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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jeudi

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Last day of school! 




On the bus after our last class at EMLYON

Entrepreneurship in Europe

Our final lecture covered entrepreneurship in Europe. 


Per usual, the French claimed to have invented entrepreneurship. They say it then proceeded to explode in America. Okay, but what does it take to make a country entrepreneurial? This was the question the lecture revolved around. Some of the answers given by the class were a sense of hopelessness, desperation, failure, necessity as the mother of invention, and a lack of consistency and homogeneity in business. The EMLYON lecturer gave a different answer: essentially, to become entrepreneurial a European country needs the mindset, skill set, and tool set to navigate out of the current crisis. He believes that entrepreneurship should be the key vector to improve the EU's socioeconomic conditions, because entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems. 


This is quite the challenge in Europe however, because Europeans tend to be risk averse. Historically, European governments have leaned toward socialism in that there is an inherent dependency on others and the government for survival. How can this and the decrease in EU self-employment be reversed? The intuitive answer is to create incentives, provide funding and capital, and reduce regulation. However, our lecturer believes the solution is the opposite: make becoming an entrepreneur more difficult and relieve the pressure on the idea of entrepreneurship as a necessity. His solution involves more focus on improving the tax and fiscal systems within the EU so that it is a better environment for creating and sustaining businesses. However, this is a delicate balance. The government cannot afford to lose tax revenue but it also holds an important role in helping the economy revive itself. 


Finally, we were introduced to a gentlemen who had moved to France from America and has a habit of building businesses. Essentially, his advice was to work hard, be prepared for long hours, and take advantage of luck and opportunity when it finds you. While this advice seemed somewhat underwhelming to many of my entrepreneur classmates, I think I may understand why. This guest was from America originally. We, also being from America, seem to have an inherent and ingrained entrepreneurial spirit within us. After all, entrepreneurship is what the American Dream is all about! So perhaps this is the difference in the challenge facing the EU and that facing the US. We Americans are lucky; we have been taught all our lives that we can build ourselves and our families around a success that we can create for ourselves through hard work, sound ideas, and a little luck. This is something I pray we never forget, and something we should never sacrifice in exchange for dependency on volatile government. 


An Afternoon in Lyon


After class we spent a rainy afternoon in the streets of Lyon, trying to squeeze out as much culture and enjoyment as we could in our few remaining hours in the town. A classmate and I made our way up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The church was awe-inspiring. Tiny tiles no bigger than your thumbnail covered the ceilings and walls to create colorful representations of the heavens and saints. 



Ornately carved doorway

Statue of an angel

The Virgin Mary and tiled Biblical illustrations

The Basilica altar


I was lucky to be able to take photos inside, since many churches do not allow for indoor photographs. After taking the tram back down the hill, we had to hustle to make our way back to the Lyon silk district to find a shop to buy true Lyonnaise silk. After picking through colorful scarves and ties of 100% French silk, we sprinted to the bus and made our way to the train station to make our way to Paris. 


Paris

Our first evening in Paris was fairly uneventful. Everyone was hungry and tired, so we had dinner in an Italian restaurant and turned in somewhat early. 



Waiting for dinner




Mercredi

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Today, we started with yet more school at EMLYON and then another corporate visit. 

Class Time

Today's lecture revolved around the topic that may have intrigued our class the most--the financial crisis within the European Union and what is being done to alleviate the situation. This crisis involves the same sort of problems the US has faced (property bubbles, banking crisis, collapse of the building sector, etc).

At the heart of the problem is the fact that in the EU, most decision-making is first based on political reasons rather than economic reasons. Perhaps the over-arching reason that the Euro has failed to unify and strengthen the EU economy is that the countries of the EU are fundamentally different to begin with. As mentioned in my Tuesday blog, these countries each have their own identity they place primary to their membership in the EU. 

Take for example Germany and France. The two countries have long been at odds; for many years even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, France's foreign policy's primary concern had been "How to deal with Germany." France only supported membership in the EU with Germany for political reasons: they intended to undermine Germany's economic strength and somewhat equalize it over the entire EU. (Ironically, this plan backfired for France, because the EU has only bolstered Germany's economic power in that it is the strongest of all the countries in the union.) Since Germany has the most economic power still, they carry a lot of weight with their membership and the fate of the EU seems to point in Germany's direction. 

Several solutions have been proposed to address the crisis facing the EU. However, our lecturer was quick to point out that there is NO good solution. The four proposed solutions involve:

1. Lower costs in the Periphery countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy--all of which are poorer, less developed, and with small amounts of capital). This would lower wages and higher unemployment would follow. Such a solution is not politically or socially tenable. This is the solution proposed by Germany because it involves little loss to them. 
2. High costs in the Core countries (Germany, France, Austria, The Netherlands, and Finland). However, with its economic power, would Germany accept high inflation? 
3. Transfers of capital from the Core countries to the Periphery countries by way of Eurobonds or other forms. This would without a doubt cause a recession among all of the countries given conditions. Without conditions, there is significant moral hazard and a difficulty in valuation without adjustment. 
4. Finally, the Euro could break up. Would the Peripherals leave? Would Germany leave? Would the markets attack France? Essentially this would be very costly, and free trade would be endangered. 

Sound confusing? That's the point. There is no simple solution and it seems that none of these solutions are optimal. Just as the US and the rest of the world are facing tough decisions regarding the economy and fiscal policy, the EU's is just as tricky if not more so. The EU is hanging in a delicate balance between the strength of a continent and the individuality and solitary strength of each country in the union. 



Visit to Bayer CropScience

When you think of Bayer, you probably think of Aspirin. However, the company works in many other industries many are surprised to hear. This wouldn't be so surprising after a look at the company's mission: "Science for a better life."  Their focus on life brings together the following: 

Leadership
Integrity
Flexibility
Efficiency

The company operates in three segments:

Agriculture--Crop Science
Healthcare--Healthcare (Largest segment)
High-Tech Materials--Materials Science (Smallest segment)

We were visiting the company's middle segment, the crop science segment. This segment makes fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides that they sell to dealers and occasionally directly to farmers. Mostly they send their production to order-filling sites. 

Unfortunately this company did not seem nearly as advanced in LEAN or Six Sigma as the previous company (Aldes) is. However, the manager assured us that projects to improve operations are in motion and should be in full effect within the next decade. I was honestly shocked to hear that a company as large as Baylor seemed to have neglect to create a more cost-effective and efficient system for all of their business segments. 

Night-Life

Now for the fun part! This evening would be our last in Lyon, so we took the chance to really visit with some of new EMLYON acquaintances and see what Lyon's night life had to offer.

We first visited an authentic Lyonnaise restaurant. Now you may think you've tried Boudin if you've ever been to Louisiana, but let me assure you I doubt it's the same. The Boudin we had (after liver pate of course) was sausage cooked in pig's blood. I promise it's WAY more appetizing than it sounds, plus it's gotta be high in iron!! It was served over apples along with entire baguettes. We also had regular sausage with lentils and beef cheek (yes, like cow's face) over boiled potatoes. Luckily, I'm not shy of any kind of food so I tried everything. All of it was delicious. We were all really full so we skipped dessert, but one of our new friend convinced the waitress that it was one of our party's birthday. While this was false, it really created a party with the entire restaurant. There was a table of 6 old Frenchmen sitting at the table next to ours. Every 20 minutes or so throughout dinner they had raised their wine glasses and broken out into various French songs. It created quite the atmosphere, and upon beginning the fake birthday celebrations it became quite a party. The gentlemen came to our table, filled our wine glasses and sang "Happy Birthday" in French at the top of their lungs. By the end of it we were all belly-laughing and passing around a bottle of liquor the waitress handed us to send us off each with a throat-burning shot. 




After petting the tabby cat hostess goodbye we stepped back out onto the cobblestones and made our way to the hotel to pick up some more friends on our way to a nightclub. It was so much fun--not much different than an American nightclub. What I found funny was that several of the girls that had climbed on the bar to dance were wearing what they must have thought was true Texas garbs, complete with pseudo-Cowboy boots and hats. I promise we were all totally responsible! It was a great way to go out with a bang in Lyon. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mardi


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For those of you reading for tales of experiences through France and touristy things, you may prefer to skip this post.

Here's a photo of me in front of the Basilica in Lyon to hold y'all over.

Class Time

Today we started school. Yes, school, in France. We traveled to the EMLYON School of business, a prestigious MBA school in Lyon. Our lecture (complete with delicious pastries) discussed European Business Systems and Their Diversity.

The part of the lecture that resonated most with me regarded religion’s effect on the history of France and its personality per se. For example, in countries where Protestantism is predominant, capitalist ideas reign. However in France there has been a strict separation between church and state since 1906. This lack of religion and total secularism leads them to a less capitalist point of view. Still, public holidays generally revolve around Christian Holidays. Overall in the EU, there is an anti-Muslim sentiment. Muslims are considered the European enemy, which is why Turkey still has yet to become a member of the EU.

Religion is considered one of the most diversifying factors among the countries in the EU. In fact, it is probably the most obvious and significant cultural issue that still holds EU countries apart. Language is also heavily influential in reducing diversity—most Europeans have a strong cultural identity that roots in their language. The Pan-European identity comes next.

Mobility and technology have brought the countries of the EU together since they have the necessary proximity. However, each of these countries still hold tightly onto their own culture. The resonating conclusion of the lecture offered a wavering statement: by bringing these countries together into the European Union, the identity of European countries is at stake.

This is an interesting sentiment to which some Americans may find difficult to relate. As a Texan however, I surely feel more tightly connected with my state than my country. By no means am I anti-American. Still, as I have met people from EMLYON or around Lyon and they ask me where I hail from, I always say Texas. It doesn’t even cross my mind to say “America” first. It is even more interesting that all of the people that I’ve talked to immediately recognize Texas and do not even question where it is. Texas has such a rich history, despite its youth relative to Europe. My culture as a Texan is something I hold very close to my heart; it is a part of me and is one the biggest factors in who I have become. I believe whole-heartedly that this is similar to how European countries feel in regards to their membership in the EU. The French will identify as French first and then as Europeans; just so, true Texans will always identify as Texans and then as Americans.

  
Visit to Aldes Groupe

In the afternoon, my group went to visit the Aldes Groupe manufacturing site. The company is in the market for products such as fire dampers, ductwork, motors, exhaust grilles, heat pumps, central vacuums, and casing fan units. They work especially in the indoor air quality market and have invented “Temperation,” which makes a room temperate without using air conditioning. The system involves ventilation, heating, cooling, and now hot water supply.

Throughout the factory, the lean system was obvious. We even came across a rack made for Kanban cards! The flow seemed to be seamless, however the inventory of parts and materials seemed rather large. The kinds of products made at the factory do not have a high inventory turnover, but the factory still works just-in-time.

Perhaps the coolest part of the line was the machine that the company invested in 2 years ago. The machine bends and curve large steel sheets in order to make the casings for the systems that they manufacture. It was so quick and seamless in its working; compared to the worker bending steel manually it was probably 4 times as fast. When asked about the workers’ reactions to the machine’s implementation, the plant manager expressed that while some workers were hesitant to accept it, many welcomed it and the challenge it imposed initially and the responsibility it offered.

Personally, my favorite part of the visit was watching how the manager interacted with his staff. He was infinitely friendly and when crossing paths with any of them he unfailingly said “Bonjour!” to each employee. If close enough, he even shook their hand. Anyone who questioned the friendliness of the French was mistaken; this was only one example of the generally friendly demeanor of the French people I have encountered on my visit.

Lundi



Monday, May 20, 2013

I thought I would be alright combating my jet lag and getting myself up in time for a 10 am tour on Monday. However, I was so backwards on time that I mistakenly set my alarm for 8 PM rather than 8 AM. When I woke at 10:35 AM to find my group already on the tour of Old Lyon on a route I couldn't hope to follow, I started to panic. Sure that I’d be in trouble, I frantically started to get ready. After a few minutes of overreacting, I decided to look into tours of Old Lyon that I could perhaps take on my own, since sitting around the hotel waiting for my chaperons would be pointless.

I found an audio-guided tour through the city online, so I headed to the Office of Tourism to get the mp3 player and map. The tour included Old Lyon and even other parts of the city, but unfortunately I would only have time for Old Lyon.

Catedral Saint Jean Baptiste de Lyon

I have little to no knowledge of how to speak French, so the map I had in hand was a challenge. Still, I found my way across the bridge and to the Cathédrale Saint Jean Baptiste de Lyon. This is what I came to France for—monumental Cathedrals with relics and detailing that take your breath away and humble you to your knees. Unfortunately it was closed, however I plan to visit if I have time on Thursday to see the inside.

The streets of Old Lyon

I made my way through the city, walking along the cobblestones passing historic doors and the former mansions of rich families. At least three times, I took a wrong turn. But each time I came across a more stunning view or something I wouldn't have seen otherwise. The whole time I was overwhelmed with the aged buildings, their height and how they towered over narrow cobblestone streets that seemed abandoned by cars until a small Renault came buzzing by towards the plaza.

The first half of the day was luckily changed from catastrophic to fantastic. I found a McDonald’s for a quick lunch (plus I just wanted to try real French French fries!). At last I was reunited with my classmates and we boarded a bus to the Beaujolais.

In my ignorance of European wines, I had originally thought that “Beaujolais” was a fancy restaurant in the city. How wrong I was. I had looked it up to know well enough that it was a wine region in central France just north of Lyon. Journeying there left me speechless. I have always wanted to visit the wine country of Italy, but I must say I was well enough floored by French wine country.

Beaujolais

The views were breathtaking, and the photographs don’t do them proper justice. We were lucky enough to arrive at a winery run by a family that has been producing in the Beaujolais for 8 generations or more, passing the proprietorship from mother to daughter. The family and the workers of the wine were beyond welcoming. At last, everyone seemed to feel more at home—welcomed and comfortable, with relaxed inhibitions and a sense of familiarity (we hadn’t had THAT much wine yet!).

We were offered aperitifs of wine from the home vineyard and pâté spread over fresh baguettes. We were shown around the working areas of the vineyard and allowed to play games. As it was a holiday, we were lucky enough to be invited to take our meal in the main room of the vineyard’s working building, complete with enormous barrels of fermenting wine and huge barn doors made of solid wood.

Most of us were confused that our appetizer was not the dinner itself, because it was so pleasing and delicious. We began with cous cous, tomatoes fresh off the vine, bread, and salad with hard boiled eggs. Shocked to hear we would be served chicken with legumes and pasta, we downed some of the table wine to try to settle our stomachs for the entrée. The chicken pasta was indeed delicious, and the meal was made even more phenomenal when the proprietor offered the winery’s 2003 red with our dessert. The gift marked the uniqueness and special-ness of the occasion, because 2003 was the year of the heat wave in which the dwindling grape crop had to be picked early to avoid shriveling to nothing. It was some of the best wine—perhaps it was because the entire event had been so extravagant, but I do know there was something special about it. We drank and clapped and chattered while devouring a myriad of aged cheeses and crème brûlée. Everyone felt gluttonous and perhaps a bit rosy-cheeked after the feast. It reminded me of a family celebration.



Barrels of Beaujolais wine!

The decade-old wine we had as a special treat!

Reflecting on the experience on the bus ride home, classmates and I expressed how welcomed and honored we felt by the owners and employees of the small business. Rather than feeling like a tour of a business, it had been as if we’d known them for years! A friend and I agreed that there is something inherently spiritual about wine to its growers and those he elects to share his or her pride with. It is a way of life and sustenance, a way of offering welcome and friendship, and a way of sharing some of the most basic feelings of humanity. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Take Off.


Fair warning: My next several posts are going to revolve around my trip to Lyon and Paris, France with my classmates from the UT Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management Cohort MBA Class of 2013. We are required to blog about our trip and especially take time to reflect not only on what we do, but also on how it compares to business and culture within the US. This is my first trip to Europe, so let's hope it's a grand adventure!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

To say the least, I am on an adventure. Today marked my first arrival in a foreign country. The whole thing has been immensely stressful thus far not least because I have no idea what I am doing, but my biggest fear was that I would miss a flight to my next stop. Of course I chose a somewhat roundabout way to get to Lyon, France, but I had to do what was cheapest!



I flew out of DFW* to Chicago-O’Haire, with only twenty minutes to spare between the seat belt light going off and the boarding calls for my flight from Chicago-O’Haire to Madrid. Sweating slightly and exhausted already, I boarded my Iberia flight. Let me tell you—it was no picnic. That’s no insult toward the Iberia crew, they were excellent. But the full flight was crowded and hot, and I didn’t sleep a wink. Halfway through it I was almost wishing I had never left the ground (that was probably mostly due to nausea).

Still, I made it to Madrid. They may have the most confusing airport I’ve ever been to (even worse than Denver, and that’s saying something). I think I walked in 4 circles and did maybe 4 laps down and back in the terminals. I speak enough Spanish, and I still felt like I was on a wild goose chase to get from customs to security to the terminal for my next flight, which I felt was poorly marked even though it was just a letter and a number. Still, I found it and boarded my first flight that required walking out of the boarding tunnel and across the flight deck to the plane itself. The plane from Madrid to Lyon was small and unmarked, but was perhaps the most comfortable of the three considering it was short and not crowded with the friendliest flight attendant. At this point, I could have been too sleepy to care.

Upon arriving in Lyon, my first objective was to get my bag and some Euros. I have to applaud American Airlines and Iberia here—I was really shocked they got my bags from Dallas to Lyon with no errors, what with the short transfer times and flight delays. Having heard such negative things about AA and its operations, I was expecting that surely their operations would lose my baggage. I was pleasantly surprised that it was conveyer-ing toward me when I reached Lyon.

Getting Euros was more simple than I had imagined, then I grabbed a taxi and showed him the address to our hotel. Here I learned my first lesson in European tipping. According to my peers, I may have been overcharged for the taxi I took. Gratuity had probably already been added but I tipped a more than fair amount anyway and got at least 5 “Thank you!”’s from my driver. Oh well, as long as I was at my final destination I didn’t care.

Lunch in Lyon. Our first glass of wine in France--at an Italian Pizza Place. The irony!

Thankfully, most of all my peers had all just arrived as well. We met some of the EMYLYON students for a happy hour and some much needed wine, then spent the remainder of the evening in an English pub. Exhausted, I went to bed around 11pm France time. I found Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on TV, figured out how to play it in English, and put on my comfy sweater before curling up. Finally, I was able to relax, even if just for a little while….

One of my first photos of Lyon's architecture and statues. 

Happy Hour with classmates

Relaxing after our long trips in!


*I feel that DFW needs to adopt moving walkways. IAH and Madrid both have them, as well as many other airports. They’re very useful and at the very least offer the illusion that I’m moving faster…. Perhaps I’m just whining.