Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 12 Lessons Learned from this Trip

12. Umbrellas are one of the most useful fashion accessories out there
11. You need to keep a very open mind when traveling
10. People really do have a strong passion for their work in this world
9. Sausage and French fries go with everything…and I do mean everything
8. Old fashioned architecture is probably more reliable than our fancy new methods
7. COOs can play the guitar and sing just like Garth Brooks
6. Chief Economists and pointers are not best friends
5. Americans live to work while the rest of the world works to live is so true
4. Bus - I mean, Coach drivers make the best entertainers
3. Credit Cards swipe too easily across seas
2. Going to the Bathroom isn’t necessarily a personal FREEdom
1. MBA students have the most fun while traveling through Europe

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Domestic Arches with a Global Presence

This wouldn’t be a global business tour blog without one last blurp on well, business. During our trip we had many opportunities to see how their local businesses operate from large jewelry chains to small tourist shops. Really, all of these places run pretty much the same way as any other business here in the U.S. Despite the country you are in, and the language the people are speaking, the basic language of business seems to stay the same. Yes, there are different cultural norms that absolutely must be understood, but when it really comes down to it, each place has a product or service they are willing to offer up for some sort of reward. It’s how they get that message across that breaks the language of business into different dialects.

For example, we can look at McDonalds, a company that started here in the United States but has made huge strides in the areas of creating a global presence, even with its very American origins. In fact, during one of our tours, our guide joked pointing to a McDonalds and describing it as the American Embassy.

McDonalds has proved itself to be a global force with its golden arches being one of the most recognizable brand images in the world. That’s pretty impressive; we now seek French fries over the humanitarian aid given by the Red Cross. McDonald's restaurants have been established in 119 countries and territories around the world serving about 47 million customers each day. The organization has nearly 31,000 restaurants worldwide and employs more than 1.5 million people. That is a big company.

We saw a McDonalds almost everywhere we stopped during our trip, and it is no doubt that they have got this global expansion under control with their marketing techniques. For one, they use of very simple and extremely recognizable symbol, their arches. For some of us, those arches almost seemed like a life savor and we knew exactly what that gold meant.

An even bigger advantage for McDonalds marketers is that they do their homework. We were quickly able to tell that a U.S. McDonalds is not exactly the same as one is Austria, France, or Switzerland, but it still is very recognizable as a comfortable Micky D. The organization understands the cultural and taste differences for their clients and adapts their core ideas to the location. First off, in Europe you will notice that McDonalds are less of a fast food place and more of a sit-down restaurant: the scenery is nice, plenty of places to sit, pleasant music and so on. Still, you can go right up to a register and get a tray full of fries and your favorite burger. Each location adapts to the taste of the area. In France, we could order the Burger Royale, basically a bacon cheeseburger, or even chicken curry for a meal. Switzerland and Austria served local beer on their menus. I remember when I was in Peru and Ecuador, they often served white rice with meals instead of fries. Basically when it comes to cultural intelligence, McDonalds has put the work in.

McDonalds has been a global leader for some time and a symbol of what globalization means. Some refer it as McDonaldization and there is even the “Theory of Golden Arches” relative to war. The magazine, The Economist, has the Big Mac Index to compare currency among countries. The point is that this organization that started as a small restaurant opened by two brothers in California has put in the right global business efforts to create one of the most well know and successful brands in the world through creative and adapted marketing techniques.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Lesson in Creativity

Throughout the trip, there was one occurring theme for me. I cannot be sure if it just stuck out because of recent classes or if I would have noticed it regardless, but it was the idea behind creativity. I saw it everywhere on this trip, from the way we managed to kill time and pack all our stuff into small bags to the corporate visits and daily reflections.

In the most apparent business focus, creativity was huge for KISKA. Their whole origination was centered on design: designing something new, designing something unique, designing something helpful, designing something desirable. Creativity was core to them. The START center needed creative people to keep them alive. Their purpose was to foster creativity and expand it through the country. Caterpillar created a university to establish employee passion and knowledge, another creative business technique. Chopard had some of the most creative movements in watches, Nestle was creative with their growth strategies and transition to a health and nutrition company, and we cannot forget the creativity in Zurich Financial’s showroom

Outside of the business realm, we probably had one of the most creatively entertaining bus drivers. The cities were filled with creative ways to expand through their already existing structures. We as travelers had to find creative way to get around and communicate in an areas that we were unfamiliar with and languages that we knew even less.

But, the biggest lesson with creativity was reminding us of the power of the original Creator. From the highest Alps to the lowest valleys entering France, we saw how God had no limits to what could be made through His power. Much like how Professor Rottmeyer taught us that as children we color outside the lines with no worry (and later conformed to stay in the lines), God continued with that spirit. There were no lines to stay in. We can see this in blue holes, the northern lights, waterfalls, pinnacle deserts, crystal caves and so on, all these places that just seem to expand out of logical lines, yet that was ok and so beautiful.

This trip really gave me a much needed revival on the appreciation of what is just around me on a day to day basis, and I feel this is something that can only happen when we’re pushed outside of our comfort zone and willing to accept and listen to the small lessons in front of us.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Home Sweet Home

So, I’ve made it back to the states. It has been about a week since our MBA trip, and I can’t quite say I’m fully adjusted just yet. The biggest change right now is with my sleep schedule still. Getting up early isn’t so bad (it gives me plenty of time to get things done in the morning), but wanting to go to bed at about 7 or 8pm is a little depressing.

Once we made it back to Chicago, it was on a bus to Fort Wayne with the rest of the travelers to get back to our cars and families. From Fort Wayne I then had to make that 3 hour drive back home to Alma, Michigan. Talk about some jet lag. About 2 hours in I couldn’t take it anymore and had to pull over for a quick nap. I ended up getting back home at around 4 in the morning and then was back to work at 8. A day off would had been nice, but we had some business professionals coming to tour our facilities, and I didn’t want to miss that.

It’s a bit hard being back in the “American pace of life.” I remember Professor Rottmeyer told us it takes him a good while to get back into the normal pace of things, and I can see why. I really enjoyed the long coffee breaks with friends, strolling around the mountains, and having no stacks of papers on my desk. I wasn’t quite ready to leave but am so grateful for the experience.