Vibrant Buenos Aires brings MBA textbooks alive
Cass EMBA students travel to Argentina to consult for local businesses
Monday, 21 March, 2011
A group of Cass Executive MBA (EMBA) students recently travelled to Buenos Aires to provide business consultancy support to a selection of local small and medium sized businesses. This annual trip is in its fifth year and forms a crucial element of the Cass students' curriculum.
This year's trip included a special seminar at Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE), where Cass students were given an important insight into the main challenges of doing business in Argentina.
As in previous years the students worked as consultants for a diverse range of businesses, including Estudio Beccar Varela, a large corporate and finance law firm; Tapiz Patagonicas, a popular winery whose wines are exported internationally; Grupo Plaza, a transport company; Puente,a financial services firm; Gray Line, a travel agency; Ingematica, an IT company and Reynolds, a real estate agent.
"There are many reasons to visit Argentina," says Dr Joanna Zaleska, who led the trip with Professor Steve Thomas, EMBA Course Director, "It is a vibrant and diverse emerging market which, although it belongs to the Latin cluster, it is surprisingly cosmopolitan and European."
Projects which were supervised by Dr Zaleska and Professor Thomas focused on different business development issues from the analysis of capital structure, strategic entry to the Spanish market, M&A process and strategic and marketing advice.
The objective of the trip was for the students - working in small groups - to investigate and report on the underlying business challenges of the company they were assigned to and apply the business and management tools they have learnt in the MBA course.
Over the week small teams of students conducted interviews, collected data, hosted focus groups and carried out surveys to establish a consultancy summary which was delivered to the senior management of their assigned company at the end of their visit. After the trip the team are also required to complete a written consultancy report which is submitted to the company.
L-R Noelia Juarez from Grupo Plaza with Cass students Graham Smith, Renata Gubanova, Bruno Conceicao, Ehsan Rafizadeh, and Saeed Qazi
John Tabares, who participated in the trip, says: "I felt that at last the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the past year on the MBA at Cass, together with my professional experience, could be applied to make a positive difference. The combination of working with an unfamiliar business in a foreign country that was thousands of miles from home was both exhilarating and terrifying - just what we needed to put our skills to the test. Our
business hosts were friendly and made us feel welcome. I enjoyed learning about their business and I wanted to give something back they could use to improve their business."
The special seminar day at UADE entitled 'Managing Latin America', was an intensive programme incorporating issues such a bureaucracy, protectionism, political interference, and inflation. The intensive course was designed to give a general comprehension of the Latin American region, including an important insight into the mentality of Latin American employees.
John says: "We were fortunate to spend our first full day at UADE where they made us feel very welcome. They provided us with valuable local knowledge and one of the lecturers in particular, Simon Marcelo, gave us a wonderful whirlwind tour of South American history, and the practical challenges in Argentina both socially and economically of being an emerging market. UADE also arranged a drinks reception with MBA students from America. It provided a good opportunity to network and learn more about the MBA programme in America - reassuringly there was little difference to our own programme."
Cass has also initiated a partnership with UADE to support the international strategies of each school's MBA programmes. Students were given the chance to network with other MBA professionals at a networking event hosted at UADE with students invited from the Fuqua School of Business, part of Duke University and the Ross School of Business, part of the University of Michigan.
Dr Zaleska says: "The people of Argentina are very warm and open which is a key part of the appeal of this unique country. Such an international trip increases intercultural competence - in today's workplace young professionals will find themselves in cross-cultural interactions outside of what is familiar to them. This creates the need for an increasingly internationalised curriculum within the MBA and our programmes are working hard to meet this need. Short-term experiences represent a better fit within graduate-level business programmes and out of classroom experiences such as this consultancy trip hold great promise with respect to the development of their intercultural competence."