{ Reflections on Tartarugas } – Chazen Brazil Summer Study Trip 2017

They say hindsight is 20/20, but I wish it was more (robot vision?) because I never want to forget a single moment of the epic Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017.

As we’ve all settled back into out New York routines – exercise, class, not eating cheese bread all the time, it’s easy to have the memories of an amazing week and a half fade away. Thankfully we are at CBS, so we get to see each other all the time (and still can’t get enough of this crew!). Everyone at school is super jealous of our strong Brazilian friendships and awesome Instagrams.

Reflecting on the trip, we did learn quite a bit, in both the business and cultural realms:

On the business side, we had a truly well-rounded and complete view into Brazil. Each meeting complemented the other and seemed carefully curated to show views from multiple industries on similar topics. Overall, the takeaway is that Brazil seems to have bottomed out from its recession and barring any major political upheavals, is on track for a strong recovery. Business activity, both from domestic players and foreign investors, seems to be supporting that. Our access to the C-suite at the companies (pronounced “coompanies”) was unparalleled, and for any of us that end up doing business in Latin America, I’m sure our new contacts will be helpful.

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Culturally, I think it’s safe to say we are all a bit more Brazilian now. Our capacity to drink caipirinhas, the national Brazilian drink, has increased immeasurably. I’ve heard some students are still ordering cachacas at the bars of New York. We were fortunate to experience two of the world’s great cities in Sao Paulo and Rio. As Paulistas for a few days, we got a taste of what life could be like in a “lifestyle” city that is as much defined by its people and culture as anything else. Often disregarded as a concrete jungle, our amazing hosts showed us the vibrant side of Sao Paulo. As Cariocas, we were blessed with amazing weather that allowed us to experience the beach and outdoor culture the city is known for. We played beach volleyball with locals, watched the sunset from amazing vantage points, ran along Ipanema, soaked up as much sun as we could. Each outing in Rio was better than the last, and no one was ready to leave when it was finally time to go. Yours truly even improved his Portuguese to the point of being conversational about animals.

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The point of a Chazen trip is to have fellow students show you a side of their country you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. For the Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017, that was accomplished and more. We love you Chazen! GO LIONS!

This is your correspondent signing off for the final time. Tchau!

 

{ Board Rooms and Beaches } – Chazen Brazil Summer Study Trip 2017

Hello. This is your correspondent reporting from Leblon beach in sunny Rio de Jienero. Our Chazen crew has been doing our best to live like Rio locals, soaking up both the beach culture and flare for life that Cariocas are known for. While we do that, here’s a quick recap of all the exciting things we’ve been doing in Brazil:

On Tuesday the 22nd, we had our marquis company visit at Embraer, the region’s largest aircraft manufacturing firm. We headed out to their manufacturing facilities outside Sao Paulo and began the visit with breakfast (cheesebread of course) and a tour of their museum. Following that, we were privileged to hear from the group CEO, the head of innovation, as well as the heads of each of their three main business units: commercial aviation, executive jets, and defense & security. Aviation is an incredibly complex business that touches nearly every area across the business world, and everyone was able to take something valuable away from those talks.

Our tour in the afternoon took us to the production lines for both commercial and executive aircraft, and a state-of-the-art paint center that uses robotics technology. In addition, we saw new warehousing tech on display alongside a service center that works 24/7 monitoring planes around the world. The visit ended with a tour of the prototype aircraft for Embraer’s new line of commercial jets. While no photos were allowed on the tour, we certainly left with a lot of mental pictures! Few understood how planes fly before our visit, but by the time we left we came a lot closer. Flying will never be the same again.

The following day, our last in Sau Paulo, we visited Itau, the country’s largest bank and one of its most respected financial institutions. We had a presentation about company culture, which Itau took an incredibly unique approach to. We also had an insightful conversation with the former CEO of 20+ years about how the bank grew to dominate the market. We also saw the sun for the first time on the trip in the afternoon.

Our lunch at Fogo de Chao, which started in Brazil before becoming ubiquitous in wealthy US areas, was one to remember. The unlimited meats in the rodizio restaurant saw many different eating strategies employed by students, but none escaped without the inevitable meat sweats. Recovery occurred over the course of a typically delayed flight to Rio, where we were going to check out its beautiful scenery, beaches, and people. First, of course, we needed to get our business game on in board rooms!

On the morning of Thursday the 24th, we boarded the bus and drove to the headquarters of Grupo Globo, the biggest media company here. We started with an in-depth presentation on their television business, which had the best-produced corporate videos we’ve seen all week. They are a force to be reckoned with in Brazil, having the vast majority of the country as their audience. Following that, we had a studio tour where we saw how the telenovelas that Globo is famous for get made! Student Bani Bahari was star struck when she learned that her teen idols Hanson were in the building filming one of Globo’s shows.

The iconic and famous Christ the Redeemer statue was next. We all did our best Jesus impressions and snapped those postcard-perfect photos that Rio is known for. Dinner, drinks, and dancing were on the menu in the evening.

On Friday, our last full day in country, we went to meet with BR Malls, the largest shopping center company in Latin America. They spoke about the opportunities and challenges in the real estate industry in Brazil. The new CEO came in the room to give his insights into the company and personal management style. Student Murali Krishnan was especially inspired by this talk.

We wound down our ‘ChAMAZEN’ trip with a lunch at Rio’s Jockey Club, our second horse club related meal of the week. With pristine weather and lovely scenery, each student shared their insights gathered in Brazil and said what they took away from the trip. A common theme was that everyone was thankful to the organizers, who worked tirelessly to ensure a seamless, productive Chazen Study Tour. We all are leaving better educated on and prepared to do business in Brazil – what more can you ask for?

It’s sad the trip is over, but before we leave, there is time for beach, beach, and beach. In fact, your correspondent needs to get out there as well to work on his tan. In just a few days it’s back to NYC, where you can expect a trip recap! Talk to you soon!

{ Cheese Bread & Business } – Chazen Brazil Summer Study Trip 2017

Reporting live from the Intercontinental Sao Paulo, this is your Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017 correspondent. It’s 4 days into the trip and we have hit peak Chazen.

The crew arrived in Sao Paulo on Thursday the 17th. Despite the cold and rainy weather, spirits were high as everyone got together the first night to kick off at the beautiful rooftop SKYE. Dinner and drinks were served at one of Sao Paulo’s best venues, with an outdoor pool and amazing view of the city. We even got to celebrate the birthday of our leader Adriana Silva! Rob Abelson manned the gin and tonic bar and served up some delicious bevvies. A fun night out at Casa Bar followed, where we danced and admired interesting cat-centric art.

On Friday the 18th, despite a small elevator mishap in the morning at the hotel, we boarded the bus for our first company visit: BRF. This vertically integrated food company were excellent hosts as they walked us through their core businesses of poultry and pork products. In the meeting, we learned about all kinds of business issues through the lens of the company, including supply chain management, M&A, company culture, and building a global business. We have three students in the chicken industry in our group, who all loved the visit, especially Matt Rosen who enjoyed the sandwiches on offer.

Lunch at a Brazilian restaurant was followed by rest at the hotel. In the evening, the hotel rewarded us for their elevator misdeeds with a free happy hour (our learnings from managerial negotiations class helped arrange this one). A wonderful dinner at the Jockey Club capped off the first full day, at that meal, like all meals, cheese bread was served.

On Saturday, we went to CCR to learn about highways and the infrastructure business at another one of Brazil’s largest companies. A hands-on tour of the control center saw the entire city welcome us on a road sign, and yours truly got to work with a world-leading paramedics team. It was quite a fascinating visit that we were fortunate to have on a weekend and once again we saw many universally applicable business problems being solved by this Brazilian firm.

In the afternoon, we were warmly welcomed at the Silva home for Feijoada (a traditional Brazilian stew) and dancing. Internationally-renowned DJ Schaff came all the way from New York to perform.

As we enjoyed our free day on Sunday, we were prepping for the upcoming week’s company visits with eager anticipation. That and of course getting together to watch the awesome Game of Thrones episode. Zombie dragon OMG!

Leading finally to today’s excellent meetings with Vinci Partners, the country’s leading PE/Asset Management firm, and Monashees, the leading VC shop. At Vinci, two partners spoke to us about the PE environment here and some of the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced during Brazil’s volatile macro environment the past several years. One interesting deal they highlighted was their acquisition of the master franchise rights to Burger King in Brazil and how they’ve created value in ways unique to the market.

At Monashees, two senior executives spoke at length about the tech sector, and how the firm has leveraged their market-leading position to connect with other VC’s abroad in Silicon Valley and China. One of their portfolio companies, Magnetis, gave an excellent presentation on how they’ve become a leading player in the fintech space as a robo-advisor.

A key takeaway thus far from looking at a diverse range of companies and industries is that the Brazilian economy is truly starting to emerge from a deep recession. For those in the right position, that is leading to many opportunities in the 9th largest economy in the world. We are looking forward to better weather for the rest of the trip, and have some very exciting visits planned for the remainder of the week.

This is your correspondent signing off for now. Until next time Chazen fans!

Pre-Trip Post: Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017

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As summer comes to a close, the J Term is saying goodbye to their first year and Fall Term internships are ending. Accordingly, Morningside Heights is buzzing, with “what are you doing on break?” the most heard question in halls from Uris to Warren. For 22 lucky students from the class of 2018, our answer is: Brazil.

Later this week we will be saying “bom dia” to the colorful cities of São Paulo and Rio as part of the Chazen Brazil Summer Study Tour 2017. We will be learning about Brazilian business and culture in the most hands-on manner possible.

On August 2, students and faculty met to prepare for the trip. This pre-Chazen ritual was led by our wonderful leaders, Adriana Silva and Matheus Penido, who talked about what to expect in Brazil. We have a great balance of cultural excursions and business meetings that span several industries.

Faculty leader Nachum Sicherman is a Chazen veteran, having run trips for many years. There is no one better suited than this economics legend to facilitate our learning process.

Accordingly, everyone is preparing with final administrative preparations and reading up on the companies we will be visiting. Our diverse crowd of Cluster Y members and other students are even doing some last-minute bikini shopping.

Student Rob Abelson had this to say: “Although I’m on a PE track and therefore eager to hear about Vinci’s business [Vinci Partners], I’m most excited about the visit to Globo, the home of my favorite soap operas.”

Some especially enthusiastic students Arturo Melo and Adam Spencer-Laitt will be arriving in country early to conduct their own agricultural company visits.

So, the next steps are to pack our bags and arrive in São Paulo! Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Japan 2017 – An Epilogue

It’s now been over two weeks since our trip to Japan as part of the Spring Chazen Tour. It seems as if it were a whirlwind of a dream. Yet I am surrounded by reminders of the awesome experience as I sip the macha tea that I had purchased from Kyoto, looking at the cute light up miniature car from the Toyota factory, and treating myself to a sake face mask from Tokyo.

As a second year, my time at CBS is sadly coming to an end. I reflect not only on my time in Japan but my time in general in this crazy thing call business school. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to do a lot of things that I would never dream of during my time here. But at the very top of my list of business school experiences would be Chazen (both participating as well as planning a study tour) as well as orientation week as a Peer Advisor. For the first years out there, I highly recommending doing both at least once during their time here. Though completely different, doing a Chazen Study Tour as well as being a PA are similar in that both are completely immersive, at times intense, dynamic, and extremely rewarding experiences. You not only get to know a lot of your classmates on a deeper level, but you also learn a lot about yourself. Being in a totally new country and culture on a Chazen study tour can reveal a lot about who you are; your preferences, tastebuds, lifestyle, and friendship dynamics in a foreign setting. Being a PA puts your leadership style to the test and helps you discover what kind of group dynamics and culture to build from scratch. And if you’re lucky enough to plan a Chazen study tour, it’s like being a PA in a totally different country for a whole week. I highly recommend it!

Thus I conclude my blog series with a big smile on this great adventure that I was able to book end with my experience at CBS. Big thanks for the organizers of Japan Section B, Shohei, Yu, Asumi, Yohei, Tomo, and Masu for making us feel so welcome in their country. As a lifelong member of the CBS community, this is the practice of inclusion and the global network applied. Personally, I know I will be back in Japan soon, and I will never forget this amazing trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

– Katherine Li F’17

Japan – conclusion

Which Japan is the real Japan? Is it the pristine shrine, with centuries-long tradition? Is it the modern factory, producing some of the most popular vehicles in the world? Is it the crazy-paced, never-sleeping hectic heart of Tokyo? Or perhaps it is the combination of everything? One thing is certain – one week is not enough to understand Japan. Some would argue that a decade isn’t enough either.

In my previous notes, I discussed impressions from companies or governmental offices. Now, I will try and tie it all together and even attempt to infuse some modest pieces of wisdom.

Japan is different. In a time when everybody is looking for happiness, career progress and self-fulfillment, it seems as if the Japanese had found theirs long time ago. A Japanese wedding announcement would be “It has turned out that we will get married”, indicating that no distinction is made between what one does intentionally and what simply happens. At the same time, failure is not acceptable and almost disgraceful. How are the two settled? Only the Japanese know.

In my mind, this is tied to the exceptional levels of professionalism in Japan. Per the alumni and the Toyota executives, career progress in Japan is very slow. Some professionals are very happy to be considered ‘craftsmen’ in their respective fields and spend their entire lives in the same function.

Perhaps the most facile observation one can make while in Japan is that almost all aspects of life there seem to be crafted to near perfection. The transportation, the streets, the people, the food – in a nutshell everything. Even the taxi will automatically open its door before you reach for the handle. Most of us, new and native New Yorkers alike, forgot how it feels to be surrounded by politeness, kindness, and warmth and how easy it is to pay it forward; indeed, some of us never really knew much about that to begin with.

Personally, I’m not sure I will be able to practice meditation techniques and surround myself with Zen in my daily life, but I would be happy to learn how to accept outcomes with a ‘Japanese’ manner of acceptance and, above all, dignity. In our daily business lives we make hundreds of decisions, large and small, and it’s tempting to agonize over each and every one. Furthermore, there is a tendency to jump at the next promotion and, in general, at what seems to be the next thing; however, I’d like to try and be better at what I am doing right now, and strive to master it.

Having said that, perhaps the Japanese would sometimes benefit from a little compromise. The current attitude in front of potential failure stifles innovation, as failure is an inherent part of trying new things, either as a startup or within a company.

Overall, our Chazen experience was rewarding beyond any expectation. Touring Japan is a great experience on its own but to have the privilege to go being that, and be exposed to business executives, government leaders and having candid conversations with company management, is an experience like no other. Meeting alumni living and working in Japan, and having the ability to get their perspectives on the myriad nuances of doing business in this unique country is just another example of distinctive perks only available through a Chazen tour.

Considering our experiences there it should not come as a surprise that all our group members are eager to return to Japan; what should surprise, however, and in equal part delight, is that for neither of us will Japan ever be the same again without our 40-member strong family.

Michael Cherkassky, D17 DSCF9433.JPGDSCF9504.JPG

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Nordic GIP Part 3: The Lessons Taken Home

Kit O’Connor ’17

NEW YORK – This is, alas, the final time you’ll be hearing from me. Which sounds so morbid, but really, it’s just because my work as the social media guru will conclude with this post, and then I’ll graduate and won’t be able to take week-long trips around the world on random Spring Breaks anymore! A single tear rolls down my cheek…(to match the single dollar left in my bank account).

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The gorgeous Nyhavn district in Copenhagen – be sure to take the canal tour (bottle of wine or six-pack optional, but highly recommended).

But! Sweden! Denmark! Families! Business! That’s what this is about. I struggled a little bit with structuring this post, so like any good consultant, I ended up with three main takeaways: one negative, one positive, and one that’s purposely a bit amorphous (I know, I know, show, don’t tell). Let’s get started.

The bad: One of our first visits was to the American Embassy in Stockholm, where we met with a number of senior embassy officials and learned about their initiatives for American interests in Sweden and how they can help US businesses make inroads around the globe. That meeting was perfectly fine, and we were impressed by the number of speakers who made time out of their day to meet with a group of Columbia MBAs.

However, the security protocols necessary to get into the embassy honestly made me embarrassed to be a United States citizen – I saw a young girl, who couldn’t have been more than four years old, shouted at through a glass wall, forced to take off her coat on a chilly day, and contort her feet and body to prove, I guess, that there were no threatening items on her, all while her mother had to stand twenty feet away (yes, we all had to do the same). I’m proud of my country and believe there’s a reason that our mantra of freedom above all attracts the most innovative and accomplished people to learn, teach, and start businesses – by no means does that mean that our people or politicians are always correct, though I do like to think that we represent the opportunity to make life better, no matter who you are or where you come from. But when I’m reminded of that scared little girl and her introduction to America, I wonder whether we’ve become a bit too possessive of our liberty.

(steps off high horse)

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OK, so, the candles aren’t exactly the focus of this photo but they really are everywhere!

The good: Hygge! Hygge, the Danish concept of “everyday togetherness”, which has certainly seeped across the border into Sweden, and definitely enjoys a robust ad campaign in the US.

There are a couple ways that hygge was present during our trip. The first is in the purely physical, and can be represented best by the abundance of candles in nearly every conference room that we met in. What would certainly be a fire hazard in America is a source of coziness and serenity in Scandinavia: proof that work in the Nordic is supposed to be comfortable in addition to being productive.

The second is the attitude that work in Sweden and Denmark is generally a two-way career contract. I alluded a bit to this in prior posts, but it deserves a specific callout here: employment in Nordic is designed to last much longer than in other areas of the world. Compared to the two ends of the spectrum – the US, where workers are used primarily for efficient productivity, and, say, France, who has extensive protections for employees to keep jobs – Scandinavia firms seem to invest more in training and education for their workers, and those workers in turn accept slightly lower wages for a career that can span decades rather than years. I will put a caveat on this: my belief may be skewed a bit due to small sample size or meeting exclusively with family firms.

 

The fuzzy: Speaking of family firms…another student and I were talking with Professor Angus about one small family firm’s search for a CEO. We wondered why the search never seemed to find a good candidate: the business was established, profitable, and had a well-oiled supply chain and production facility. In fact, we softly felt that just about any of the students on the trip would be well-positioned to run the company after our education at CBS.

However, Professor Angus asked one question: “Could you run the firm AND deal with the family issues behind the scenes?” We immediately shook our heads and realized THAT’S what makes family firms different – it’s never just about the money, contracts, or factory. It’s about everything that came before and the legacy that will be. One founder noted, “That’s my name on the jar. What will it stand for after I’m gone?” Will an outsider ever be able to live up to that attitude?

So in the end, neither the Nordic region nor family businesses can really be put into neat little boxes (classic consulting again: it depends.) But, like each Chazen trip I’ve experienced, I feel I now truly have an informed opinion on the region and will be better able to understand and transact with my future Swedish and Danish colleagues and business partners. Thanks again for reading along with my journey, and looking forward to my next chapter after Columbia!

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A trip we’ll never forget.