CIIM-Zorbas MBM Student Project: Learning by Doing
Applying the START WITH WHY theory to ‘real life’ business challenges

Three teams of the CIIM MSc Business Management (MBM) students successfully completed a ‘live’ business case project for Zorbas Group, a leading local fast-growing group of bakeries and restaurants that has recently embarked also on an ambitious global expansion.

Congratulations to the members of the winning team: Athina Katiri, Elena Georgiou, and Maria Petrou!

Recent trends in business education emphasize the importance of “Learning by Doing”. As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Leading business schools worldwide increasingly include experiential learning into their academic curriculum to enrich the experience of their Master-level students and thus prepare them for a successful career in the challenging and dynamic business environment of today. An example of corporate learning experience by the CIIM MBM students is the Annual Live Case Project, which is a project-type course that introduces to students a current real-life business challenge presented by the managers of a selected company. The MBM Live Case Project is now in its fourth year. Over the years, CIIM has developed partnerships for this ‘live’ project with some of the leading corporations in Cyprus, in particular those that serve as role models for innovation and value creation, which is the unique theme of the CIIM MBM. This year, our students have had the honour to work with the enthusiastic and inspiring managers of Zorbas Group.

Zorbas: from a small village bakery to a large corporation

Zorbas and Sons Ltd. was founded as a small bakery in Athienou in 1975 by Andreas Zorbas. In 1979, it was established as a Limited Company with the main activity being the production and sales of bakery products. With 40+ years of successful operations and a continuous rapid growth in the Cyprus market, the small bakery in Athienou has transformed into a big group of companies. Today, Zorbas is still based on the same human approach and values as at the beginning. The company today has 65+ stores all over Cyprus (Zorbas and Pralina stores), two recently opened stores in New York (USA) under the name The French Workshop, and three production units in Aradippou and Nisou Industrial Area, equipped with the latest of technology. Zorbas is an example of an innovative company which has been rapidly expanding in the food industry undertaking several new projects every year. They have expanded their bakery business to include in their stores home-made food (magerio), salad bars, sushi. In spring 2018, they opened Zorbas by the Sea, a souvlaki and salads outlet in Protaras. Another new initiative by Zorbas is Coffee Berry counters in their stores, a ‘coffee to go’ concept, which has been warmly welcomed all over Cyprus.

The theory of WHY: clarity, discipline and consistency

In 2019, the theme of the Live Case Project was the START WITH WHY theory by Simon Sinek, a popular management author and speaker. His “Golden Circle” theory explains that a successful organisation should always start with WHY instead of WHAT or HOW. Customers don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. It all starts with clarity: knowing WHY you do what you do empowers your employees. WHY is not about money, it is your purpose, your cause. Once you know your WHY, the question is HOW you will do it. HOWs are your values or principles that bring your cause to life. Having the discipline to hold the employees accountable to those guiding principles enhances an organisation’s ability to succeed. Finally, it is very important to show the consistency of WHATs, which are the results of your WHY and your HOWs: your products, services, marketing, PR, internal culture, people that you hire, stakeholders that you attract.

the golden circle - Simon Sinek

CIIM-Zorbas Live Case Project 2019

Three teams of selected CIIM MBM students worked over the period of four months in spring 2019 on the ‘WHY Zorbas” project. The main goal was to find what really differentiates Zorbas (in terms of products, customer service, culture, or something else) from the competition and what will ensure its continuing success story. As Programme Director of the MBM, I worked with each team as their academic mentor in this project. With the active guidance and support from the Group’s HR Manager Mr Emilios Rotsides, the students had an opportunity to develop and implement the workshops with the company’s store managers and employees, which provided a unique learning opportunity for participating students. As Mr Rotsides explained: WHY we chose this project? Because for us it is important to support students to find a way to think differently in any project they have, whether in their personal life or professionally. Looking for the WHY they do what they do can be a life project. For us at Zorbas, it was crucial to find out, from the student’s perspective, WHY people choose to come to work at Zorbas or Why customers choose Zorbas. At the end of the day it is all about WHY!”

The final presentations took place on May 23, 2019, at the Zorbas’ HR Offices in Agios Antonios, Nicosia. The company would like to express thanks to all the three teams and to each participant individually:

Team 1: “WHY Zorbas – Zorbas as Food Enjoyment Place” – Dessislava Evangelou, Nikolas Kyriakou, Veatriki Nikolaou

Team 2: “WHY Zorbas – Zorbas as Employer” – Achilleas Christou, Anastasia Bobeica, Christiana Procopiou, Emilia Christofi

Team 3: “WHY Zorbas – Zorbas as Employer” – Athina Katiri, Elena Georgiou, Maria Petrou.

The company has selected team 3 as the winner of this competition. We are happy to give our congratulations to the students of the winning team.

CIIM would like to express its sincere appreciation to Zorbas Group for the active collaboration to support the business education process. Special thanks go to the Group HR Manager Mr Emilios Rotsides for his invaluable contribution to all these projects.

About the Author
Dr Olga Kandinskaia
Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of the
MBM – MSc in Business Management

CIIM – Cyprus International Institute of Management
olga@ciim.ac.cy