During spring break 2019, the MSF program took a trip to the financial capital of Italy to learn advanced corporate finance, experience the Milanese culture, and interact with successful alumni from USD. Before the class met up together in Milan, I traveled to Florence and Venice to familiarize myself with the Italian culture and to recover from the jet-lag.
The first day in the urban city of Milan reminded me of New York and it was as if I came back to reality. We had our first advanced corporate finance class at noon in the conference room of the Uptown Palace and Kacy gave us the itinerary of the week. We were scheduled to have a company visit to Geiko Taikisha, a global leader in the planning and construction of turnkey automated car painting systems, which is led by a USD alumni Ali Reza Arabnia.
When we went on the company visit the first thing I noticed was how professional and friendly the employees were. They led us up to Mr. Arabnia’s office and he came up to meet us soon after and started sharing with us. He gave us an overview of his company and proceeded to share his wisdom on what made him successful.
He first started by sharing about his time right after graduating the MBA program at USD. He married his wife and started in Geico, and it just so happened that his father-in-law was the founder of Geico. Initially, Reza did not want to work for his father-in-law because of his pride, but he had no better opportunity at the time. Reza was sent to a factory in Northern Africa where he was given the task to learn about the financials of the factory. Reza was diligent and curious and soon he learned about all the inner workings in the company and even wrote down some ideas of how to make the production and management more efficient.
During that time, the country of the factory Reza was working in was experiencing a civil war and the management team had left the country. Reza was left with a company in disarray, but he led the remaining team to continue production. He was able to adapt in a chaotic situation and emerged victoriously. He continued to grow the company by thinking of small innovations that made their products better and strategically analyzed the process of the production to optimize the supply chain system.
After his origin story at Geico, he told us that he started his own venture in the States and was very successful, but when Geico was met with a hostile takeover, Reza felt he had to step in and he bought Geico. He started running the business when it was in the red ocean market but was able to steer the company into the blue ocean by making innovating. Even though innovation seems like the main factor that drove the success of Geico, he told us that focusing on the people was the key catalyst for his success.
Focusing on the employees of Geico was what made the company more efficient. Paying attention to, being kind to, and being honest to people gives them respect and a sense of home and that’s how Reza treated the people at Geico since he took over. The company went from a disorganized and cutthroat environment to a collaborative and encouraging one, and it took Geico from a company going bankrupt to a company that is the leader in its field.
Just this one visit to Geico alone has brought tremendous value to the study abroad program and have given me tools I can utilize in my own career development. This study abroad to Milan is an experience that I will always remember and has filled me with priceless experiences that have made me a more insightful, appreciative, and enthusiastic of my future.