Final Ciao Chazen Post: Pasta and People Withdrawals

Reflecting back on our #CiaoChazen trip throughout Italy, there are so many experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, but it was definitely the people on the trip that made the biggest impression. As someone who has gone on three Chazen trips, my favorite thing about these trips in general is the ability to meet and make memories with such a diverse group of CBS classmates that I otherwise may not have crossed paths with. This Chazen was no different as more than half were first years who I likely would not have had the opportunity to get to know before graduating without this trip. Additionally, our incredible three Italian leads organized such an amazing itinerary, allowing us to see all sides of Italy through their eyes. They were so good, I decided I must only go on trips organized by Italians from now on as they thought through every minute detail and really enjoy indulging in the nicest of food and wine!

This trip was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the inner workings of the many and diverse companies I wrote about in earlier blogs from Ferrari to YOOX Net-A-Porter to Villa Antinori. Each of these companies really showed us Italian hospitality as they were so welcoming and excited for our visits, with some of them like Brunello Cucinelli literally welcoming us into their hometown! These visits made it so clear that personal relationships are very important in business in Italy and are the way lots of things get done. This also makes sense given the importance many of the companies put on their family ownership or heritage like we saw at brands like Ermemegildo Zegna and also Antinori, which is one of the top 10 longest running family companies started in 1385.

Speaking of heritage, it is something that was emphasized over and over again in our visits regardless the type of company. It was very clear that there is Italian pride in everything they do. However, interestingly we still saw a willingness to evolve and push boundaries. Gucci’s recent transformation is a great example of this idea of reinvention rooted in their heritage. I think that this authentic sense of heritage but willingness to evolve will be what pushes these legacy brands into the future…

We will see were the future takes these companies…but I know that the future will definitely take me back to Italy for more exploration and gelato after such an amazing trip!

CBS Chazen South Africa 3.0 (Good Bye Jo’Burg, Hello Cape Town)

Our last day in Johannesburg represented an opportunity to hear a practitioner’s perspective on capital flows and the strength of the South African mortgage market as well as get in on a very interesting student housing project in the center of Johannesburg. Our team heard from Manie Annandale, Nedbank head of Affordable Housing Finance who was gracious with his time and provided a brief review of the banking regulatory environment, current players in the marketplace and opportunities for growth. After the Nedbank tour, we headed to the Braamfontein area of Johannesburg where IHS owns and manages Studentdigz, a 948-unit portfolio of student housing projects with access to University of Johannesburg and Witts University.

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When the Studentdigz tour concluded, our bus headed to the airport where we hopped on a 3 hour-long flight to Cape Town and the excitement of getting to discover another city in this wonderful country. The same night, we dined at Sevruga on the V&A waterfront, one of the premier coastal destinations in the world that we toured the following day (& discussed at length in our next article). It had only been a few days in South Africa for all of us, but we were each feeling very much invested in trying to find solutions to the problems of housing affordability we noted.

CBS Chazen South Africa 2.0

Our 2nd day in Johannesburg started with a visit to the Apartheid Museum, which provided all of us with a way to better understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like. Through the help of the museum’s various individual exhibits, we were drawn into an emotional journey of the now defunct state-sanctioned racial segregation system and the struggle of the majority to overthrow this injustice. Carefully assembled in chronological order, the exhibits showed a clear depiction of the rise and fall of apartheid, from the race classification journeys, the turn to violence, through the rise of black consciousness which culminated in the National Peace Accord and the historic 1994 elections which represented one of the few times a colonizing force had relinquished control without large scale external intervention or civil war.

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Touring the museum was such an emotional journey through horrors, injustice, sacrifice, liberation and healing that we could not help but note the harsh beauty of this country and how remarkable its progress has been in spite of staggering odds. We left the museum and headed to Sakhumzi restaurant for an authentic culinary experience in the heart of Soweto and within walking distance to the Nelson Mandela house museum.

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In the afternoon, we toured Jabulani, a 1,000-unit multifamily housing project owned and managed by International Housing Solutions (IHS), a South-Africa based vertically-integrated Real Estate investment management firm. Located in Soweto, the Jabulani project caters to the housing needs of middle-income individuals looking to live in close proximity to major transportation and employment centers. Accompanied by the IHS staff, we concluded the Jabulani tour and headed to Fleurhof, a 10,000-apartment commercial and residential development community west of Johannesburg in the Roodeport province.  Constructed in multiple phases, Fleurhof is expected to house over 40,000 residents when completed. The sheer size of this project is astounding and the completed phases are near 100% occupied, proving the exceptional growth of the emerging middle class in South Africa. Further, this project will include improved community infrastructure, easy access to schools, hospitals, shops and work opportunities, improving the livelihood of its residents.

We left Fleurhof inspired by IHS’ efforts to address the lack of housing affordability in the emerging South African middle class. Having been in the country for a little over 3 days, we realized that we were merely scratching the surface examining the size of the opportunity set. We concluded the evening with a walk at Melrose Arch, a modern mixed-use development in Central Johannessburg where our group dined at Moyo, a local favorite (if you are in town and up for a culinary adventure, you must try the mabosa caterpillar).

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It’s time for South Africa

Africa is where it all began and in Real Estate, the best way to know is it to become one with it, to explore the vastness of the continent and witness its story. Our school prides itself on being at the very center of business and upholding the highest standards of intellectual pursuit and cultural enrichment. When it came time to act upon this mission, we decided to look no further than South Africa, a bustling democracy 24 years in the making where changes in land use patterns, demographics and workforce automation are beginning to drive significant growth in the real estate market.

On March 13th, 36 students aimed to get to the bottom of all things Real Estate while embarking upon this journey. We started our trek in Johannesburg with a visit to Growthpoint Properties, an international Real Estate fund investing in industrial, retail and office assets in South Africa, where the firm’s management introduced us to broad investment strategies undertaken in the current market environment.

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Shortly afterwards, we visited Lillieslief Farm, the place secretly used by African National Congress (ANC) activists in the 1960s and where many prominent ANC leaders were arrested (Mandela was later arrested here, beginning his 27-year long imprisonment). It was there we received an overview on the current state of affairs in South Africa from JP Landsman, a political and economic analyst research macro trends affecting SA society and also heard from a treasury representative on the country’s fiscal situation. The presentations concluded with a presentation from Kecia Rust, director at the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance, a government think-tank examining housing affordability in South Africa. In the evening, our group had the pleasure of meeting with members of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) where we heard from local Real Estate investors. Off to Day 2 and more adventures along the way.

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Top 10 Moments from GIP: Economic Growth in the UAE

It’s hard to believe our trip to the UAE has come and gone so quickly. Our whirlwind week brought us from soaring skyscrapers to desert safaris, sovereign wealth funds to night clubs, man-made islands to mosques.

Leaving the UAE, I’m left with a few most striking impressions. First, the country is a crazy case of development done right upon the discovery of oil. The UAE is second to none when it comes to the astute management of natural resources. The country’s leadership truly did an exceptional job diversifying the economy beyond oil and gas, allowing the relatively oil-poor Emirate of Dubai to become a global financial center and tourism destination to rival few others.

Second, the UAE is a country of stark contrasts. In a matter of minutes you can travel from beach resorts to an urban metropolis, and then drive off into the desert horizon. You can see a man trailed by his four wives in a mega-mall of retailers from Europe and North America. The UAE is home to the planet’s largest mosque, which was built in the past decade. And you’ll find groups of women in headscarf letting loose at pricey nightclubs. Put simply, the UAE is a very unique place, that feels like no where else I’ve ever been.

In an effort to sum up such a jam packed week, I’ll share 10 of the top moments from the trip:

  1. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The massive and beautiful hospital — believe me I never thought I’d describe a hospital that way — that was built two years ago and offers free healthcare to Emirati citizens. In addition to an array of cafes, restaurants, and a salon, the hospital has VIP suites with adjacent hotel rooms for family members to stay.

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2. Shopping malls galore. After visiting so many of the world’s largest malls, it’s safe to say I’ll never view shopping malls the same way again. Dubai’s malls — which all seem to be connected by elevated walkways — don’t just feature some of the stores from back home, they’s feature all of the stores from back home, as well as from Europe, Asia, and a swath of local Middle Eastern retailers. What’s more, inside the malls you’ll find things like indoor skiing, pictured below.

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3. Enviable Office Buildings. Living in New York City, you never expect to return home and feel like your city is filled with old, modest buildings. But after a week in the UAE, that’s bound to be your feeling upon returning home. Pictured below, we attended a meeting at the Dubai International Financial Center, one of the “Free Zones” that allow foreign business ownership.

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4. Camel selfies. During our desert safari on our last day, we rode SUVs through sand dunes, rode camels, got henna tattoos, and watched fire and belly dancers. As nice as it was to be out in the desert, it was crazy to see just how many SUVs of tourists were out in the same part of the desert, suggesting that Dubai could be doing more to promote desert tourism.

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5. The Palm Islands. One of the most memorable company visits was to the real estate developer, Nakheel, responsible for developing the Palm Islands and The World. We toured the original palm-tree shaped, reclaimed land island by boat, seeing the expanse of the project that doubled Dubai’s coastline. I found touring the original Palm Island, Palm Jumeira, to be so fascinating I devoted an entire blog post to it.

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6. The Sheik Zayyed Mosque. The construction of the Sheik Zayyed Mosque was completed less than a decade ago, making it an unusually modern national landmark. Visiting the picturesque mosque was a special break from a week of company visits, as we got to see another side of the UAE, pertaining to the country’s cultural heritage.

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7. Music Hall. It’s rare to have high expectations for a place and to have them surpassed, but that was our experience at Music Hall, a night club in a hotel on the Palm Island that was a unanimous favorite experience from the trip. Featuring a variety show of musical guests from around the world, Music Hall delivered on its reputation set by our professor and TA. We’re proud to say we closed the club down.

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8. Emirates Training College. Touring Emirates Airlines, one of if not the top global airline according to many rankings, training facilities was a treat. During the super interactive visit, we tested life jackets in a lesson on flight safety, learned about flight attendant hair and makeup, and tested the different first and business class seats in an out of commission airplane.

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9. Burj Khalifa. Visiting the 125th floor of the world’s tallest building was exciting even for New Yorkers, used to being surrounded by tall buildings. From across Dubai, you can see “The Burj,” the super modern skyscrapper that is soon to be replaced by an even taller building in Dubai.

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10. Old Dubai. It’s hard to find remnants of the fishing village along the Dubai Creek that was the entire city of Dubai less than a half century ago, but if you look hard enough, you can find them. After touring the souks, frequented mostly by locals unlike in some other Middle Easterern countries, we stumbled across some non-modern boats used for transportation by foreign workers who flock to the UAE by the millions. That boat ride across the Dubai Creek was one of the most fascinating experiences of the trip, as one of the few glimpses into the village that was.

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Our Last Stop in Spain, The Vibrant and Elegant Madrid

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Finally, our trip to Spain is approaching the end with our last two days in Madrid, the capital city of Spain. Madrid is a truly Spanish city with the rich culture and artistic heritage. It is the largest city in Spain and the third largest city in the European Union after London and Berlin. The city is very diverse, sophisticated, vibrant and elegant. Not only that its culture is very rich, but the business landscape and economy are also highly developed. It is home to many global big companies such as Santander, Acciona, Ferrovial and Telefonica, which we all got to visit. The architecture and cityscape are very elegant with many beautiful historic buildings, squares and palaces around the city and big roads everywhere. People in Madrid, called Madrileño, are very nice, friendly and welcoming. Now, I understand well when people say “If you are in Madrid, you are from Madrid!” as I felt very comfortable and welcoming living in the city. It is also home of the world’s most valuable football club, The Real Madrid. This city is full of excitement, great food and attractions of all kinds to see and explore.

 

Day 1: Our first company visit was at Ferrovial’s facilities and headquarter. Ferrovial is the world’s leading infrastructure construction and operations company. It provides end-to-end solutions for cities and infrastructure in many countries around the world. Its services are highly integrated including design, financing, construction, management of operation and maintenance. At Ferrovial’s facilities, we got to see Madrid from underground walking through its plant down over 10 floors and access to its tunnel, M30 – Madrid Calle 30 project. The project design and technology used are very advanced that ensure efficiency and security. After that, we went to visit its headquarter and were given an introduction about the company by the Head of Strategy, Ms. Maria Teresa Pulido. The next company visit for today was Santander, one of the world’s famous bank specializing in the retail market. The company’s growth has been driven mainly through acquisitions; and its strong presence is concentrated in 9 major markets including Spain, Portugal, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and the US. Its headquarter is amazing; it is like another city for Santander employees with golf course, art museum, training center with a 600-student capacity, huge conference room, infant education center, gymnasium and even a private huge park like national park in the states. The final activity for today cannot be anything else besides a nice dinner at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium of The Real Madrid. No surprise, the restaurant was full; and it is so clear to me that people in Europe, especially the Spanish, are so crazy about soccer.

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Day2: We start our last day with a company visit at Acciona, the world’s number one company in renewable energy. The company also provides construction and management services. The company is 75% owned by a Spanish family. And, we got the great opportunity to meet with José Manuel Entrecanales Domecqthe, the chairman, CEO and the member of the family. After that, we visited the Prado Museum, one of the most famous museum in the world with thousands of paintings from world’s famous artists collected by the monarchy of Spain. Finally, we walked around in the city appreciating the beauty of the city and architecture as well as enjoying the lively atmosphere with the nice Madrileño and our lovely crews.

Our Chazen Spain trip has come to the end. For the past five days, we learned tremendously more about Spain, its culture, its economy and most importantly its wonderful people. Special thanks to our three Spanish organizers who planned everything so well and arranged for us the best of Spain.

Thanujdee Seriwathanophas ‘17

Chazen Spain 17

One GIP to the Next

Sonja Weaver-Madsen ‘17

While returning from the recent GIP Nordic Family Business trip I found myself reflecting on the differences in GIP programs and my experiences as part of GIP Patagonia. While the bulk of our time in Sweden and Denmark was spent visiting companies to hear about the strategic challenges of management in a family business context, in Patagonia our focus turned inward to reflect on how developing as a leader will impact management capabilities. As I reminisced I wanted to share some of my biggest takeaways from the 10-day expedition in Patagonia –

Flexing Your Style as a Leader:

Our NOLS instructors led us in an exercise to understand our natural leadership style. On the horizontal axis we ranked ourselves on how freely we shared our opinions and on the vertical axis how freely we shared our emotions. The axes produce four quadrants for the four leadership styles people use to approach challenges, conflicts and problem solving. As it turned out our group had a number of drivers and a sprinkling of the other leadership styles. We learned that while each style had its unique strengths and potential weaknesses, our real focus should be on flexing our natural style given a situation or the audience you are working with. We also learned that as leaders we will need to recognize how our natural style can be perceived by others and how to shift into other quadrants in order to best collaborate with and motivate a team.

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Learning While Leading:

The capabilities of our group ranged from a first time camper to an experienced outdoorsperson and yet despite this range we each were called upon to be the leader of the day during the expedition. This real world simulation represented a classic management challenge – when managers lead people in something they have no personal experience with. Because of weather shifts and the countless outdoor survival skills needed (everything from map reading to how to safely cross a rushing river) we each experienced this challenge and built our comfort in learning and leading simultaneously. The team certainly enjoyed tackling glacial climbs and river crossings and I look forward to real-world opportunities to continue practicing!

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