Day 2: First day of Business Visits

Judy Ashbrook & Pablo Chavez – US Commercial Service and Lowe & Partners

HCM2 - Lowe AdvertisingThe few days that we have spent in Vietnam have gone by really quickly, with so many things to see and do.  Today, we had the opportunity meet Frank Joseph, a Commercial Officer with the US Commercial Service, and Indraneel Guha, Director of Strategic Planning Services at Lowe & Partners.  Both visits gave us insights into both how to do business in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese culture and what it is like to work in Vietnam personally.  What stood out about two of the visits was the differing perspectives between the two presenters.  The US commercial service focuses primarily on providing assistance for US company’s to export to Vietnam, and his point of view was mostly small business oriented. Although Vietnam provides opportunities as an emerging market, Frank Joseph was realistic about the challenges of entering the market, such as government red tape, infrastructure, financing and education.  From a Marketing perspective, the presentation at Lowe & Partners looked more closely at the local culture and implications for marketing products as well as the potential of the country as an emerging market.

Overall, the presentations gave the impression that there is a market to be developed in Vietnam, which has great potential, but there is considerable risk due to the cultural trends and political stability of the country.

HCM2 - PhoIn the evening, we had a choice to explore the city on a motorcycle tour or by ourselves.  We traveled by foot from our hotel to the Ben Thanh Market, where the sights and smells were amazing.  As you travel up and down the streets you see all sorts of items for sale such as souvenirs, luggage and Vietnamese delicacies to eat.  The city is fascinating at night, lots of movement happening all around, with taxis and scooters.  Truly an experience just to cross the street! We ended up going to Pho2000 where we experienced Phở – a delicious  bowl of chicken, beef or vegetables served with rice noodles and broth. It was so good, we are all considering going back for seconds!


Margo Haines – Food Education: Moving Through the Streets of Ho Chi Minh City

HCM2 - Food tour17For our first optional night Angie, Cody, Lauren, Wendy, our trip guide Michaela and I chose to see the city from the back of bikes, joining Moggy’s Mekong Madness, a motorcycle food tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

The tour began at the hotel and continued on through 5 of 7 districts of Ho Chi Minh City. The group were introduced to weird and wonderful local cuisine from the traditional phở to frog legs and local beverages. As the tour went through the city the guides were able to share local information and the history of Vietnam with us. The culture is so rich and to have the exposure to the districts and the differences between each of them was eye opening. The tour provided a feeling of safety while being able to immerse ourselves in the local culture. The experience of riding through the city on motorbikes, which is the main mode of transportation in Vietnam, and taking in all of the sites while eating the local cuisine was an experience of a lifetime!

Business intelligence now more valuable to employers

Screenshot of KNIME

Converting raw data into information that managers can use to make decisions is becoming increasingly important. Image via Wikipedia

A shift in the world of marketing has led to a new appreciation for the analysis of data.

A report in The Wall Street Journal, “Business Schools Plan Leap Into Data,” discusses an emerging trend among graduate and undergraduate business schools to add classes, certificates and degrees geared specifically toward business intelligence, or data analytics.

The article says that as the use of analytics grows, companies will need employees who understand the data. The authors cited a study that found that by 2018, the United States will face a shortage of 1.5 million managers who can use data to shape business decisions.

“Analytics is certainly in the Top 5 things [executives] are worried about and investing in actively,” said Scott Gnau, president of Teradata’s Teradata Labs, told The Wall Street Journal. “Industry is going to demand it. Students are going to demand it.”

Kim Ruggiero, a Cohort 7 graduate of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, said she has witnessed firsthand the business world placing more value on the ability to decipher the numbers.

“Data analysis is vital, especially in the social media space, because as a marketer you need to know who to message to, what to message and how much to message,” explained Ruggiero, an associate marketing manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Digital tactics such as online advertising, QR codes, website activity and social media sites are much easier to track than traditional media like radio and TV. It allows us to determine which tactics performed well and what the level of engagement was among our consumers to help influence decisions in the future.”

One of Ruggiero’s classmates, Darcy Clark, agrees. “Data is critical,” said Clark, who works in digital marketing at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “I use data on a daily basis, most often as it relates to our social media and Facebook strategies. We can measure the impact of a particular post and tell how many people engaged with the content, how many clicked through to get more information and how many ultimately purchased (if it was tied to an offer).”

Clark added that many people in her organization are tasked solely with data analysis, each working on a different piece of the puzzle. “It’s that important,” she emphasized.

But as much as data analysis is key in the marketing field, both Ruggiero and Clark say they believe most business schools don’t prepare students for the practical uses of data analysis.

“The base knowledge we gained from the Stetson Executive MBA program set the foundation for later learning that can only occur on the job,” said Clark.

Students in the Stetson Executive MBA program take several classes that focus on the subject, including Fundamental Statistical Management Techniques, Marketing Concepts and Analysis, Managerial Decision Analysis and Marketing Decision Making.

“Dr. Ted Surynt’s and Dr. Ram Subramanian’s classes were great in opening up my mind to think creatively about how all the pieces of a puzzle fit together,” added Clark. “That is critical when you’re looking at numbers and data and how those things fit into the larger marketing and overall business picture.”

Executive MBA offers insight, perspective

Articles that explain what an Executive MBA is often focus on how entering a program is an investment in your future, or how it’s an opportunity for a professional to work and go to school at the same time, or how you will gain a competitive edge over your peers.

An Executive MBA classroom serves as an incubator for real-world experience and business thought leadership.

But for Aaron Wright, the experience was much more.

“I look at the way I work differently and with more insight,” said Wright, who is a graduate of the Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 7. “I listen a lot more and try to understand everyone’s point of view before expressing my own opinion or offering advice. I contribute more and can provide a perspective that wasn’t there before getting my MBA.

One of Wright’s classmates, Penny Miller, agreed, and said that the program taught her different ways of seeing the world. “I knew before end of first year how much had changed for me and the way I think and balance and juggle,” said Miller, who works as an HR business partner.

In general, Executive MBA programs attract a diverse group of professionals who want to expand their knowledge and skills. Many use their degree to enter a new field or gain expertise in a new area. Most students have at least 10 years of professional experience under their belts by the time they enter a program, with a significant portion of this experience at the managerial level. (Traditional MBA students usually average three to five years of work experience.)

An Executive MBA helps move along a student’s or graduate’s career. Susan Golinsky, another classmate of Wright’s, said the pursuit of her education at Stetson helped her get ahead of her colleagues. “The fact that I was in school helped differentiate me from others who were applying for jobs,” said Golinsky, “because I was balancing a full-time job and school. I got some promotions that I believe were attributed to my increased business acumen from the Executive MBA program.” Golinsky said the program was a confidence builder, and she learned an incredible amount from her professors and from members of her cohort.

A powerful feature of a typical Executive MBA program is the collective professional experience of its participants. This feature greatly enriches the educational environment, and a team approach is often used on projects that encourage the sharing of diverse perspectives on specific topics.

“My education has allowed me to better understand everyone’s motivations within a project or team environment,” explained Wright. “Where I was previously financially weak, I am now strong enough to ask tough targeted questions to ensure that my partners and clients are all able to accomplish their goals.

Members of an Executive MBA cohort learn from each other and form a professional network that can last throughout the graduates' careers.

“The cohort style of learning and phenomenal support from faculty and staff was the most important highlight for me,” Wright continued. “My experience felt like ‘service-oriented learning.’ We got such great support on a daily basis that it allowed us to focus on a rigorous curriculum and course of study. This really sets Stetson apart from other programs, and I am much better for it.

Many students say they are often able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it immediately to their current job. Lofton Barnes, a student in the Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 8, is a perfect example.

“The transfer of knowledge is extremely fast,” said Barnes, who co-owns Ladybird Academy in Winter Springs/Oviedo, Fla. “The concepts that we’re learning I can go play with immediately. I can tell a difference already, many months before I graduate.

The Executive MBA is much more than a classroom with a highly educated professor, a textbook and students. The Executive MBA classroom is home to discussion among highly engaged professionals with a facilitator who has real-world experience. It is a place for managers from diverse businesses to work side-by-side throughout the program. Students learn from other students not by chance; it’s woven by design into the very fabric of the program.

Other direct, practical benefits of an Executive MBA program include:

  • Increased confidence and motivation
  • Ability to identify and apply best practice
  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Clear understanding of the theory behind best practice
  • Greater ability to lead a team and to work within a team
  • Enhanced communication skills
  • Incisive and durable competitive edge

Learn more about Executive MBA programs at the Executive MBA Council, The Princeton Review and the Graduate Management Admission Council. Learn more about the Stetson Executive MBA program here.

Cohort 5 graduate earns certification

Craig Feldman, a graduate of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 5, now has three letters to add to his name besides MBA: PMP.

Craig Feldman, far right, and his classmate Lynda Hoyte completed PMP courses in a program at Stetson University Center at Celebration. Mike Mekdeci, center, of Stetson congratulates them.

Feldman recently completed a course through the Stetson University Project Management Certificate Program and passed the subsequent test to become certified as a Project Management Professional. Feldman currently works as a Project Manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Feldman said his Executive MBA helped prepare him for this additional segment of his education. “Stetson taught me the foundations of what I needed to know, such as the mechanics behind project management. I learned a lot of the analysis for project selection in the Executive MBA program, like IRR, NPV, future value — comparing the project options you have and determining which project to choose.”

This new certification also taught Feldman several skills he didn’t have before, such as how to effectively plan a project, monitor the metrics behind it, and manage the expectations of participants.

“I feel incredibly accomplished,” said Feldman. “I’m so glad I started this program.”

Feldman graduated from the Stetson Executive MBA program in spring 2009 and began the Project Management Certificate Program in fall 2010. He received his certification Aug. 9, 2011.

Billion Group teaches Cohort 8 that relationships yield success

Mike Rodel, Chief Operating Officer for Rebosis Property Fund and Billion Group, greeted Stetson Executive MBA students in Cohort 8 to a lavish boardroom Tuesday afternoon. Rodel shared information about his company’s prosperous business in South Africa, specifically regarding the recent merger with Rebosis Property Fund.

The combined company has two main lines of business, the Property Development Group, which is private, and the Rebosis Property Fund, which is traded on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Property Development Group is the development pipeline for Rebosis Property Fund. Rebosis’ business is based in Johannesburg with an eye on the rest of the South African market.

On May 17, 2011, Billion Group merged with Rebosis for $1.66 billion. The rationale for the listing was to “prepare to scale,” explained Rodel. Rebosis Properties officials wanted to be positioned for growth and to be flexible enough to capture sensible opportunities.

Rebosis Properties is the largest and first black-managed, black-owned company on the stock exchange, even though the government approvals have been in place for such an act for more than 16 years. A black company with black ownership gives the company distinctive advantages, such as partnering with other smaller firms that don’t have black representation and hence can’t be a player on their own. By joining Rebosis Properties, smaller companies can participate and have opportunities, too.

Rebosis owns eight properties, which are valued at an estimated at 3.6 billion Rand (about $500 million U.S.). This organizational structure is 60 percent retail and 40 percent office space, in which Rebosis currently holds a 97 percent occupancy rate.

Student Shariq Khan asked Rodel what makes Rebosis Properties appealing to buyers. “We are attractive because our income stream is tied to strong fundamentals.” answered Rodel, “We have a current 8 percent growth rate and are quickly reaching double digits in the next few years with an expectation to stay increasingly strong for a minimum of seven years. We got ahead and now are positioned for great opportunities and success should we stay focused and determined on our core values.”

Rodel said one reason Rebosis’ payments are consistent and efficient is that government and large retail entities occupy the space. Another reason, said Rodel, was the combined experience of the company’s senior leadership, including CEO Sisa Ngebulna. The combined talents and resources of the managers have improved the success of the company’s decision making and innovation.

Rodel said Rebosis is poised to become even more successful with more than $14 billion worth of projects in the pipeline ready to develop and deliver.

Cohort 8 student Larry Flory asked Rodel if the global economic crisis had a detrimental effect on the company’s strategic plans. “Retail was in its final stages,” said Rodel, “and national chains took the burden.” He added that South Africa was fortunate to not have the challenges that the United States faced. The failures that Rebosis experienced were locally based, he said, and would have happened regardless of the economic challenges the world faced.

Securing local talent and professional contractors is not an issue, according to Rodel. Johannesburg offers plenty of available resources, and Rebosis’ leadership can play to the strengths of investors because the company has earned the investors’ trust repeatedly since 2003. “Investors feel comfortable with us,” said Rodel, “and if there is anything we know from our U.S. experiences, it is that relationships, security, comfort, expertise and dedication undoubtedly yield success.”