Tag Archives: greece

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.

Two Greek Perspectives on the Financial Crisis

Panagiotis Farmakis and Ioannis Papoutsas are two businessmen and Greek MBA students from ALBA Graduate Business School in Athens, Greece.  This summer, they are taking MBA courses here at USD as part of an exchange program.  The following are their insights, in their own words, into the Greek financial crisis and the important decisions to be made by EU leaders…

Panagiotis Farmakis, Incoming MBA Exchange Student, Summer 2015

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Simple “negotiation thoughts” in a Greek’s mind…

There is no doubt that the Greek financial crisis is one of the main topics on worldwide media. Indeed, Greece faces a very difficult situation regarding its debt management.  Since January, the newly elected government of SYRIZA, has been involved in a continuous negotiation process with the aim to bail out the enormous debt and put an end to the tight fiscal policy that has been taking place since 2009. Consequently, Alexis Tsipras (the new elected prime minister of Greece), had only one plan…the one that he PERCEIVED as the only viable plan for the country. However, it takes two to tango…

Unfortunately, a series of wrong decisions, along with bad judgement of the position of the other E.U. partners (about the management of the Greek debt), led the country to the threshold of bankruptcy.  And there are so many critical questions to ask as the Greek situation unfolds…

1. Does Alexis Tsipras have the capacity to bargain hard with the rest of the E.U. partners?

2. Did he frame well enough the position of the other side?

3. Does he have the legitimacy to “steer” the country on the rocks? (Outside the E.U.)

4. Do the other European members have the will to approve a bail-out (and thus haircuts of their money). Even worse, will they approve a new financial program?

Only time (and the results) will give answers…

 

Ioannis Papoutsas, Incoming MBA Exchange Student, Summer 2015

10259920_10205419694641111_2421736660437801194_nWhat impressed me a lot during my stay in California is that although Greece is located on the other side of the planet, American people are well informed and aware of the financial situation there. In a few discussions I had, almost by chance, compassion and sympathy were present, even concern about what is going wrong in Greece or what is wrong with the Eurozone. To my understanding, the recent crisis in the US economy in 2008 has sensitized the people, and they feel that the Greek crisis is a similar situation or even connected as a consequence of the same crisis. And I fully share this concern.

In my point of view, big private and governmental debts and extreme leveraging of the economy, as characteristic of the western capitalistic system, has overcome the limits. Countries with huge debt become vulnerable against the international markets. In our specific case, Greece is trapped in a vicious cycle, due to the austerity measures applied in the economy. These austerity measures, imposed by the European authorities, drive to strangle the market and consequently result in even lower income for the government and less sustainable debt.

Greece cannot apply monetary policy, as the US did successfully, to get out of the crisis. This is because the Euro is the common currency in different countries with different interests, or even conflict of interests. Therefore, on one hand, measurements that could help Greece are creating problems for Germany and vice versa. On the other hand, Greece must not get out of Eurozone (Grexit) because this would be a catastrophe for the country, leading to uncontrolled default of the country with unknown consequences, even in the global economy.

This means that in parallel with reforming the Greek economy in order to be more competitive (the Greek governments should work more on this), radical solutions should be applied to reduce the Greek debt (haircut) and revamp the market. We must not forget that similar problems are facing the whole South of Europe, even in countries with strong industrial bases. Therefore, a solution is crucial and of utmost importance to all the western society, not only Greece.

Read more on our exchange students and their experiences!

For more information on exchange programs coordinated by the Ahlers Center, visit our semester exchange website.