship" because of its complexity and the cultural differences involved in working internationally.
"We hope to give even more students the opportunity to do real-world work in an international setting," Luftig says. "My hope is that we can build the EMP's Center for Business Performance Improvement into an internationally recognized resource for business and industry striving to grow their revenues through the application of the quality sciences."
With the faculty's record of individual consulting success at numerous Fortune 100 and 500 firms in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia, the center is off to a grand start.