Business Environment in Spain, Portugal, and China – Angel Wu

Angel (Shengdi) Wu made the journey to Lisbon and Madrid, experiencing a contrast of Portuguese and Spanish business etiquette to that of her native country, China. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on European and Chinese cultural practices, and how to have cultural-awareness while conducting international business.

Time flies, two weeks’ intersession in Europe passed quickly in the blink of an eye. My overall impression on Europe is complicated. I was completely absorbed in the rich culture, accumulated through the long development of the civilization. We visited art centers, img_0238witnessed the perfectly reserved architectures from the last two centuries, watched various classical concerts such as Flamenco in Spain and Fado in Portugal, and tested various authentic European food and drinks such as Sangria, wines and fresh-made breads with garlic shrimps. However, on the other hand, I was a little disappointed by the current economic statues of the European union countries. Once dominated the sea and colonized many countries around the world to acquire a great deal of fortunes, Spain and Portugal today are no longer prosperous as before and struggling to get out of the economic crisis.

In terms of culture and business differences between China and Europe, the most important element that China and Europe share in common is the long historical development. Both China and Europe entered their respective first golden age at about the same time: 500 BC. However, European culture heritages, including ancient castles and old antiques, are better preserved img_0564than the Chinese counterparts, as both the civil wars and the world wars destroyed lots of historical sites in China. As a result, on the whole, the modern facilities such as elevators in buildings are more spread in China than European countries. A single writing language and a 90% Han-nationality dominated population shaped roughly homogenous cultural traditions in China, while multiple languages and varieties of populations created different culture traditions among European countries. The differences could also be traced to the concept of family. For instance, Chinese view the benefits of the whole family over individuals so that an individual has his duty for the family. Europeans focus more on an individual’s freedoms and rights. Although we could feel the socialism influence in both continents, Europeans enjoy much higher benefits from their governments while Chinese do not.

img_0433When it comes to business, Europeans focus more on the technology and quality, such as some famous luxurious brands – Gucci, Louise Vuitton, BMW cars and so on. Chinese place greater importance on cutting costs, which inevitably harms the quality. However, both Europe and China are complimentary to each other from the market angle. China has huge market potential and production capacities, while Europe has advanced technologies that could be more quickly applied in China. Europe could conquer the Chinese market more quickly by transferring new technologies to China and setting up local production.

 

Another noteworthy fact is that China is thriving thanks to the fall of communism and the rise of img_0327the capitalism. Europe is falling thanks to the rise of socialism and the fall of capitalism with no easy way out. The rigid, inefficient labor market, in most European union countries, has become probably the largest stumbling block to development of the economies within the European Union. For instance, in the United States, a company in decline could lay off its employees according to its needs without any compensation. While in Europe, the rigid labor law made it even unaffordable for a company to fire a permanent employee. In China, employees laid off by a company are compensated to some extent. As a result, in many European countries, a vicious circle happens as permanent workers in a company might look forward to being fired, and thus companies operating in Europe tend to hire more temporary workers instead. The astonishing unemployment rate at as high as 30 percent makes people question whether it is really beneficial for the economic development of a country to join the European Union.

img_9962To do business in Portugal, some business etiquettes should be kept in mind. Don’t ask about a person’s background or age or exaggerate your gestures. As for punctuality, it is common to be late. For instance, arriving 10 minutes late for a meeting is ok. You will need to make a call if you will be late by more than 20 minutes or request to reschedule the meeting after 30 minutes. Portuguese people are very friendly and sincere about what they say. As is the case with China, personal relationships are very important in business, and people prefer to do business with someone they trust. Thus, it is advisable to seek a mutual contact and build up some credibility with Portuguese businessmen before starting to negotiate with them, a practice shared by Spanish businessmen as well.

In Spain, sufficient time should be allowed to get to know your partners well before any negotiation as a sound relationship is an integral part of successful business negotiation. For instance, before the formalities of meeting, you should spend some time discussing some general informal subjects, such as the weather, family or traveling arrangements. It is really important to follow up with the completion of a business deal and reinforce personal relationships. It is acceptable to invite business partners in Spain to some informal social gatherings. In general, Spanish people value their families, personal relationship and cultural traditions. They enjoy leisure activities to the fullest. Business dress code is very important in Spain as Spanish people will perceive one’s appearance as indication of professional achievement and relative social standing. It is advisable to address with elegance, especially for a dinner. Many high-quality restaurants have a formal dress code. Unless you are a tourist over there, you should always avoid shorts or slippers. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that some rules about giving gifts during business meetings. Spanish people don’t usually give gifts to each other, while inexpensive gifts could be allowed at the end of a success negotiation. Corporate gifts or books are welcome gifts. It is important to know that Spanish people are brand and quality conscious, so high quality items are preferred.img_0440

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

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

People Before Profits – Judy Halter

Judy Halter traveled to Mondragón, Spain this past summer, studying the models of participatory leadership in a global context. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on business, philosophy and the importance of the cooperative model.

“Now having an increased knowledge of the many positive social outcomes for cooperative management, I ask how can we incentivize people to work for cooperatives again? An economist made a presentation for us during the week and mentioned “that it would be rare for anyone to currently creatimg_4927e a startup in the coop model.” The dynamics that were in place in the late 1950s when MCC was created were very different than today’s environment. We learned that even by the 1990s, people were joining coops for practicality reasons, not for higher purpose or perceived societal benefits. Though I personally believe and appreciate the positive societal outcomes from people coming together to work for each other instead of an individualistic approach, my beliefs are not the norm. So I ask, what is going to bring the appreciation of solidarity and democratic management back into favor?

I feel that our changing employment demands could possibly create a scenario where people will appreciate the work and be willing to sacrifice the funds for the greater good. Gallop in May 2016 reported that 13.7% of people are underemployed in the US. Underemployment is a form of cooperative tenets taking place in the sense that people want to work so much they willing to take jobs beneath their skill level in hopes of future mobility. As our economy continues to be disrupted by technological Mondragon 15advancements, our employment avenues are changing rapidly. Will there be a time of retraining workers? How long will that take? Will workers, in hopes of belonging to a community and making a contribution, consider a cooperative model? Possibly, only time will tell. I truly concur with Dr. Herrera’s belief regarding man’s need to contribute and evolve through his work. The cooperative model may be one of the more acceptable means of providing full employment when jobs are declining in availability. Allowing more people to work for less and spread the opportunity to work, might be one of the solutions to keeping people engaged, contributing and connected. I also believe that the cooperative pay scale could be one of the quickest ways to solve income disparity if applied in corporate America. That being said, capitalism is one of the founding pillars of American society, but my hope is that we can dial back our consumption in an effort to put people before profits, which is the foundation of the MCC.

Mondragon 6I am so thankful for the enlightening week in Mondragón. The cooperative tenets align with me philosophically, and I believe corporate America has an opportunity to integrate some of the best tenets of the cooperative model: equity, democratization, participatory leadership, and education. Some of our best companies in the US (ie. Google, Wegmann, Boston Consulting Group) maintain some of the cooperative tenets. They receive high marks from their employees on “best places to work.” Utilizing a system similar to the cooperative model, these American companies have created a strong, unified culture where people take pride in their work and collaborate. I believe this engaged dynamic occurs because the companies strive to put their employees before their profits similar to the cooperative principles of people before profits. In America, we have leadership that implements similar philosophies; we just need other leaders to be inspired as well.”

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

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

Tips for Traveling to Lisbon and Madrid

Shreyas Sreekanth visited two locations, Madrid and Lisbon, and gave us some tips for what to do and see in both locations. Read on to find out more!

Since this was the first time I was visiting Europe, my excitement before leaving was overwhelming. We had a large group of people from different programs joining us in these wonderful locations, which made it even better to meet new people and hang out together. The pre-departure session that my classmates and I had with the Ahler’s Center was very helpful to prepare ourselves for the locations we would be traveling to, as we had speakers present who are from Lisbon as well as a person from the US currently studying in Madrid. They were kind of enough to give us a broad picture of what the locations are like, safety tips, appropriate traveling means, as well as suggestions of different restaurants and places to visit.

Lisbon is a great city in terms of the people, locations, food, and places to visit. The opening dinner on the first day was a great opportunity to meet everyone in the program. The authentic Portuguese cuisine was to die for, as I had the best sea food and wine. Our class was held in Catolica School of Business and Economics, which was a 10-minute cab ride from our hotel. The professors and students from the school were very receptive and catered to our needs in the best way they could, which made us feel more comfortable in our new environment. The class schedule was perfectly balanced between attending class and completing school work before we went out to explore the city.

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The city tour that the Ahler’s Center planned was what opened my eyes to what Portugal has to offer, as well as its prominent history. We had a certified guide who took us to the oldest part of the city, gave us information about how the city had been destroyed by an earthquake, and described what had to be done to build it back up to what it is today. It involved quite a walk, so it is highly recommended to be in comfortable attire and shoes (which will be stressed by Allison the day before). Everyone was quite tired after the session, but the highlight was going to an amazing pastry place, Pastéis de Belém, where we were served the best chocolate tarts I have ever had until now. This is a must try in Lisbon, as I ended up having a few every day after the tour.

The other must visit place is Sintra, where beautiful castles are located, as well as a breathtaking view from the western most part of Europe. The hike is through some wonderful small waterfalls and various ancieimg_20160604_013729nt castles. Again, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and attire, as it is almost a 4-hour hike to see all of the sites. The city also a lot of small little restaurants and boutiques that are interesting to peruse in, the restaurants are perfect to go with friends after a long day’s trek in the evening. A peculiar trend that I observed in Lisbon is that dinner time is usually around 10 PM, and hence, the places are open quite late. The language is not really a problem, as all the restaurants have English menus, and the minimal English that the cab drivers know is sufficient to get around the city without much difficulties. However, it is recommended to learn a few basic words in both languages, but if not, it is very important to carry a business card of the hotel with you at all times in case of an emergency.

After a week in Lisbon, we headed towards the city of Madrid in Spain. The most prominent experience I had in Madrid is the Tapas tour. Tapas is img_20160530_174244a must try in Madrid, as there so many variations to the small dishes and tapas is available in a lot of different places. The Dean also joined for us the event, making it that much better. We were lucky enough to be in Madrid during the UEFA finals between two of the most prominent clubs in Spain, Real Madrid and Atlético. The craze about soccer in Spain is real, as it is widespread throughout the city, and it seemed like the city came to a halt for those entirety of the game.

We were also fortunate enough to have guest speakers at both the locations who were from Europe to give presentations on their respective regions. The opportunity to learn about the history of both countries, the EU, and the Eurozone in general was fascinating. The industrial visits to We Do Technologies in Lisbon and the Google campus in Madrid was very useful to understand how business functions in Eimg_20160603_202749urope, and the experiences described by the founders of We Do technologies was very informative. They explained the challenges they faced in their industry, as well as how different it is to run a business in Europe in comparison to the US. The industrial visits are a core part of the program and it is mandatory to attend both of them. On a final note, the logistics and program itself were carried out very efficiently, with many thanks to Allison from the Ahler’s Center, as she coordinated with the local schools and kept us informed regularly through Whatsapp. Both of the cities were wonderful places to visit, to experience the European culture as well as to gain new knowledge, and a few credits, at the same time!

Social Entrepreneurship in South America

Timothy Mullen and his MBA class took the opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, examining the prominent role of the cultural and social environment in regards to business and entrepreneurship. Please enjoy reading about Timothy’s experiences and perspectives.

“Our USD MBA went truly global early in 2016, with a group of us electing to travel for coursesmullen2 offered in South America. Argentina was the destination for a course in Global Entrepreneurship followed by Rio De Janeiro where we undertook a team based consulting project for real businesses. Argentina was particularly enlightening as we got much closer as a student body, living under the same roof in close quarters, sharing the same frustrations with taxi availability and exploring all the culinary and cultural nuances of our unique location together as a group. Even if by the end we couldn’t face another empanada or religious cut of beef for weeks to come, we were all so thankful for the experience.

The journey of discovery began when Dr. Meyskens set us the task of reading Bornstein’s “How to Change the World” and it set the tone for what was to be an amazing voyage of societal reflection throughout the inspirational excursion. David Bornstein through his book “How to Change the World” (2007) really opens the readers mind to the possibilities social entrepreneurship presents through business for social innovation on a global scale. It was an incredible read filled with heart-warming tales of idea champions struggling against adversity mullen1both systematic, economic and social. Bornstein uses ten case studies of individual social champions to strengthen his views about what defines a success and how the Ashoka organisation in particular, plays a role in developing small scale ideas into world changing visions with notable results. I think the book in general opened my eyes up to the kinds of innovative work individuals (in often really trying geographical regions) were performing, towards their own respective causes. Some of the struggles these individuals have overcome to render completely rewarding and often thankless results is astounding and often tugged at the heart strings. I was thrilled to learn about Ashoka’s individual based funding model recognizing elite contributors. I will keep with me, from this point forward, the six qualities of social entrepreneurs particularly a willingness to self-correct, and try to apply those principles to future strategic plans I try to enact whether socially beneficial or otherwise. I highly recommend anyone interested in civil sustainability or innovation pick up this book for a great timeless read or inspiration.

mullen3Following on from our exploration of the book we were fed valuable classroom insights into the social inequality currently facing Argentinians in their everyday lives due to a failing economy and job and welfare shortages. We visited and heard from many organisations in the Argentinian business landscape each championing a cause to correct social inequality. We were inspired by the likes of the Alamo co-operative employing those of less means to recycle and collect trash for sustainable employment, Idel who were training mentally disadvantaged adults by providing them with social training and employment possibilities, Acinder, a large steel corporation and the voluntary efforts they promoted through direct programs and government liaising and the almost militant worker groups at La Base and Chilavert printers championing the voice of the downtrodden.
mullen4We were further equipped with entrepreneurship tools and tasked to apply them to a venture of our own invention. Armed with a social entrepreneur geared business canvas model, the lean start-up philosophy and funding options and scaling principles for social ventures, we were ready to develop our own concepts. Wanting to better understand the class division and with an avid interest in healthcare already, our team decided to see what we could propose for healthcare in the Argentinian slums. I was really keen to understand the lives the residents and pitch our idea to the people who lived there to see if they recognised benefit. Filled with curiosity and a desire to help myself and the professor did a private tour of Villa 31 led by a mullen5volunteer evening school (Casa Abierta) teacher who lived there. She explained that our assumption that slum residents wanted to elevate themselves out of that living situation was somewhat misled. Most of the residents had moved to Villa 31 from the likes of Ecuador and Paraguay, as Buenos Aires in fact was a positive move even if it was the slums where they ended up. They weren’t looking to educate their children with the dream of ever leaving those communities but instead continue to work tremendously hard to make their communities a comfortable, viable and healthy lifestyle choice for all. It was share economy in the rawest form, they owned their predicament and weren’t seeking handouts, pity or sympathy. The slums were much more civilised than expected with running water, power, telephone coverage with internet access, security and functioning businesses. Issues remained like a lack of on-call emergency health services, police corruption and crime and drug proliferation, but these weren’t enough to dissuade the residents of Villa 31 from their intention to remain there and better their life in the slum. The professor and myself were even shown an adult evening education centre which was self-funded and volunteer steered, and we were also told of sewing co-operatives which had been developed recently. It was a very positive experience completely transforming my opinion of class inequality in Buenos Aires.

Our team’s concept MedRed was a non-profit healthcare app for the slum areas. Villa 31 had recently built a little medical room regularly attended by volunteers inside the slum so as to bring health care to the residents rather than have them walk up to one hour to the nearest facility, but it was manned to a schedule not around the clock and required one particular medical professional to champion the cause. Together with the adult evening school, he had begun a program of education for medical technician volunteers living in the villa who had access to the room and could perform minor duties. Our idea was to develop an app to connect those volunteers with a virtual network of logged in, on-call health professionals who would mullen6volunteer from local hospitals medical schools and universities and other practices. In the event of an alarm, the app would connect the volunteer with the professional to pseudo triage and treat the patient any hour of any day. Basically, an uber for volunteer doctors and their advice to the volunteers. The plan then was to expand the volunteer program and app to other slums in Argentina and then possibly the other slums of the world. Potentially a paid service for a GP on call could be rolled out to regular citizens in those countries to help fund the expansion. Our app concept was met with supportive praise from both the residents of the villa and the Argentinian business mentor whom we had to pitch it to and we felt rewarded that we’d developed a tangible solution to a very real issue.

I’m unsure as to whether our successful pitch will ever lead to a manifestation of the app in the real world, providing residents with a better standard of healthcare coverage, but nonetheless our journey to Argentina was tremendously rewarding and eye opening. We learnt much about ourselves as a student group and left inspired by real community efforts and ventures we’d both read about, visited and interacted with. It was amazing to learn that innovation in business didn’t have to be confined to the realms of efficiency and cost, but, all in all, I hope to remember that fantastic commercial opportunities exist outside of the regular “for profit” business world to strategize and innovate for real social change and balance.”

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

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

From the Classroom to Beyond

Ashrith Doddi really enjoyed learning about various international affairs within the classroom while abroad. Read on to find out more about his experience!

I had a great experience with Dr. Dimon and the rest of the crew in Lisbon and Madrid. The class, Global politics, policy, law and ethics, was such a refreshing take on global politics and market systems, with a special emphasis on European monetary and fiscal policy. The case studies given to us exposed us to global business, cross-border negotiations, culture, and challenges that entrepreneurs and businesses face when they make international transactions.

Company visit

When I read the case about corruption in Siemens in Germany, I learned about how big businesses are structured, as well as the journey Siemens and its top management took during its growth stage. The discussion we had in class was lively and insightful. Despite being in metropolitan cities with bustling nightlife and many distractions, everyone in class was prepared, well read and contributed significantly during discussions. When we were not discussing case studies or listening to Dr. Dimon talk about subject matter, we had esteemed guest speakers who educated us on European fiscal and monetary policy. This was the highlight of taking the class in Europe, because I have done some extensive research about European policy in my previous job working as a Reuters correspondent. Many things come to mind that I can use in my personal or professional life after taking the class. For example, the information about liberal and coordinated markets will help me gain perspective about how markets function in different countries. As an MBA student aiming towards a career as a consultant, these topics will help in the future when I have projects that will require international travel. Another example that comes to mind is the telecommunications case study we did, which showed me the importance of market research before entering a new market. Since I am from an emerging market (India), I can compare and contrast the business environments in different countries and the course material will help me in my future ventures.

Madrid - bull fight

To conclude, I highly recommend the course to future students. The classroom discussions with the professor and the students encouraged me to keep up to date with case studies, current affairs and especially, to learn more about the European economy. Traveling with fellow students and professors was an enriching experience and I thank the University of San Diego’s Ahlers Center for the scholarship and the opportunity to take this class.

Final dinner