Vahagn Ghazaryan
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Vahagn Ghazaryan (MBA ’20): Developing the Stamina of the Armenian Sales Market

6 min read

Vahagn Ghazaryan received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Manoogian Simone College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the American University of Armenia (AUA). Graduating from the MBA program changed the course of Vahagn’s professional development and equipped him with the necessary skills and knowledge to start his own business. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he established Stamina, which has become one of the most successful companies in the sales market of Armenia. 

How did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in business administration at AUA?

In 2017, when I applied to AUA’s MBA program, I was the branch director at Ingo Armenia. The common wisdom that was preached by our CEO, also an AUA alumnus, was that learning and development are crucial for success. At that time, I had a dream to establish my own business and had already experienced failure in doing so due to my lack of knowledge and experience in business administration. I decided to apply to the MBA program and improve my skills and knowledge in this field. I already had bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but I realized that I still didn’t have the relevant knowledge to start my own business. Regarding my choice of university, AUA was the only option that I considered. I think AUA’s MBA program is one of the best in the country. 

How would you describe yourself as an AUA student?

A noisy and flexible one. In terms of learning and developing my skills, I carefully chose the courses to study so that they would be relevant to my goals of starting my own business. I was working full time, attending class, and afterward, we went to the library to study. I had a tough and busy schedule, so I had to use my time effectively to learn what was most relevant to me.

How did the skills you gained in AUA’s MBA program propel you toward professional success?

I can name plenty of skills that influenced my career: team management, corporate finance, business strategy, people management, negotiation skills, project management, and operational management. I also appreciated that many of our lecturers had not only theoretical knowledge, but also practical experience. 

You established Stamina a few months after graduating from AUA. What role did AUA play in your decision?

It was the right time to put the knowledge and skills that I gained from the MBA program into practice and gain the full benefits of my AUA education. I wanted to understand the kind of expertise I should offer through my company in order to add value to other companies. The knowledge that I gained from the MBA program played a crucial role in creating the solutions and the products that we suggest to our clients and companies. I am confident that studying in the MBA program was a game-changer for me, and without this educational experience, Stamina would not exist today. 

What is the reason behind naming your company “Stamina?”

Stamina is defined as the ability to sustain mental and physical stress. During the Covid-19 pandemic, that was what we all needed — not only from a personal perspective, but also a business one. For businesses, stamina is more important than the speed of development. It is crucial for a company’s success. From the perspective of sales, stamina is the main competency for sales specialists to achieve. They hear “no” from the customers more often than “yes,” and they need to have the stamina not to quit. 

Why did you decide to establish your company during the COVID-19 pandemic?

As soon as I graduated, the COVID-19 pandemic started. In the face of economic recession and other challenges, I saw not only problems, but also an opportunity. At that time, I decided that the pandemic was the right time to start my business because some big companies were on the verge of closing, and the solutions we provided would improve the stamina of the businesses that wanted to survive that challenging period. 

We officially launched the company in May, and after a few months, the 2020 war erupted in Artsakh. If, in the case of the pandemic, we could forecast and plan our strategy based on that, in the case of war, we did not know what to do. For four months prior to the conflict, we had been generating zero revenue, and when we finally started to sell our products, the war began. It was a very difficult period for all of us in many aspects, but we survived. 

What is Stamina’s mission?

As a sales specialist for fifteen years — particularly in the insurance, retail, and healthcare fields — I found it challenging to identify qualified sales managers. Even when we did find them, they still needed training to develop their skills. I started the company aiming to change the understanding in Armenia of what sales specialists do. They are problem-solvers. It is all about human-to-human interactions and building trust between the company and its customers.

At that time, there were no sales outsourcing companies in Armenia, and we were entering the blue ocean — a market where you are the first one, and you need to set up your own rules and standards. It was very difficult for us to find clients that understood what we were selling. Our company model was new, and there were many questions about the purpose of Stamina and the solutions it provides. So, it was difficult for us to even communicate our message to businesses. 

As the first mission of our company was to create a new culture in Armenia for sales managers and overall sales processes, Stamina started with a focus on sales training. I am proud that during these three years, we have trained more than 3,000 students, a significant number in Armenia. We developed our own mobile application for our students to practice, created the only Armenia-based sales video content, and designed our own handbooks. 

Tell us about the development of your company. 

Along with our training programs, the second direction of Stamina, sales development, was created. It includes establishing sales departments in companies from scratch. We consult with them, analyze their business model, do market research, and develop their sales strategy. We also assist in hiring their sales specialists, onboarding them, and setting KPIs (key performance indicators). We develop the company’s sales processes and also help them execute the strategy by implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems. We became a solution-providing partner for the well-known European CRM company Pipedrive, which has branches all over the world. This tool is used by more than 100,000 companies worldwide. A  year and a half after becoming a partner for Pipedrive, we upgraded our status and became an elite partner, enabling us to expand our geography. Now, we are Pipedrive’s only partner in the region.

The third and most recent direction of Stamina has been its function as a sales outsourcing company. Businesses often come to us with a product to sell but lack a sales team. We set up a sales team in Stamina, and then we present them our solution. 

We also have an annual event called Big Sales, where we gather all sales and marketing professionals from Armenia. It’s a one-day workshop to which we invite local and international speakers. Last year, more than 400 participants attended. We organize such events in order to always keep up with our mission of creating a new sales culture in Armenia and beyond. 

What have been some of your biggest achievements so far?

We have already conducted projects in the spheres of banking, insurance, solar systems, healthcare, hospitality, non-formal education, and different types of productions. Our partners include top organizations, such as the Central Bank of Armenia, Evocabank, Fast Bank, and several other banks in Armenia; Finca; World Vision Armenia; Nairi Insurance and other insurance companies; HP Inc.; Springfield; Red Invest Group; Mercedes Armenia; and so on. We are now expanding in geography and opening branches in Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, and, last year, we opened our second branch in the U.S. We have already conducted a couple of successful projects internationally. Four years ago, I couldn’t even dream of what we have accomplished today. However, I think we haven’t yet achieved what I would consider “big.” The best is yet to come. 

How do you see the change you are making in the market in Armenia?

We evaluate our results with the feedback of our customers and partners. Our customer satisfaction rate is 98%. I think we are on the right track to achieving our mission, as the second most in-demand job position in the Armenian market today is sales specialist, and I think we have our little contribution here.

One of the most important things I would like to highlight is that while expanding our geography, we do not hire employees from the countries in which we establish Stamina branches. Rather, we hire them in Armenia, and our employees work remotely for those international branches. We want to pay our increased tax rate in Armenia, rather than in foreign countries. 

What are your bigger plans moving forward?

My goal is to provide these quality services globally. I want the world to know about Stamina through our quality sales projects. We are now opening a marketing company to align the sales and marketing objectives and achieve even greater results. 

What motivates you in your life and career?

My son. My motivation also comes from the challenges I face in developing my business. 

What has been your most significant takeaway from your time at AUA?

Network. For instance, the game-changing point in my business was when one of my lecturers from the MBA program asked me to train his staff of about 170 people. Some of my lecturers became my friends and partners. Some of my best friends and partners have been my AUA coursemates. And, of course, the knowledge and skills I gained from AUA’s MBA program are irreplaceable. 

How important is it to maintain your connection with your alma mater? How do you see yourself doing so?

I hope I can help AUA with my experience and hiring efforts, as well as financially. We often hire University alumni, and out of our 20 employees, our head of business development, marketing director, and other Stamina team members are AUA alumni. Now, I am thinking about how to continue giving back to my alma mater, as the advantages I gained from AUA are invaluable.