Transnational Executive MBA Students Become International Business Consultants
How valuable is it for an overseas company to have a team of American executives give them a blueprint for introducing their product into the United States market?
For some international firms it is an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many companies in Europe, Asia and South America, however, have found a cost-effective key to a unique business resource by using corporate executives enrolled in the Transnational Executive MBA program, known as TEMBA, at California State University, Hayward.
"It is a concept that is true out-of-the-box corporate thinking," said Shyam Kamath, professor of business at Cal State Hayward who founded and directs the TEMBA program. "That is why our global MBA program is fascinating to companies worldwide as well as to the American executives who become our students."
Cal State Hayward has more than 650 students in traditional MBA programs at its campus in the San Francisco Bay Area and offers MBA programs overseas to students in Vienna, Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. The TEMBA program is a separate approach aimed at business executives in the United States who have at least three years experience as corporate executives. This 13-month program combines online course work with reading, research, and a four-day residential stay each month for presentations by professors.
The TEMBA "cohorts" of up to 30 students also make three overseas trips, where professors from other countries give them presentations in global business practices. While abroad, they form teams that meet with board members, executives and front-line employees of international firms based nearby which have commissioned TEMBA to develop a strategy to introduce one or more of their products in the United States. The concept is called the Global Business Strategic Consulting Project, and each study costs an overseas firm about $25,000.
"Frankly, I was amazed that there was an MBA program out there that would offer me this kind of international consulting experience," said Sanjay Sharma, a TEMBA participant and business development manager of Optify Solutions of San Jose. "Other programs I looked at were too traditional."
"I considered enrolling in international MBA programs in London," said Michelle Engelen, operations manager for Hotovec, Pomeranz & Co. of San Francisco. "Those programs didn't have the international consulting component or the opportunity to work alongside students with the kind of executive experience they have in TEMBA."
TEMBA Executives as International Consultants
In December the newest TEMBA cohort to travel abroad spent six days in the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, about an hour's flight south of Săo Paulo. Cal State Hayward has a partnership arrangement with universities in the cities of Jaraguá do Sul and Blumenau.
"This is a region that strongly reflects the ideas of entrepreneurship of this country's first European settlers," the TEMBA students were told during an orientation session in Brazil by Pedro Kraus, who is a business professor and administrator at Centro Universitário de Jaraguá do Sul. "Companies here are particularly strong in the manufacture of electric equipment, food products and textiles and are looking to expand to global markets."
After four days of presentations by Brazilian economists and professors on the South American common market and how to do business on the continent, the Cal State Hayward delegation formed teams that met at the local companies where TEMBA directors had arranged for them to do consulting projects.
"The first step is for the teams of four to five students to make presentations to each company's management team to be sure we'll be giving them exactly the information they want and need," said Guido Krickx, TEMBA co-director. "Then, our teams will spend several months doing research and developing business proposals before returning to Brazil and making their reports. "Our students are already executives with specialties in fields such as engineering, human resources, marketing, and finance, so these companies are getting the benefit of an incredible array of American corporate experiences."
One TEMBA group of five "global research associates" met with Buettner textile company president Joăo Marchewsky and his export team at the firm's headquarters in Brusque. The students toured the mill, which turns raw cotton into high-quality towels with brilliant color designs and talked with the company's management team about how to develop a strategy to improve Buettner's market share in America.
"With corporate partners such as Nordstrom, Sears, J.C. Penny, T.J. Maxx and the Spiegel catalog, we have a growing business in the United States," Rudi Kuppas, Buettner's export manager, told the TEMBA team. "About 42 percent of our business now is exports, but we'd like to increase that to 50 percent."
As with many Brazilian companies, Buettner was affected by an economic crisis in neighboring Argentina that drastically cut into its export volume. The company wants to help compensate for that loss by expanding its business in the United States, where it already has a showroom on Fifth Avenue in New York City and is one of the leading sellers of beach towels in Miami and Chicago. It has contracts for logo towel sales in Brazil and Europe for the National Basketball Association, Universal Studios, and Disney.
Buettner's managers want more sales opportunities in the United States but also have asked for advice on issues related to product introduction and distribution. As with all TEMBA consulting projects, the specifics are kept confidential.
The Cal State Hayward team working with Buettner has members:
"What we want to make sure is that we bring back to you the best research and most realistic proposals based on your management objectives," Schaefer said on behalf of his TEMBA team in a meeting with 11 Buettner managers. "We already can see that there are opportunities in the U.S. you can build on."
One member of the Buettner export team is Felipi Lorenzoni, a 19-year-old Brazilian university student who runs the company's U.S. West Coast exports division.
"I'll be in the San Francisco area in the next few months to meet with representatives of Pottery Barn, which is one of our accounts," Lorenzoni said after meeting with the TEMBA group. "I've been in the export business since I was 16, but there is so much to learn about the U.S. market. The Cal State Hayward group will really help us in what we hope becomes our most important export market."
The Market for Brazilian Lace
Another Brazilian firm that has enlisted TEMBA participants as market consultants is Lepper Co., based in the Brazilian city of Joinville. The family-run business of 800 employees, with its reputation for making fine lace and other textiles, has supplied tablecloths to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. However, the international market is a fraction of its business, and Lepper Vice President Maria Alves and Export Manager Oscar Schmalz told a team of TEMBA consultants that they want to look for new markets in the United States.
"Our competitors come from Colombia, China, India and Western Europe," Alves said. "We are looking at every possibility to expand in the lace market. We want to know what products will make us the most competitive and if we need more specialization to be in the U.S. market." The TEMBA team working on this project has members:
"There really is some potential here," Casey said during the TEMBA meeting with Lepper management. "Our team will need to focus on the target products, the market, and distribution issues." As with all TEMBA teams, as the Lepper group continues work on its project, it will receive additional manufacturing data on the product as well as samples to use in its research from the corporate client.
Buy for Seven Cents, Sell for 75 Cents
The business problem for a consortium of flower and plant growers in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina was put succinctly by one grower in a meeting with another team of TEMBA consultants: "I can sell a rose to a U.S. distributor for seven cents and he turns around and sells it in America for 75 cents to a dollar. How can we see more of that profit on our end?"
It is a concern so acute that the agricultural department for the state of Santa Catarina agreed to underwrite the $25,000 cost of a study by Cal State Hayward student research associates. A group of five public and private agencies calling itself Flora Brasilis do Santa Catarina has turned to TEMBA to help solve an issue that involves not only the growers' product, but economic issues such as the poor rate of exchange between the relatively strong American dollar and the devalued Brazilian real.
"Our strengths are the weather, soil and low labor costs," Jordi Castan, the organization president, told the TEMBA team during a meeting that included growers and state agricultural agent Carlos Karam, a Cal State Hayward alumnus. "We have to find a market in the U.S., and we're even open to changing our lines of production to do it."
Brazil's main competitors in the market for flowers and green plants come from Ecuador and Costa Rica. During discussions with growers and tours of greenhouses and fields, TEMBA team members developed information on those products for which the Brazilian growers might have an advantage. This is the TEMBA team that will explore the possibilities for the Brazilian grower group:
"Understanding your objectives and your products will be the key to the work we'll do back in the U.S.," Jiminez told the group of growers. "We will need to stay in close contact over the next few months."
"Even if you come to the conclusion that we can't be competitive in the U.S. market, it is worth our investment in this project with you," Castan told the TEMBA group. "Your recommendations will be valuable no matter what they are."
New Sofas for the States?
A Cal State Hayward TEMBA consulting team will tell the Brazilian furniture company Feelings Estafados if American consumers are ready for the design concepts of their new products.
"When we met with the executives, they were anxious to get information, but they were reasonable in their expectations," said Kathy Petrini, a member of the TEMBA team working with the Feelings company. "They told us they have the ability to start shipping soon, so we're aware that the timing of this project will be a challenge for us."
Members of the TEMBA team on the Feelings project are:
Processed Foods Challenger
A market entry for processed foods will be the project of a TEMBA team working with Bretzke. While the company exports to nearly a dozen countries, it is particularly interested in challenging some brand name products firmly entrenched in American supermarkets. "It is a relatively small company in the industry, but it is really interested in going after the U.S. market," said TEMBA consultant Ray Asad. "They want us to tell them where the best opportunities are."
TEMBA participants working with Bretzke are:
Return to Brazil
The student teams will return to Brazil in September to make presentations to company executives. It will mark the last month of their course work with TEMBA, a program that will have taken them to Europe and South America and exposed them to the teaching of dozens of American, South American and European professors, economists and international business leaders.
"The College of Business and Economics has been arranging student global consulting projects for the past 13 years and we've now worked with more than 75 companies on 95 projects or products," professor Kamath said. "It's a concept we know well and it has a tremendous track record. That's why we've incorporated it into the transnational executive MBA program.
"It's another reason why TEMBA is one-of-a-kind."
Contact: Kim Huggett, Director of Public Affairs, (510) 885-2032
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