How to Utilize Family Businesses to Turn the Greek Economy Around

Ian Manahan has been on a long journey visiting many countries throughout Europe, one of which was Greece, that left a lasting impression on him. Aside from exploring Athens and falling in love with Greek food, Ian found the importance that the role of family businesses play in the Greek economy.

When I stepped off the plan in Athens, for the first time in my life, I was immediately caught up in the historical mythology of Greece. I stayed at an Airbnb with a nice Greek couple in their 40’s who provided me with fantastic hospitality that lasted my entire stay. After getting settled, I sat down and learned more about my hosts, while sipping what was quickly becoming one of my new favorite spirits, ouzo, and trying various Greek cheeses on bread. I had only given myself a day to get settled and see the sights, before class started at my school, ALBA, so after my conversation with my hosts, I planned out my next day and went to bed.

IMG_3020

Greece

Greece was dry when I visited in late April, but the beauty of the ocean water off the coast never failed to make me feel full of joy. Greece was one of twelve countries I visited in Europe in 2016 and, in my opinion, Greece had the best food. I loved the way that the Greeks prepared their souvlaki, which made me realize that saving money packing one’s own lunch might not always be the best option. My favorite souvlaki was probably made with small pieces of lamb meat, cooked on a skewer over coals, then placed on pita bread with fresh Mediterranean vegetables and what I remember to be tzatziki sauce.

Although many of the tourist areas in Athens, like the new Acropolis museum, were busy with tourists and well preserved, it appeared there were many areas of the city that were no longer as well taken care of. The traffic also seemed fairly heavy, and at times chaotic, with the many ‘papaki’ and ‘Papi’/mopeds darting around on the roadways. Although I never needed to go far for fantastic baked goods or food, between the multiple jobs my Airbnb hosts worked and the inconsistent infrastructure I observed, Greece seemed to be a place where economic growth and optimism were at an all time low. What could the future hold for them?

Family Business

The class I took in Athens/ALBA was called “Managing the Family Enterprise”, and it was taught by a visiting Italian professor from the Nottingham Business School in the UK, who had one of the most confusing accents of anyone I met in Europe. However, he was very self aware and never failed to IMG_2890make the class fun as a result. For me, learning about managing a family business wasn’t something I had really thought about, until I started working on my New Venture Management MBA with USD and saw the chance to take the course in Greece while I was abroad.

I think one of the bigger takeaways from the class was how large the family business market is. Family owned businesses are almost half of the GDP in the US and constitute approximately three quarters of the GDP in most other countries. Therefore, how family businesses are managed, especially in regards to succession planning, is a fairly relevant discussion for business and globalization moving forward. The family is the most important initial element in creating the company culture, so the question is how can business and culture be continually maintained and adapted to a constantly changing market? Additionally, roughly all of Greece’s mid-sized companies are family controlled and up to 60% of their large firms are family controlled.

The Future

Greece likely needs to pursue more than one change in order to make the turn around the world would like to see them make economically. The euro did not have a good rap with my hosts, nor did the EU. Greece has multiple built in markets with its tourism and food, but the Greek citizens trust in the government is not where it needs to be in order to start making changes that need to be made. After spending two weeks in Greece, I thought that many travelers would still want to visit the beautiful ‘birthplace of civilization’ as we know it, but without strong political and business leadership to re-write the economy, I wonder if we will see its citizens continue to struggle and as a result, lose some of its integral culture. Greece’s challenges and opportunities are not unknown to the world, and I hope to return to a fully revitalized Greek economy someday soon.


IMG_2779 (1)

Lisbon & Madrid: Food, fútbol, and friends/family

Surabhi Mohta participated in the study abroad program to Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain where she observed many cultural similarities between the two countries and reflected on her experiences in both places.

IMG_5828

A wise man once said, ‘the world is a book; and those who do not travel read only one page.’ I realized how true these words are after my experiences abroad. For two weeks in May 2016, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Spain and Portugal. I knew coming to the University of San Diego, which is a pioneer in study abroad programs for its graduate school, that I wanted to study abroad at some point as a student here and I have been lucky enough to experience two study abroad trips so far. I didn’t know just how life-changing studying abroad would be and how much I would learn while I was traveling. I took a class which taught me about how different economic and political conditions can shape the way of life in a country and how some of the most innovative ideas can come out of the toughest constraints. I also learned so many things outside of class that helped me to appreciate my experience that much more.

IMG_5774
I learned so much about another culture: what other people value, what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what makes them stay up so late. I learned what it’s like to live as a traveler and not a tourist, and how to explore a country with strangers who can become close friends. I learned how to read a city with my feet, walking through streets so narrow that the sidewalks, where they existed, were no wider than a foot. Living in a foreign city is supposed to push you outside your comfort zone, interact with people you have never met before, immerse yourself in a culture very different from your own, as well as understand how local businesses work, and why they are structured the way they are. The culture shocks I experienced came in the daily routines, the little details, such as with the type of foods. All the fruits and vegetables were so fresh, since the Spanish and Portuguese aren’t dependent on preservatives. The food in Portugal and Spain was very traditional and local. The people are proud of where they come from; they are born, they live and die here. I found that the food they eat reflects their municipal pride.

IMG_5681
Another thing that was interesting to note is the Portuguese and Spanish culture of extraversion. Yes, there’s a huge economic crisis: the youth unemployment rate, especially in Spain, exceeds 60 percent. Yet, people are still going out. They aren’t afraid to have a good time, and I experienced this through feeling the intensity of the fútbol games, which you knew the entire city was watching by the perfectly synchronized cheers erupting from the apartments and streets around me. They would rather live with less than sacrifice going out with their friends and family. This reflects the importance the Spanish and Portuguese people place on relationships, which I also observed in the way business was done in these countries.

IMG_5361

What makes study abroad so amazing is how much you learn about life in such a condensed period of time, away from everything familiar. As Henry Miller said, ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ That’s exactly what a study abroad experience does to you.”

IMG_5776

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

“De La Gente”: From the People of Guatemala

Carl Eberts traveled to Antigua, Guatemala as part of an MBA class and was fortunate enough to see the importance of microloans and organizations, like De La Gente, that help in giving low income Guatemalans a higher quality of life.

20160622_181657

 “This trip gave me the opportunity to experience the real life challenges people face in rural Guatemala and explore how businesses with a socially minded foundation can benefit these people. Within the first two days, we met with textile workers, brick makers, and a baker, all who have expanded their business through loans from microfinance institutions. On the third day, we were able to learn about the process of how coffee beans are grown and processed by a local farmer and his family. It was an amazing opportunity to witness firsthand how social entrepreneurship can make a substantial difference in people’s lives. The local farmer’s name was Mercedes and he proudly showed us his coffee operation from planting to roasting the beans, all while hiking across his land. He told us that he started out as a farm hand, making mere pennies a day. However, after receiving help from microloans, he has finally been able to purchase land of his own. Along with the assistance of De La Gente, an organization that is committed to increasing the livelihood of farmers and their families, Mercedes went from just selling unprocessed coffee beans to husking and roasting them. Since the individual pieces of equipment were too expensive for any individual coffee farmer to purchase on his own, several farmers formed a coop and purchased one piece of equipment each to help in the process of picking coffee berries and roasting the beans. The coop has allowed them to create significantly more income for themselves and their families. After listening to Mercedes’ story, my understanding of the factors that perpetuate poverty has expanded, as well as the differences between actions that first world countries take to help alleviate poverty, versus those that only appear to help. The experiences that I had in Guatemala opened my mind to the ingenuity and resilience of citizens living in underdeveloped countries and how it really is a systematic problem that must be attacked from multiple angles. I believe that it is important for myself and others to look for opportunities in our own communities that harness mutually beneficial relationships to achieve more than would be possible alone.

DSC_0010

An unexpected benefit of traveling abroad with an MBA class is the amount of time spent in transit with like-minded business people. Being around the same peers for an extended period of time allowed for networking that was far more significant than a single random mixer or event together. We spent several hours a day together being transported around to different locations and went out to dinner as a group almost every night. I bonded with fellow classmates over Argentinian steaks, volcanoes erupting, as well as Mexican airport customs. Over the course of the trip, I discussed many international business topics with a doctor that had worked in a clinic in the Dominican Republic and also gained some insight into the history of the Guatemalan government through the eyes of an expat living abroad in Antigua. The connections I made abroad will last longer and carry more weight than others made domestically. I hope to be able to take several more classes abroad during my MBA program at USD.”

DSC_0321

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.