Reflections on Spain

During the 6 days in Spain, we traveled to 3 cities, visited 7 big companies and over 10 world’s famous attractions. We learned authentic Spanish culture and business and economic conditions through the very best people, especially our three amazing three Spanish organizers. There are many key takeaways and interesting things I learned from the Chazen Spain trip.

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The People: Spanish people are one of the most down to earth Europeans I ever met. While the Spanish are very friendly, welcoming and laid-back, their other sides are very tough, smart and realistic. Another interesting thing I learned is that they are very conservative. I believe this humble culture of the Spanish has been shaped by its long history. The great power that had in the past from colonizing many countries around the world made them became very rich from tributes earned. After those countries declared independence, Spain was lagged behind without the know-how and capabilities to actually make money on their own. However, their abilities to cope with hard times and bounce back are impressive and what made who they are today.

The Culture: Its long history has shaped its unique culture, arts and architecture. I was mesmerized by all the places I see and things experience throughout the trip from everyday delicious Spanish food and tapas to famous museums, buildings, churches and football stadiums.

The Business: The seven company visits revealed to me that Spain is still a great country with great people. The future for Spain seems to be growing gradually and consistently fostered by the capabilities of the people, their participation in the European Union and the country’s strong presence in the Latin America. While the future might be uncertain as it is for every country, I believe that Spain has the abilities, capabilities and resources to overcome all the challenges and remain great.

Thanujdee Seriwathanophas’17

Chazen Spain 2017

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

An Amazing day at Santiago de Compostela and Inditex

Today is such an amazing day not only because the places we went are amazing but also because we were all awake for almost 20 hours! Our schedule was tight but it was totally worth it!

We woke up at 4 am, checked out from the hotel and went to the airport. We took an hour and a half flight to the old town, Santiago de Compostela which was inscribed to be UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Another amazing thing is that we were so lucky that the weather was so nice that we got to enjoy our walk exploring the town; normally, rainfall in the town is abundant and it rains 2 weeks in a month. Santiago de Compostela is a famous historic pilgrimage site, the destination of the over 200,000 Christian pilgrims and many others each year. Everywhere in the town is very beautiful.

After our lunch, we departed the old town and head to Inditex headquarter. I was super excited for the visit with many reasons. Inditex is the world’s largest apparel retailer and the owner of my favorite brand, Zara. The company’s owner, Amancio Ortega, was also the second richest guy in the world in 2016. We spent over four hours at the company and explored almost every corner of the headquarter, from the working space of all the country managers, designers and marketing teams to their fashion shooting studios, mock-up stores of all types, distribution center and production factory. I am truly impressed how they can fully integrate all the process from the beginning of designing to production and distribution as well as in-store execution seamlessly.

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After the visit, we went straight to the airport to get to our next city to explore. It cannot be anywhere else but Madrid, the capital city of Spain. So, I will come back to update about our experience in the city soon!

Thanujdee Seriwathanophas ‘17

Chazen Spain 17

Hola! From Charming Barcelona, Spain

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Finally, after about seven hours of flight from New York, I arrived at Barcelona, the first city for us to explore; and, the journey began. Barcelona is a very unique Spanish city having its root culture and influence from the Catalan, the native of the Catalonia. The majority of the people in the city speaks Catalan. To me, the city is very charming because of its richness in arts, the aesthetic and unique architecture, the down-to-earth and friendliness of the people and the fact that it just super close to nice beach and ocean. We spent three days exploring this charming city and really had a great time!

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Day1: The first thing we did was strolling around the oldest part of the city which was close to the beach and ocean port as it is where the civilization of the city started. Obviously, you can see that the roads in the area are very small, and the size is as small as a walking path. We visited the museum of Picasso, which has the most extensive art collections of Pablo Picasso, the world’s famous Spanish artist of the twentieth century. And, while we were waiting for the welcoming dinner at 9pm, we sat in the small restaurant and enjoyed eating “jamons”, the Spanish Parma Ham. At the welcoming dinner, we all not only enjoyed the delicacies served but also the amazing view of Barcelona at night.

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Day2: The second day started with a very nice walk on the mountain overlooking the whole city of Barcelona. After that, we went to the IESE, one of the top business school in Europe. We were given an economic outlook and challenges facing the EU and Spain. In the afternoon, we explored the Sagrada Famillia, the catholic church that has been building since the 1866 until now. The church’s architectural ground was developed by Antonio Gaudi, the world’s famous architect whose work was greatly inspired by the nature. To me, Antonio Gaudi greatly represents the culture and people of city that they are genuine, down to earth, smart and realistic.

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Day3: And, the start of the third day in Barcelona cannot be anything else besides a morning walk by the long and beautiful beach. There were so many people along the way running, playing and enjoying the sun. After that, we visited Wayra, the startup accelerator and a subsidiary of Telefonica. Telefonica is a multinational broadband and telecommunications provider with operations in Europe, Asia, North, central and south America. Wayra has an extensive presence not only in many countries in Europe but also in Latin America. Then, we visit the research and development department of Telefonica. This team works like an internal startup analyzing the huge data that Telefonica has and translate into business opportunities creating new innovations through lean developmental approach. Last but not least, the last activity of the day was visiting Camp Nou, the world’s third largest football stadium of FC Barcelona, the pride of the Barcelonian!

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Tomorrow, we will have to get up at 4 am to take a flight to Santiago de Compostela, another old city of the country. I will come back and update soon!

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Thanujdee Seriwathanophas ‘17

Chazen Spain 2017

 

España, I Can’t Wait to See You Soon!

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Credit Picture: http://www.australiansabroad.com.au/destinations/europe/spain/

Just in case anyone does not know, España is Spain in Spanish. In preparation for the trip, I started to learn to speak Spanish as I want to blend in well with the people who owns the language that is second most spoken in the world. Actually, I only know few Spanish words like “Hola” (Hello), “cómo estás” (How are you?), “Gracias” (Thank you) and most importantly, taught by my Italian CBS clustermate “Quiero Vino”, which means “I want wine!”.

Spain has long been one of the countries I wanted to visit because of its long history, rich heritage and great influence around the world as evidenced by the fact that the Spanish language is the second most spoken in the world, even more than the English. Spain is famous for so many things such as its food like chorizos, churros, and tapas, its soccer teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and its architecture with 44 UNESCO world’s heritage sites. The country is the place of birth of many world’s renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Miguel Cervantes and Salvador Dali. In 2016, the second richest man in the world is also Spanish, Amancio Ortega, the owner of Inditex or known as the owner of Zara brand with the net wealth of $73 billion. Its culture is very interesting and unique in many ways. I was told that Spanish people are very chill. And, I was surprised to know that I will need to adjust my biological clock since the local people normally have dinner at 9-11 pm. With all these interesting facts I learned about Spain, I am now very excited to explore and learn more about its history, culture, and people and to see the amazing places with my own eyes.

For the next seven days, our group of twenty CBS classmates will be visiting Barcelona, Galicia, and Madrid. Our schedule is very rich with business meetings with big companies such as Inditex, Santander and Ferrovial, visiting famous museums, strolling around on the beach and in the beautiful cities and featuring every day with Spanish delicacies.

And, this is why I cannot wait to see you soon, España!

Thanujdee Seriwathanophas ‘17

Chazen Spain

Lessons Learned – A Reflection on Spanish Business and Culture

It’s with a heavy, heavy heart that I write this post-mortem reflection on Chazen Spain from the confines of Watson Library in Uris. Without question the time spent in Spain exceeded every expectation that I had before leaving and much of that is due to the wonderful team at the Chazen Institute, our student leaders Miguel and Carlos, our facility representative Mauricio and last but certainly not least, my fellow CBS classmates. This blog will be a reflection of Chazen Spain, with a nod towards both cultural and business lessons that I flew back to New York with. Starting from the top –

Inditex (Arteixo Headquarters): Fast fashion is no joke and this visit was a lesson in how listening to your customers can be a competitive advantage if done well. Case and point is that when a store sells through an item, replenishments are not automatically ordered. The company first looks at changing styles, and leverages not only their sales team on the ground, but also direct customer feedback. With localized customer support and a highly efficient operating model, the company is able to adapt at lightening speeds.

Banco Santander: What surprised me most about Banco Santander is that the company performed well in the depths of the crisis and has continued to grow as the economy reverts to the mean. Much of this success can be attributed to the extensive risk procedures for loans (an independent committee reviews and approves each one), go-to market strategy and focus on innovation. Yes, you heard me, there is innovation in the consumer / retail banking sector. Dissolving the preconceived notion that the Spanish financial sector remains weak was the most important takeaway from this presentation.

Real Madrid Soccer Game: Our group received a real treat when we attended the Real Madrid v. Schalke soccer game. As an American that grew up playing football (not to be confused with futbol), I will admit that prior to the game I had little appreciation for how lucky I was to attend a game in person but walked away a new fan of the sport. The passion and energy for a league game rivaled any playoff or championship game in the states. It truly was unlike anything that I had ever seen or experienced and I now understand why club flags hang from apartment windows and fans dare not walk into a rival watering hole. World Cup anyone?

Telefonica: Given my undergraduate studies (economics) and pre-CBS profession, I was oblivious to the importance of customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. True, first year marketing touched on the topic and introduced me to the variables needed to derive CLV, but this meeting really drove home its real world application(s). The global head of strategy spent ~20 minutes outlining the plan for the company to capture what was described as the ‘huge’ digital opportunity by reducing churn and growing CLV. Connectivity is addictive and their current business model is going to exploit this.

Vicente del Bosque, Spain National Futbol Team Head Coach: A former professional player and current coach, del Bosque offered up invaluable lessons on the important of human relationships, seeing the good in everyone and importantly, thinking globally by always being open to learning new things. When I asked him what is the one thing he’d like to learn, it was to learn how to speak English well. Afterwards, he challenged me to learn Spanish. Challenge accepted. My class starts next week.

H.R.H Felipe de Borbon, Prince of Asturias: It’s not every day, or really any day for that matter, that one has the opportunity to meet royalty. Our time with the Prince provided insight behind the formalities and thought behind meeting a figurehead of state. Everything was highly coordinated and choreographed with one person directing the group, another passing out waters and yet another placing us in the proper position for the group photo.

Flamenco: Defined as a style of Spanish dance and music, Flamenco shows remain popular throughout Spain. For me, seeing the performance was a look back in time. The traditional dress and beautiful music was a sharp divergence from the infamous Spanish nightlife some of us experienced firsthand.

Airbus Group: A global supply chain necessitates careful coordination and tremendous teamwork, especially when dealing with aircrafts and the various ancillary products produced by Airbus. Touring the facility gave me an appreciation for how much work goes into an aircraft and underscored the lessons learned in my Spring A Term Operations class. Bottleneck, lead times and utilization are no longer buzz words.

Real Madrid: Building off the momentum from the game a few days earlier, meeting the Real Madrid CFO gave new perspective of the economics behind the sport. A not-for-profit business, the team is the most profitable club in the world with multiple revenue streams that include the obvious (ticket sales, club membership, broadcasting rights) and the not so obvious (player earn outs, insurance payments). The team truly is global and is constantly looking for new ways to leverage the brand. If you have a mechanism for Real Madrid to expand to the US please let the CFO know.

La Moncola (Spanish Government Headquarters): After touring the grounds and seeing the office of the Prime Minister (aka the Spanish Oval Office), the group heard from Cabinet Members about the importance of further integrating the European Union in economic terms, creating more trade agreements between the EU and the US, and the potential opportunities for the carbon credit market.

CBS Alumni Event: Meeting with the CBS Alumni Club of Spain was a treat because we met with our future colleagues, and also heard from a Spanish economist on the forefront of shaping the tax code. What was especially interesting to me was that there is an option for businesses to not file taxes, but rather pay an estimated amount that is calculated by the government given a host of assumptions around revenue, traffic and costs. The resulting incentive problem exacerbates the current tax debate around a system trying to follow a US style code but offer a European style welfare state. At some point something has got to give.

DiverXO: I already posted about DiverXO in Lessons from the Kitchen, but to reiterate, this meeting afforded perspective on how business success is not confined to the boundaries of large corporates. There are copious lessons to be learned from businesses well outside of the norm and the teamwork, passion and resolve we saw at DiverXO was a testament to just that.

That’s all he wrote. Thanks for reading!

Nate Walcker ’15, Spain

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Photo Credit: Yumna Cheema

From The Kitchen – Lessons in Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Teamwork

This morning our Chazen Spain tour officially (sadly!) concluded following an insightful meeting with David Munoz, Chef / Owner of Michelin Award winning restaurant DiverXO in Madrid. For readers of this blog not well versed in the culinary awards scene, think of a Michelin as winning the FIFA World Cup or the Superbowl. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we walked into the restaurant to meet with Mr. Munoz. Since Monday our group had met with senior leaders across the county, but suddenly found ourselves at an acclaimed restaurant, suited up at 9:45 in the morning, with no plans to eat anything. As a ‘foodie’, I remember thinking that Carlos and Miguel (our Chazen leaders) had to be playing a sick joke on all of us but after we started it didn’t take long for me to figure out that there was much more to this meeting than food.

A true self-starter, Mr. Munoz has an inspirational story. After finishing culinary school and working alongside a number of high profile chefs in London, he (alongside his wife) started DiverXO with NO seed capital. Given the thin, volatile margins in the restaurant business there is no question that this was a huge risk but as he explained to the group, when you love something you’re willing to make sacrifices to achieve the end result, whatever that may be. What was particularly impressive was that he was so balanced and sure about his decision. After speaking about the origins on DiverXO, Munoz went on to offer a lesson on teamwork and leadership that rivaled many of the Spanish leaders that our Group had met earlier in the week. With three Michelin Awards under his belt at the young age of 33, Munoz is clearly doing something right.

After DiverXO, our group headed over to Arroces de Segis for a closing lunch that featured a plethora of Paella, ham, bread and even TWO birthday cakes for Josh Hessan. Carlos and Miguel picked a gem. The food was on point and I had to be rolled out of the restaurant. Needless to say, I am going on a juice diet when I get back to New York.

Away from the event today, I should note that last night (Thursday) Telefonica sponsored an Alumni Club of Spain event featuring Ignacio Conde-Ruiz, a member of the Expert Committee on the development of the Sustainability Factor of Pensions 2013. The event was a welcome treat. The Group heard from a thought leader at the forefront of Tax Reform in Spain, and mingled with a host of notable alumni. For me, the time spent on Thursday night really drove home the point that our Columbia MBA and the CBS Community at large, truly is one of a kind.

Note: Never heard of DiverXO? Worry not! There are plans for a New York location in 2015. Just in time for graduation dinners. Mom, if you’re reading this, please be on the lookout so we can make a reservation.

Link to Meeting with the Prince of Asturias:  http://www.casareal.es/ES/Actividades/Paginas/actividades_actividades_detalle.aspx?data=11878

Also, be on the lookout for another post that delves into the cultural and business lessons learned following the week in Spain. Thanks for reading!

Nate Walcker ’15, Spain