The educational part of the International Business Seminars (IBS) study-abroad program took place at different companies in Paris and London. I was very excited to learn more about some of the business practices I learned in class. I was impressed that IBS was able to schedule meetings with some of the companies we met with. Unfortunately, due to the time of year, AT&T and Baccarat Crystal canceled on our group last minute in Paris which was disappointing. The only company visit in Paris was the Hard-Rock Café which was anything but boring and one of my favorite experiences while I was there. It was nice that there were fewer visits to Paris because I got to spend a lot of time at tourist places like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. There were a lot more business visits in London. The visits would take anywhere from 3-4 hours as we watched company executives present on the company, asked questions, and at some visits, took part in an exercise. In London, we visited ARUP, Lloyds of London, the European Union (EU) Commission, and Leo Burnett.
The first visit we went on was to the Hard-Rock Café (HRC) in Paris. The HRC was more than just a restaurant, it was an experience for the guests who visited. It was also a museum housing rock-n-roll material spanning the last couple of decades. The founders of the HRC believed in inclusivity among their customers and never turned anyone away. This can still be found in the employees that they hire today. They truly believe in workplace diversity by having a very lenient, open policy on visible tattoos, earrings, hair color, and makeup. They have a very strong corporate culture of judging people on their internal character instead of their outward appearance. One of the most lucrative parts of its business operations is the retail shop located in each store. The memorabilia (shirts, mugs, etc.) sold in stores have become collectibles for fans of the HRC. The shirts sold at individual HRC’s have the specific locations which many fans collect. The Paris location that we visited did 6 million dollars in retail sales last year while the HRC globally attributes, roughly, 40% of sales to their gift shops. The HRC was way ahead of its time by promoting an inclusive culture and selling memorabilia with its infamous logo.
My next visit was in London at ARUP, an engineering company known for building some of the very famous structures in London such as the London Eye and Lloyds of London. They are not just famous in Europe but in every continent as a global power in engineering. They started off the presentation talking about the different kinds of projects they undertake and how they used the STEEP (social, technological, economic, environmental, and political) framework as they choose projects. ARUP is a very socially responsible company that looks beyond profits and concentrates on the ramifications of their work. One of my favorite quotes by their presenter was “change is constant, context is variable”. I thought this was a really creative way to show that they understand that adaption and innovation are the keys to the future. They see the project through all stages from idea > concept > feasibility > planning and design > construction > operation. After, the presenter sat us down in four groups, where we played a game and were given cards that said current debated issues like artificial intelligence (AI), infrastructure, leadership, etc. and had each group rank the different issues on importance. This was part of their process to weigh in the current issues to their new projects. We found this game to be challenging. There were disagreements inside my group for the topics that people were most passionate about. It was really interesting to see inside their creative process.
The last visit I’m writing about is Lloyds of London, a global market place for insurance companies. Known as the “inside-out building” like the outside of the building was the location for all the ducts and elevators. This opened up the building and maximized the floor space. The security was very strict, and they had to check our passports before they gave us guest passes. Lloyds, itself, does not deal with insurance but rents out the building to 84 different insurance companies. Lloyds gets paid premiums by the insurance companies who pay 1,000 pounds per-square-foot each year. It is truly an incredible place where brokers come in with insurance opportunities and negotiate with the underwriters the terms of the agreements in person. A lot of the insurance sold at Lloyds was highly specialized and didn’t pertain to things like normal life insurance. There were some very interesting things insured such as Troy Polamalu’s hair for one-million dollars or a large coffee company that had their coffee bean taste-testers taste buds insured for twenty million. After the presentation, we were brought to the top floor to get a tour of the executive suite. I really appreciated how the presenters thoroughly explained the insurance process and showed our group all over the building. The experience was one of a kind. Lloyds of London Video
These are just three of the businesses that we experienced on the study-abroad trip and each place was very different. I learned so much about the culture of a business, daily operations, and strategic initiatives from the visits. As an MBA student, I felt that this trip was definitely catered to my interests. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I know others on the trip expressed new interests in fields such as marketing, sales, and finance. I networked with a lot of individuals and learned a lot about different careers. There was so much to enjoy on the trip, such as the food, historical sites, and culture but I really appreciate the business visits. I would suggest this trip, especially for MBA students with an emphasis in international business, but also to any business major that wanted more real-world experience before exiting the classroom. IBS coordinated the trip really well and gave just the right amount of autonomy and direction.