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Massey Executive MBA Overseas 2012 Study Tour in the USA



Key Takeaways From The Tour

Lewis Banda -

Massey Executive MBA Overseas 2012 Study Tour in the USA

The brief overleaf discusses the key takeaways from a two week study tour of the USA covering selected businesses in California, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

As an integral part of the Massey University Executive MBA programme, I was part of a team of eighteen students who toured businesses in the United States of America in June 2012. The two-week programme involved visiting a selected mix of businesses in California, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Some of the businesses covered in California included Nestle’, PayPal, Plug&Play, Zoom Systems, Visionary Home Builders while in the Mid-Western states Alltech, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Company, Dow AgroSciences, Caterpillar, Chicago Stock Exchange and Harley Davidson. In addition, there were a number business interaction meetings and seminars attended by the group held by New Zealand companies and agencies doing business in the United States.

As detailed above, the tour exposed me to high-tech type business models in Silicon Valley to industrial oriented companies in the Mid-western United States.

Fifteen businesses companies were visited where the team of students discussed key business models with host executives. The companies covered included high tech, wineries, dairy, manufacturing, automotive, scientific research & development, housing rehabilitation, stock exchange operations and an interactive business exhibition by New Zealand companies doing business in the United States. Key things which I learned were:

Two multinational companies which also operate in New Zealand exhibited two useful ways of doing business which if used in New Zealand could benefit the country.

The first organisation is a global leader in dairy and FMCG business who instead of doing business in a closed manner has remodelled its supply chain by collaborating with suppliers, competitors and other value chain partners for a win-win outcome while creating value to their customers. This collaborative approach could be used by NZ agro food industry players who instead of competing with one another could share supply chain capabilities enabling them to create value from a projected high global food demand in the near future.

The other organisation visited was Dow Agro Sciences, a pesticides and scientific R&D supporting the agricultural sector currently in a growth mode and acquiring other promising businesses. Their approach in acquiring companies was quite unique in that they let the acquired companies operate autonomously. The results from such an approach were excellent in that the systems and culture of the acquired companies were left undisturbed. Often after a merger, most companies would move in and change systems and procedures to suit those of the acquiring company which may result in less than anticipated synergy gains. This often results from cultural and systems disruptions resulting in loss of customers and key skills within the acquired firm.

Lastly, one notable difference between the United States and New Zealand entrepreneur seems to be the way they view failure in business. The New Zealand entrepreneur seems to be more risk averse while the US entrepreneur views failure in business as a ‘business as usual’ possibility while doing business. Failure to successfully run a business or filing for bankruptcy in New Zealand could be viewed unfavourably and perhaps that causes would be entrepreneurs fear to take risks.

I also learned how Alltech, an animal nutrition and health, crop science and food and beverage Technology Company which was constantly innovating to rise to the challenges of feeding the growing world population. It was developing animal feed as alternatives to antibiotics for example. Most notable was Alltech’s marketing strategies that reflected customer focus, for example meeting rooms on campus were decorated reflecting the markets in which they operated such as South Africa, Australia and France.

As a country including would entrepreneurs, we need to try out new business opportunities using new tools available out there and if we fail we should learn something from it and do it better next time.

Team photo: After a tour of Alltech an R&D Company in Lexington, Kentucky.

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