Tag Archives: Athens

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.

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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.


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Can Greek Youth Overcome Generations of Failed Social Norms and Save Their Economy?

Joe Bird visited both Germany and Greece as part of his study abroad experience and chose to focus on the Greek crisis, including its implications for future generations of Greek youth.

Although both located in Europe, my visit to Germany and Greece this summer unearthed a stark contrast between these two respective countries. My European adventure began in Munich, Germany where my classmates and I experienced firsthand the efficiency and productivity the Germans are known for. From its omnipresent public transit to its factory floors, we got to see why Germany is experiencing both economic and social growth. Germans are highly educated and have invested heavily into infrastructure and health services. We toured the BMW factory where luxury vehicles are created to the exact specifications of a demanding and loyal global customer base, and this deep understanding of both global business and value creation was put on display. image008

The picture in Greece is quite different from Germany. Athens is a city rich in history and culture, but contains little else. The Greek economic crisis is well known, and highly visible once you leave the tourist areas near the Acropolis. The Greeks’ long-held attitudes toward job security, guaranteed pensions, and state benefits are no longer sustainable in practice. Restauranteurs actively compete on the street for patrons, each making every effort to lure you into his establishment. Proprietors of stores do the same. At one restaurant, the host gave our dining group the first round of drinks on the house as an enticement. (It worked!) However, all this demonstrates that business is not thriving in Greece.

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While the attitude of many that the state owes them a living is prevalent, we saw some incredible and inspiring examples of entrepreneurs in Greece who are working hard to improve things for themselves and their country. We met Niki Koutisanas, a co-founder of APIVITA cosmetics, whose company develops natural products for the skin and hair. The company is innovative in its approach to business and society by thinking of itself as a living organism—like the bees for which it’s named—continuously creating value through its industriousness. With companies like APIVITA growing and thriving in Greece, there is hope.

But ultimately, change will need to come from the Greek youth. They need to buck the old way of thinking that has led to this crisis. Greece will need to liberalize its education system, a problem outlined by the Dean of the ALBA Graduate Business School, Nickolaos Travlos, during his presentation to our group. Greece is an economy dominated by small and mid-sized businesses, many of which are unable to find the skilled labor they require, which hurts efficiency and growth.

It occurred to me that Greece could benefit from an organization that is devoted to the direct placement of young workers who possess the skills needed by these companies. Employment agencies exist in Greece to service specialized professions, much like in the rest of the developed world; however, my concept is to partner with companies, learn their specific needs, provide training specific to roles, and place applicants in apprenticeships, or internships, for more comprehensive on-the-job training that will lead to permanent employment. It would help to bridge the gap that currently exists in the higher education system that isn’t preparing Greek youth for employment.image004 It also alleviates the stigma against vocational education held by many Greek youth, because it involves a direct link between training/education and the employer.

No business education could be complete without opportunities such as those provided by the Ahler’s Center, to instill a global and social perspective on each participant. I’ll always be grateful, not just for the chance to see cool, new places, but for the insights I received through seeing businesses operate outside my home country. We live in a global marketplace, and it is imperative to understand all the segments of this expansive market. Studying abroad is the perfect way to develop an understanding of how we are all interconnected, which, in turn, will help you succeed in your future endeavors.

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

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

The Eurozone & the Greek Crisis: Strategies for Global Innovation & Competitiveness

By Philip Sheridan, MBA student

Due to my interest in strategic planning and innovation management, I participated in the 2015 Munich & Athens study abroad program with the intent to study strategies for global innovation, and how the political, legal and ethical climate can impact a country’s corporate and economic development. Despite the improving economic climate for a number of states within the European Union (EU), the tensions created by the current Greek crisis provided a unique (possibly historical) opportunity to learn first-hand how each country’s respective business and economic environment is impacting the health of the EU.

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Plaza in Munich, Germany

The EU consists of 27 member states (countries), of which Germany is considered Europe’s economic engine, with a longstanding record of high employment and productivity. Kicking off our studies, two lecturers (Dr. Richard Hofmaier, University of Applied Sciences Munich; Alexander Lang, Tu Munchen) described how the main driving forces (~99%) behind Germany’s economy are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs; up to 500 employees), referred to as the ‘German Mittlestand’ or ‘hidden champions’. Roughly 95% of Mittlestand firms are family-owned businesses, of which >54% have launched an innovation onto the market, contributing almost 52% of Germany’s economic output within the EU (~27% of EU GDP). Dr. Hofmaier and Mr. Lang eluted to how most successful German firms (large or small) try to capture the spirit of these ’hidden champions’ to drive innovation, and integrate knowledge of consumer-demands into their innovation management and product development practices and processes.

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

The innovation practices discussed by Hofmaier and Lang provided a great international context for our course studies in global innovation management, particularly as it relates to ideation, opportunity identification, option development, synthesis and analysis. Together with Dr. Zimmermann, we discussed these topics and relevant case studies used by global organizations trying to establish and sustain innovative cultures. These class discussions and experiential exercises provided great exposure to practices and contextual tools that I can leverage in my strategic planning and business development activities.

Our time in Germany culminated with site visits to the BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters, as well as the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (within the University of Applied Sciences). At BMW, we observed how a large enterprise marries customer-focused development with innovative production methods to maintain their competitive edge and increase manufacturing efficiency.

At the Strascheg Center, we learned how the German government invests resources to establish entrepreneurship programs and seed university business incubators. We had the unique experience to hear from two start-up cofounders as to the resources provided by the center to help them develop and deliver their innovative products to the market.

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Winning culinary team relaxing after the Athens Sensations Tour

Following our acclimation to Athens through a program sponsored ‘Athens Sensations Tour’, we started our studies in Greece with an orientation by Dean Nickolaos Travlos from the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA). Dean Travlos framed out key financial events that led to Greece’s current economic crisis, which today is characterized by excessive debt (debt to GDP >170%), an over-bearing public sector (>50% public companies), non-competitive government policies (low government efficiency, 56/59), and a significant ‘black economy’ (>30%). As a result, the Greek government faces overwhelming pension obligations, extremely high unemployment (>25%; >50% for youths), a deflated private business sector (low business efficiency index, 53/59), and significant lost tax revenues due to the black economy.

Visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company

Of particular interest was a presentation by Prof. Babis Mainemelis (ALBA) who emphasized how Greek businesses could leverage their worldly traditions and heritage to spur innovation and differentiate its products on a global business stage. We visited Apivita, a family-owned company that specializes in using natural organic oils, plant extracts and beehive products to formulate holistic cosmetics. We toured their production facility and botanical gardens, including a hands-on experience as to the beekeeping practices used to maintain their hives for generation and collection of natural product ingredients. We also toured the Papagiannakos Winery and enjoyed a history lecture on wine in Greece by food consultant and sommelier Chrissa Giatra. It was interesting to hear how these two family businesses were leveraging their unique success in Greece to expand within the European market.

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Ancient ruins in Athens, Greece

It will be interesting to follow future economic developments within the EU. Will there be a Grexit (Greek exit from the EU)? Could this lead to a contagion where other countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) also exit rather than continue to institute painful austerity measures (such as labor and market reforms). And what global impact could such developments have on international markets and economies?

While we wait to see what the future holds for Greece and the EU, I can say that the immersive nature of the Munich & Athens program provided direct exposure to these contrasting business environments, and cultures as a whole. The team–based course content and exercises fostered collaboration between individuals from various university programs, and together with lectures by international faculty and company site visits, delivered a unique and exceptional professional learning opportunity every student should have the good fortune to experience. Lastly, it was extremely stimulating to learn about these historical cities and their overall place in the world, from an economic as well as cultural perspective. Most important, it was great fun to meet new people, expand my professional network, and establish new friendships.

 

Read these other blog posts detailing student experiences in Munich & Athens:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

What Students are Saying About Munich & Athens

 

Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.

What Students are Saying About Studying Abroad in Munich and Athens!

“The summer study abroad program in Munich and Athens was incredible because it brought what we were studying to life. The European Union is currently in the midst of an incredibly trying time and to actually be there, on the ground gave a real life perspective and dynamic we couldn¹t possibly get while at home in the U.S. I left Germany and Greece with a hands-on experience that not only brought many of the subjects in my coursework to life, but also that I will cherish as a move forward in my future career.” ~ Jaqueline Rodrigues, JD/MBA Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“My experiences abroad have enriched my understanding of cultural, language, and business aspects related to my studies to earn my Masters of Science in Global Leadership through the Business School at the University of San Diego. It is one thing to study international comparative leadership, as well as global policies, but it is an entirely different exposure when immersed with the people and their cultures for yourself–it is something that has highlighted my time earning my graduate degree at USD, and remains some of the fondest memories and robust learning experiences of my academic career!” ~ Allison Cameron, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“The USD study abroad program in Munich/Athens allowed us to hear descriptions and perspectives on the Greek Financial Crisis directly from both German and Greek business leaders. It was a timely and insightful experience that I wish everyone could have experienced.” “While preparing to study for the Munich/Athens program, a handful of us decided to travel to Istanbul, Prague, and Salzburg. We had an opportunity to see so many places and combined academics, history and pleasure quite nicely to start our summer.” ~ Ivan Reed, MBA Student, about his experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“Study abroad was an enriching experience that helped me understand how deep cultures can run, and how it influences business behaviors. The juxtaposition witnessed between entrepreneurial German companies and family owned Greek companies, opened my eyes and made me think about the benefits and necessity of diversity in the business world. Although different cultures and business strategies, both were successful, utilized their strengths and remain unconnected by the global economy.” Danielle Robles, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

Still not sure if the Munich & Athens program is the right program for you? Read the blog posts below for more relevant information on this study abroad experience:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens