April 23rd 2024

Austrian Retail Award

Congratulations to David Berghamer, graduate of the bachelor's degree program in Business & Management for Professionals

David Berghamer, BA is a graduate of the part-time bachelor's program Business & Management for Professionals and recently received the prestigious award of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding achievement.

His bachelor's thesis "WhatsApp as a B2C communication channel – An acceptance analysis for the Austrian electrical retail trade" not only impressed our MCI Department of Business & Management, but also the professional world. Under the experienced supervision of professor Claudia Brauer, David made an important contribution. We congratulate him on this great achievement and are proud to have such wonderful graduates.

Professor Michael Razen, Head of Department & Studies of the part-time bachelor's program Business & Management for Professionals, spoke with David.

How did you decide to study part-time and what was it about the bachelor's program Business & Management that particularly appealed to you?

Well, I developed my ambition for an academic career quite late. I was very lucky to get into a management position at the age of 18 after graduating from a hotel management school. Contrary to expectations, I became the manager of an electrical retailer – although the story would go beyond the scope of this article – so I was well off and my plans for further education were no longer necessary in the short term and without reflection. In addition, my priorities were dedicated to sport, which meant that my time resources were exhausted. A few injuries and the prospect of being able to take over the profitable electrical retail business in the future changed my view and I took the "Berufsreifeprüfung" in advance, while working, in order to gain additional expertise by studying.

As a manager, it would not have been possible for me to leave my position in the company for six semesters. This meant that I could only consider part-time study programs. I am also very grateful that this time model is offered in Austria, as it offers many advantages for business and science.

It's hard to say what particularly attracted me to the bachelor's program Business & Management for Professionals. To be honest, almost every university of applied sciences now offers a business study program – and I live in Upper Austria, so MCI wasn't the most obvious choice. But in the course of applying to different universities of applied sciences, I noticed one thing: as soon as the famous question came up in the application interview as to whether I had applied elsewhere and I listed all the institutions, all the interviewers, without exception, winced when I mentioned MCI. Of course, I don't want to discredit any other university now – but the fact that external professors also praised the MCI and I even received the recommendation that if the MCI accepted me, I would no longer have to think about which university I would choose, my desire to rock the MCI became stronger and stronger.

What challenges did you face during your part-time studies and how did you deal with them?

My studies were characterized by several challenges. The COVID pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of teaching – which immediately made an iterative learning process necessary in order to interact effectively and efficiently in the digital space. In addition, the all-important social exchange was inhibited – but we were lucky enough to be able to spend at least the first block week on campus, where the first points of contact were already established. This was particularly important for me personally, because as an Upper Austrian I wasn't always able to follow all the regional topics of conversation at first. But the saying: "If you're a Tyrolean, you're a human" is absolutely apt. Even in part-time study mode, I made friends for life.

Probably the biggest challenge afterwards was time management in attendance mode. Due to my management position, I was able to introduce the 4-day week for myself, but the concept did not reduce my hours. In addition, the transfer time by train from Upper Austria to Innsbruck is a good 2.5 hours, then spending Friday and Saturday concentrated in lectures and then internalizing the input – all of this is a challenge. The solution lay in structuring. Incidentally, this is also part of the course, learning when structure and rules are needed and when exploration and agility are required. Back to structuring: during my studies, I set myself fixed time slots for work, friends, sport and studying, got up earlier every day, reduced distractions such as social media and streaming services and used train journeys, for example, to write summaries. There are also very interesting books on this: "The 5 AM Club" or "The 1% Method" are highly recommended and show the potential of self-optimization. But of course I also had phases where this type of structuring didn't work – in the so-called "hot" exam phases, I also had "night sessions" where I worked and studied with fellow students until late into the night. I also recommend a glass of wine and a joke every now and then to help you relax.

To what extent were you able to apply what you learned during your studies directly in your job and how did this affect your professional development?

Initially, I thought it was a shame that, subjectively speaking, I wasn't able to apply much of what I had learned in my rather small company. The problem was that although I was able to work out almost everything strategically for my company during my studies, I didn't have the resources for the operational activities of the individual projects. Looking back and reflecting, it was not only what I had learned that had a huge impact on me and my company, but also actively leaving my comfort zone. During my studies, I almost unconsciously implemented many small optimizations and then only saw the big picture with my final thesis – since the implementation of my research object, the WhatsApp channel, I only became aware of how much of what I had learned was or is already present in my company. In terms of my professional position, I can now officially call myself an entrepreneur and managing director. My studies also had a very positive effect on my self-confidence and my perception – I am now a member of the Upper Austrian Chamber of Commerce's committee for the "Electrical and Furnishing Retail" sector, chair of the examination board for the final apprenticeship examinations in this sector and, most recently, project manager for an Upper Austrian-wide social enterprise. I am convinced that my studies contributed significantly to this development.

What support options were available to you during your studies in order to balance your studies and career?

The fact that I was working more than full-time in my job throughout meant that I was less reliant on financial support. What was very valuable for me was the positive attitude of my colleagues at the time, who had the foresight to take me away from operational work as much as possible during stressful phases. I received the greatest support from my family, friends and fellow students. It is very important not to lose sight of the social component.

What special moments or experiences during your studies do you particularly remember?

It's difficult not to go too far – I could name a multitude of special moments that were all so different that it's not even possible to rank the "top moments". To put it in chronological order, it was the email to start my studies. I had applied to a total of four universities and had already been accepted by the other three – only the MCI made it exciting. I had a good feeling, but as it was my preferred destination, the thrill was quite challenging. In the end, I received an email with the subject: Admission decision and then a link to a video message. It was not yet clear whether this was positive or negative. After much deliberation, doubt and anticipation, I decided to open the link. It was that famous goosebump and cork popping moment. Of course, I don't want to reveal the content of this video, but I can recommend it to everyone.

Another special moment was the first weekend and the formation of our self-named "Meine Lieblingsgruppe". The law of attraction is fascinating – during the first break, when we first got to know each other, five people came together by chance, one of whom unfortunately ended his studies early, but the other four grew together to become best friends, challenging, encouraging, inspiring and motivating each other during their studies. The naming of this group resulted from the fact that during group exercises in online mode, the professor was almost forced to say in the announcement that it was now " Meine Lieblingsgruppe’s" turn to present. Together we really experienced a lot, carried out extremely exciting company projects, engaged in activities outside of our studies and finally experienced another special moment with the International Studies Program.

The International Studies Program is a part of the sixth semester where various modalities are provided by the MCI. In the group in question, we opted for South Africa and spent two weeks there at Stellenbosch University and another two weeks traveling through the incredibly beautiful country. I could probably write a whole book about this experience: We immersed ourselves in a completely different culture, broadened our horizons and can definitely say that this experience has shaped our individual attitude and view of the world – I can only recommend it to anyone.

Can you tell us something about your final thesis and how it has impacted your perspective on your career?

I would love to. My final thesis dealt with the topic of "WhatsApp as a B2C communication channel" and I carried out an acceptance analysis specifically for the Austrian electrical retail sector, which can also be postulated to be valid across all industries. I chose this research topic because I myself was looking for a simple, inexpensive and quick-to-implement solution for primarily stationary retailers to communicate with customers regardless of time and place. WhatsApp Messenger promises enormous potential for this, as it is actively used by a large number of people and is preferably used for private conversations.

However, this is precisely where the problem arises for traders – do private individuals want or accept communication with companies, or is B2C communication perceived as negative? What is the view on data protection? What are the legal aspects? These topics were further explored in the final thesis and a research model was then developed, which was empirically tested in a quantitative online survey. The results were very positive. The majority accept or want B2C communication. This communication is then preferred on an individual basis. Data protection concerns were identified to a lesser extent. There also tends to be less fear of fraudulent practices. In summary, the messenger channel is very well suited to addressing customers directly, which is extremely interesting for brick-and-mortar retailers.

By conducting such research, I was able to make significant progress in scientific work, which also sharpens my understanding of other research and is therefore relevant for professional topics. I myself implemented WhatsApp as a messenger in B2C communication in the company at the beginning of 2024 and can cite as initial findings that it has a positive influence on customer loyalty and minimizes the inhibition threshold for customer contact. I already receive more product inquiries in the B2C sector via WhatsApp than by email and can cover many contact points of the customer journey with this messenger. In conclusion, it turned out surprisingly that the messenger is primarily used by Generation X and the Baby Boomers, who are generally financially well positioned and therefore represent enormous potential for retailers.

How did the award for the Austrian Retail Prize come about?

When I was writing my thesis, my supervisor, Prof. Claudia Brauer, told me that this thesis could have potential for the Austrian Retail Award. To be honest, I didn't know until then that the Austrian Retail Association awards a science prize for the "best" bachelor's thesis, master's thesis and dissertation, so it wouldn't have occurred to me to take action on my own. After the defense, I was asked again by Ms. Brauer to submit the thesis – said and done and a few weeks later I received the feedback that I was on the shortlist. I was then invited to give a presentation at the trade association in Vienna, where I proudly presented my thesis to a jury of eight. After a few days, I received positive feedback that my thesis would be honored at the 2024 Retail Colloquium at Schönbrunn Palace, which of course made me very happy. In the end, the trade colloquium was a complete success. It invited me to network with respected business people, offered interesting presentations and discussions on current topics and was an extremely enjoyable evening that brought my bachelor thesis chapter to a close, so to speak.

In conclusion: Would you recommend the part-time bachelor's program Business & Management for Professionals to others and if so, why?

I can absolutely recommend it. Even if it is demanding at times and requires discipline, it fills you with incredible pride when you reach this milestone. What I have already realized is that the MCI is sometimes regarded as a "normal university of applied sciences" in the Tyrolean catchment area, which is probably due to its proximity – in the rest of Austria, I found that the MCI is regarded as an elite university and that a degree from the Entrepreneurial School® is given more importance than from other universities. Of course, more is demanded, but in the end it pays off, as it is appreciated by experts and career opportunities are maximized. The curriculum and the time mode are very well coordinated for part-time students and if the time resources should be too tight, the MCI always tries to make dates and deadlines suitable – there is a respectful and eye-level communication with the aim of supporting students in the best possible way, even after their active studies.

Dear David, thank you for the friendly interview and congratulations again on winning the Austrian Retail Award.

FH-Prof. Priv.-Doz.  Michael Razen, PhD | Head of Department & Studies Bachelor's program Business & Management
FH-Prof. Priv.-Doz. Michael Razen, PhD Head of Department & Studies +43 512 2070 - 3100