Tech start-ups, Tasty Beat, a healthy fast food chain, and Camanchaca, one of the largest Chilean seafood producers, were among the companies on the menu for Cass Business School EMBA students during a trip to Chile last month.
The executives swapped the bustle of London for the chance to consult Chilean businesses.
Alexandra Dent, who works as company secretary for a UK-listed firm, says it has been the highlight of the EMBA to date.
“The international exposure was fantastic as it not only developed our business skills but also our personal skills,” she says.
As well as consultancy experience and company visits, the EMBAs benefited from strengthening their professional — and personal — networks. “I can honestly say I have made new friends for life,” says Alexandra, who aspires to become a director of a public company.
The Chile trip follows similar successful Cass “consultancy week” treks to locations such as Iceland, and Warsaw. Visits to "unique international markets" were first offered in 2003 and have become a significant component of Cass’ programs.
Gareth Evans, a senior business development manager at Qubit, a London based internet business, carried out a consultancy project for Camanchaca.
The company wanted the EMBA team to look into how it could expand its presence in Europe. “We had the week to interview the stakeholders, speak with their analysts and come up with recommendations for their European strategy,” he says, adding that it seemed to go down well.
The experience was valuable. “It was really interesting being put into an international business and having to learn about not only the business, but the culture as well in such a short [space of] time,” says Gareth, who was previously a sales manager at Squiz, a tech strategy business.
A benefit for the EMBAs is the opportunity to directly apply some of the knowledge gained whilst studying in the workplace, says Alexandra. EMBA programs typically are completed part-time. Cass’ program is completed at evenings and weekends over a two-year period.
Alexandra’s team were tasked with developing a strategic plan for the Santiago operations of Tasty Beat, which she says is similar to the UK’s Pret a Manger sandwich chain, with the target of opening five new stores within three years.
However, they agreed with the owner to expand the scope to look at finance, HR and marketing in additional to overall strategy.
“This meant we were able to apply our MBA knowledge as much as possible and gain valuable experience within a real business, which was brilliant,” says Alexandra.
Although she can speak basic Spanish, the language barrier was a challenge for the team. Time was also a factor. “We had to develop the survey questions, design the survey, translate it into Spanish, then get it printed, completed by 100 customers and log the data within 48 hours,” Alexandra says.
After analysing the data, the team developed ideas that Tasty Beat’s owner said will be implemented.
“The owner was extremely thankful for our time, knowledge and suggestions, which made the experience even more meaningful,” says Alexandra.
The EMBAs were also tasked with familiarizing themselves with both the Chilean economy and business climate.
Gareth says: “There is a good opportunity there for start-ups and a real sense of excitement amongst the start-up founders that we spoke to.
“The Chilean government seem to be very supportive of start-ups and bringing them to the region, which would be worth considering if you are looking for a Latin American hub or somewhere to launch.”