SEBA in Spain: Notes from MBA Students in Barcelona

Janet Amador, associate director of academic services, accompanied a group of MBA students who recently traveled to Barcelona to expand their horizons and learn the ins and outs of doing business in Europe. While abroad, Amador kept a journal of the lectures, company visits, and cultural outings that students participated in. Below are excerpts from her journal.

barceDay One: Business Trips

Twenty-five SEBA students assembled at LaSalle University in Barcelona, a sister school of Saint Mary’s, ready and eager to learn about the business culture of the European Union, and more specifically Spain.

We took a three-hour bus tour of the city and it was just amazing. The architecture is beautiful, and each building—gothic, modern, or renaissance—was breathtaking.

We had two company visits today, Mediagroup and Voxel.

Mediagroup is one of the most important audiovisual groups in Europe. With a presence all over the world, the company provides technical and creative solutions in order to create and broadcast any audiovisual product.  One of its key responsibilities is the production of all of the Barcelona Football games.

Voxel Group is the world leader in the implementation of electronic transaction systems in the hospitality and travel industries. The company was founded 20 years ago by four LaSalle University graduates. In fact, the gentleman that spoke with us today had been to SMC for one of our exchange programs with LaSalle University.

parlimentDay Two: Parliament and City Hall

This morning we had the opportunity to visit Parliament.  Nestled in a beautiful park, this magnificent building dates back to the 1700’s. One of the biggest issues currently facing the Catalonian Parliament is the consideration of seceding from Spain and becoming a separate country.  While we were on the tour this question was raised, but our tour guides were not allowed to elaborate on the subject.

Before we arrived at City Hall, we took an incredible walking tour through the center of the city that a stop inside a beautiful Gothic Cathedral built in 1214 and finished in 1471. Historical architecture like the cathedral help create a breathtaking cityscape. Today we saw two Roman columns that date back to 100 B.C.!

barceIn the center of Barcelona is the Plaça Sant Jaume which was the site of the Forum, a meeting place for political debate. The square still holds that role today as it is flanked by Barcelona's two political powerhouses: Barcelona City Hall and the seat of the Catalan government, the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya. As we entered the building, there was a row of camera and news people waiting for the arrival of the new mayor of Barcelona who elected just two weeks prior. To our surprise, after our tour, we had a private audience with the outgoing mayor, who vowed that his party would be working diligently for the next four years to regain their seat.

Days Three and Four: Spanish CEO Discusses Local Markets

Today we met with Luis Font, CEO of Zyncro and co-founder of Captio, and a 25-year veteran of the information technology industry. Zyncro is a flexible internet social business platform that offers a new ways of working that reinforce collaboration, integration and mobility.

in classSome of the main take aways from Font’s presentation were:

  • In Europe, businesses must operate in a global market one city or one country is too small. For larger companies local markets don’t really exist anymore, so businesses need to look elsewhere. 
  • Always consider local culture. Speak the language first, learn, hire the local people and invest in them to sell your products. They know the market, the culture, language and the regulations that are specific to that country.

Students then participated in an exercise that challenged our perceptions of other cultures. We examined and dispelled stereotypes for nine different nationalities that were presented.  We gave our perceptions of each and then spent time discussing those traits.  We concluded the discussion with a conversation about the global perception of the US and Mr. Font shared his perception based on his interactions with American business people.

in classAfter our break, we convened with our Spanish MBA counterparts and proceeded to go through the negotiating a contract project. The teams were given time to review a hypothetical proposal separately and then allowed  45 minutes to negotiate a contract. Afterwards, the students debriefed so that they could talk through their preconceived notion of what Americans or Spaniards are like, and then the reality of the experience. Both sides came in with bias about their counterpart, and both had experiences that solidified some of their preconceptions and dispelled others. 

Day Five and Six: A Trip to the Country

Today we had three faculty members join us for a four hour session in which they discussed how their business interactions globally have shaped their worldviews on business culture.

barceThe first professor divided the students into groups and asked questions about their values. The exercise was somewhat uncomfortable, but pivotal to the students understanding of how others see them and how we see others. 

The group engaged in a lively and detailed discussion about the current economic issues in Greece and its pending referendum. The populous vote will dramatically affect the next steps for Greece and will have great influence on the financial markets worldwide.

We then left for the countryside, specifically an area called Girona, where we toured a manufacturing plant for Comexi. Comexi is a supplier of machinery and services to the flexible packaging converting industry.  

After the plant tour, we drove to a small town called Banyoles which is home to beautiful lake that served as the site of the 1992 Olympic rowing competition. The drive ran along the French border and near the Pyrenees Mountains.

Then we drove through this amazing countryside to the small medieval town of Besalu, a city that was established in the 10th century.  The church was built in 1015. This excursion was a great opportunity for all involved to enjoy a full day of Spanish commerce, food and beautiful scenery.