Daniel Tschudy, MCI

Interviewing a MICE business legend: Mr. Daniel Tschudy

22 Mar 2016 | by Joan Toano


I love asking questions. If I was ever in your class, you would know me to be one of those students that do not hesitate to ask, regardless of how small the question may be. That’s just me. My dad always says it’s “better to ask, than not to know.” Lately, the number of questions I’ve had in mind was higher than the usual (that’s a lot), and so the next thing I needed to ask myself was: Who to put them to?

If you backtrack to my other article Mentors – Who and Why?, you can follow my experience in Orlando, Florida at the Site Annual Global Conference which linked me with some of the most extraordinary professionals in incentive travel, on invitation of my mentor at the time. During those days I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Daniel Tschudy, who spoke to us about embracing the world by understanding the power of cross culture, intercultural relations and globalization. He solidified what my dad had told me when I was growing up: it’s not enough to have IQ and EQ (your intelligence and emotional quotients); you must also have a good cultural quotient, or CQ.

When I was part of the first batch of event management students in BBA semester 2, we got to know the biggest names in events. One of them was MCI Group, and I was delighted to discover that Mr. Daniel Tschudy had co-founded the company back in 1987, and even helped name it MCI.

Since I like to act on hunches and I felt that Mr. Tschudy could help me with some advice, I quickly shot him an email with all my crazy questions and he delightfully replied with some interesting words of wisdom. I really do love interviewing well-accomplished individuals because we know they were once as young as us, confused and excited for life. Anyway- see the interview below!

  • As a young man, what did you study and why? How did you get your first job?

To be honest, even as a young boy, it was always clear that I had to “go and see the world”. And Hollywood-Movies added to that need. For example, when I saw Marilyn Monroe in the movie “Niagara” I just had to see the Niagara Falls.

In Switzerland, most popular basic education system is to start a 3-years apprenticeship of a specific trade with 3.5 days on the job and 1.5 days in school (after 9 mandatory years in Primary and Secondary school). When I was 15, I wrote to many travel agents and Kuoni Travel hired me, and so I completed a ‘Travel Agent’ apprenticeship in 1971-1974. You got a diploma, not important in the long-term, but very crucial in the short-term in order to get a full-time employment afterwards.

During those 3 years, I worked in several departments (in 6-months terms), including the Japan Incoming Department – little did I know then that years later I would live and marry in Japan and enjoy a life-long relation with that country and its people. In 1973, I saw “Elvis Presley live on Hawaii” on TV and from then on it was clear that I had to see it all: New York, the Grand Canyon, Frisco, LA, and all the Hollywood-Dreams.

By 1975, the Swiss government sent me to London and a couple of months later, I was based in Toronto, Canada (both for Switzerland Tourism). And at the end of 1975, I went to see Elvis live in concert; for more reasons than just to have “been there, done that”.

  • Growing up, one is susceptible to several promising ideas and has different opportunities to pursue (for example: somebody studies accounting and then decides to get into culinary arts). What would you say to those who have a promising career ahead but would like to take a break? Say, a year to relax, bond with family and perhaps even engage in businesses unrelated to their industry? Is a break good or bad, and what would your advice be on taking these types of recesses?

Well you see, I “come from the street”; I never did any studies, never did any MBA’s, never visited language courses. All I know I learned by doing. Having said that, I am not against people doing the academic path, but it was not for me.

Last autumn, I did some career counseling in Nepal, and all those students were very desperate for specific suggestions and guidelines for their career-construction. But I told them to listen to their heart, to dare to try things, to accept if something does not work, and to try again. I told them that they do not have to pin-down their career at the age of 22. They can try something, a first step, a trial, an idea, maybe even a dream. If it works out, great, if not, go on!

In that sense, yes, take those breaks. But of course, cautiously and consciously! You need to be well aware of what you do, and why you do it, even if it is ‘only’ a break!

  • Hospitality is a 24-hour, dynamic and fluid industry. How important would you say work-life balance is for someone beginning their career?

I am not even using the term “work/life” anymore! I say and talk about LIFE BALANCE, and that includes everything, work as well. But also hobbies, interests, friends, families, body and soul, and dreams too! I would now say that a good life balance is crucial for everybody, not just the hospitality industry. In fact, if the cashier lady at the local grocery shop doesn’t have a good Life Balance, her service is will not be up to standard, and people will take other queues because they don’t want to be ‘touched’ by unhappy people or receive their negative energies.

  • How did you get into event management? Why start a company?

It was not a plan. It just evolved and when I left the Swiss government I took the opportunity to go to Japan for six years for a group tour operator. When that was done –and the fun was gone after another six years, I met Roger Tondeur in Geneva. We felt that “Incoming” was OUT and “Incentives and Conferences” were IN. So we founded MCI, a name I created with the starting letters “Meetings, Conventions & Incentives”

  • The world is more flexible now with international labor. In your recent experience where in the world should young professionals pursue opportunities to encourage their cultural intelligence (CQ)?

There are some global trends and trans-continental movements.

But, the truth is, everybody must work with their tools, knowledge, experiences, contacts, networks and preferences. One can dream about Asia or downtown Manhattan – if it does not fit your skill set, then it will not work.

The key thing is to continue learning, improve communication, work hard, and meet as many people as possible! Talk to them, exchange with them, suck up their ideas (positively, of course) and then new things happen! Doors open. Opportunities arise. For sure!

  • Many of my friends in hospitality are dying for a chance to move from being a front desk associate to say, a luxury travel advisor or project assistant at MCI. What steps would you recommend to make such a change happen?

Everybody has to find their own way, their own package, their own path. People nowadays compare too much, look at others, follow other people’s dream, often pushed through mass or social media, rather than focus on their own. Who are you? What can you do? What do you want to do? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? So, there is no “one-for-all-solution”. It’s not MCI or TripAdvisor or Hilton Hotels or Kenya Tourist Board; it’s your life, your contacts, your network, your exchanges – and the dreams that develop alongside your activities.

The meetings and events industry has a better image than its reality and in Switzerland many young people, once desperate to join the industry, have left doing other things.

But event management is a good base, because it is so multi-tasking and allows meeting many people from many different trades. Creativity is part of it, but also logistical and disciplined work. So, the MICE industry is a good base – but by far not the only one.

People who like to serve and to exchange with clients might be better suited for the hospitality business, be it a hotel or resort. Or even in traditional tourism sectors such as transportation companies.

  • Any last advice you would like to give to those looking for their next opportunity?

Identify who you are, identify your dreams, and then form the two things together into the next steps. Dare to follow your dreams (IF those dreams match with your personality & talents). If not, then change the direction. It is ever too late to try something else! Flexibility is a core competence – together with communication, the other core competence.

Daniel is now a distinguished expatriate coach who delivers keynote speeches, presentations to corporate management groups and intercultural workshops.

So I dare to ask you: Do you know who you are? Are you sure that what you are doing is who you are? It’s only up to you to find out!

Joan Toano


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