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“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
-Mary Ritter Beard
What happens when you give a 21-year-old the freedom to wonder and explore? They learn a lot more than they could ever have imagined. For the past 6 months, I completed my undergraduate degree studying overseas at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. I have had many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but the following three in particular have shaped my future as a business leader.
Simplicity and good customer service wins. Every single time.
Early-March, a group of us traveled throughout Italy, one destination being the island of Capri. We embarked on a boat trip around the island, finally deciding to go cliff jumping. I wanted to capture this unique moment on my GoPro portable camera, so I attached it to a head mount. The second I jumped into the water, my GoPro and head mount unlatched from my head and plummeted 35 meters down to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Our 79-year-old boater, Gennarino (Gigi), asked me of its retail value, but I was more concerned with the value of the moments I had stored on it.
Later that night, we ate at a restaurant recommended by Gigi and coincidently he was eating there as well. Upon sitting down, he came over to our table and said, “I believe you left something on the boat”, handed me a bag which to my surprise contained my GoPro! Gigi went out of his way to go back to the cliff jumping spot after dropping us off, dove down to the bottom of the Sea, and retrieved my precious collection of memories.
Customer service should always be a priority. Gigi went above and beyond his call of duty in getting my camera and as a result, the memory of his service will never be forgotten. Because of what he did, we went back to him the next day and recommended him to all our friends, sharing this unbelievable story. He received business he otherwise would not have because of his actions.
To be successful and provide excellent service, focus on one customer and one experience at a time. Do not see your customer as a number or stream of revenue, but as a person.
Respect cultural differences in business.
In late March, three team members and I were given the opportunity by the Ivey Business School (Ivey) to compete internationally at a case competition. The competition was held at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. We were all extremely excited to travel to a new city and showcase our business acumen.
The competition consisted of two 3-hour cases and one 24-hour case. We approached every case as we would at Ivey: an in-depth analysis, a strong focus on recommendations, and a structured presentation. This strategy won us the case competition at Ivey to get us to this stage, yet at this competition, it was unsuccessful. The judges wanted a stronger focus on the analysis over the recommendations and wanted to see recommendations that fully grasped the impact of family and culture. We were not used to this style of judging, as these factors are usually marginally impactful in North America. This ultimately led to us not competing in the finals.
The case competition taught me to explore the many cultural differences in business when I eventually grow into a leadership role. The world in this day and age is globalized – forcing businesses to compete internationally. To approach both international and domestic clients with the same strategy would be foolish. When it comes to conducting business, ensure that what you are offering accommodates the different interests of your audience.
If you are going to create something, make it extraordinary.
Europe is filled with great history, inspiring art, and stunning architecture. A particular place of note, which left a lasting impression on me, was the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. Erected over 2500 years ago, the Acropolis remains one of the most visited archeological sites in the world. In May, my friends and I visited this ancient citadel and felt fully immersed in its history.
The Acropolis makes you think about what it is that attracts tourists from around the world. Is it the design? The history? One thing I know for certain is that I visited it for its legacy. In fact, I visited many sites throughout Europe because of legacy. The historical sites, buildings, and mesmerizing art pieces that gather people from all over the world shared similar qualities: they are unique, they stand the tests of time, and they have purpose.
If you are going to create something, make it extraordinary, as this is what people are attracted to. Producing a mediocre product/service that doesn’t excite people is, to me, a waste of time and resources. Perhaps yes, it may make you money, but to be truly successful, you need to create more; you need to create something that provides of value; something that inspires.
Today marks the one month anniversary since I have been home, and I have realized that studying abroad provided me with an opportunity to expand my horizons. It allowed me to learn a lot about myself. It gave me the opportunity to experience business first-hand on a global scale – something I could never learn in a school setting. I appreciate and value this experience more than you can imagine, and I am excited to see how it will influence my future as a business leader.