»Companies are constantly looking MBA students because they are able to adapt more quickly.«
Mr. Varley, how has your career started? Have you always been interested in the fields you are now in?
Having studied at ICHEC, Brussels, the number one business school attached to the University of Louvain in Belgium, where I obtained my degrees, I went to Tunisia for a couple of years to teach under a cooperation contract with the Tunisian government. I found teaching very interesting but I wanted to get into “real” business and gain international experience. I then joined the Internal Auditing group of American-Standard and worked for six to twelve months’ periods in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, France, and then worked as Assistant to the VP Control and Finance, Europe. I was then head-hunted by American Hospital Supply Corporation to become their international auditor. I went to the U.S. and Mexico and then was appointed President of AHS/ Benelux. After five years, I was transferred to Paris as Vice-President Control & Finance, Europe. I had an offer to become Partner in a Head-Hunting firm in Monaco and did Executive searches all over Europe. I was, eventually, head-hunted by one of my clients, the Spanish Coca-Cola bottlers, who hired me as President/CEO, of the two bottling plants they owned in the south of France. At the same time, I started teaching at the University in Monaco.
In 2020 UNYP and GEA College from Ljubljana, Slovenia are starting their partnership in MBA program, Empowering Future Leaders. What are your expectations as a lecturer?
After twelve years, the Spaniards had to finally resell their two plants to The Coca-Cola C° who offered me a job in Paris. As I did not want to leave Monaco, I joined the University of New York Group and started teaching at UNYP, UNYT (Tirana), UNYB (Belgrade), UNYSK (Skopje) and New York College in Athens. I consider that when you have gained knowledge and experience in international business, you have to share it with younger generations. My expectations are that the students will learn what they really need in order to become successful business leaders.
You have been lecturing in several countries throughout the world. Do you have to adapt to different cultures and mindsets or is an MBA universal business language?
I had no problem adapting to different cultures and mindsets while teaching in different countries as the language of business is the same in whatever country.
You have covered fields from Accounting, Finance and Human Resources. Which of them is the most challenging to teach and why? I heard you are able to make even Accounting enjoyable, as funny as it may sound :). How do you manage that? Do you have any special motivational tools?
Although I taught in Human Resources, I am more interested and at ease in teaching Finance and Accounting. I always ask my students: what do managers do every day? They make decisions, and whatever decision is made in a company, be it sales, marketing, production, human resources, IT decision, that decision will have an impact on the Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Cash flow of the company. And if you cannot read a set of Financial Statements, you have to rely on other people. Can you always trust other people? Their answer is No! So, I tell them that, by the end of my courses, they will be able to read, analyze, interpret a set of Financial Statements, do Operational Budgeting, Cost Analysis and Control, Capital Budgeting, etc. This is what we do and by, the end of my courses, they tell me that they have really understood Accounting and Finance which, generally, have such a bad reputation among students! One thing that I do all the time is giving them live examples.
How have MBA programs evolved through the years? Can you compare your students experience to nowadays?
It seems to me that students are, these days, more interested in gaining knowledge of Accounting and Finance than in the past.
What skills are MBA students mostly after? What skills do you like to teach the most that will be relevant in the future?
MBA students want to learn what they will be using in their professional life. And that is what I like to teach them, in my particular fields: Financial Statement Analysis, Cost Analysis and Control, Operational Budgeting, Capital Budgeting, things that managers use all the time in a business environment.
How does the worth of an MBA reflect in companies and society?
Companies are constantly looking for people who have an MBA degree because they are able to adapt more quickly to the company.
What is the most attractive benefit of an MBA?
I think that MBA studies are not going to make students specialists in anything in particular, but great generalists in business because, during their studies, they are going to touch all the aspects of real business life – Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Business Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Operations Management, etc.