May 13th, MBA China Study Tour 2013

After a great weekend at Shanghai, we woke up early in the morning to have our breakfast and leave to the city of Hangzhou for our last company visit. We took the high speed train at 8 am. It was a great surprise for us to see how the train station in Shanghai is highly developed, it felt like an airport!!!!

The train took one hour to get to Hangzhou after making several stops; during that time we had the chance to do the course evaluation. We learned that most of the businesses in Hangzhou are owned by Chinese, in contrast with Shanghai and Beijing where most of the foreign investment is located.

The company we visited is SUPCON, China Study Tour 2013 162which is specialized in automation systems and serves different sectors. SUPCON is a leading company in the Chinese market and its main competitors are companies like Siemens and Honeywell that we visited earlier in the trip. We were received by three international interns from Belgium and their Chinese mentor. They walked us through the company showroom and introduced to us the products and services they provide, and also shared their own experiences in China.

After two hours in SUPCON we had a traditional local fish for lunch in which we said good bye to professor Edy. Afterwards we went for a nice walk and site seeing at the West LakeChina Study Tour 2013 163, which is considered one of the main attractions in China. It was an amazing place to visit and take pictures because of the beautiful green gardens, mixed with traditional Chinese houses and the modern city in the background.China Study Tour 2013 167 John, our tour guide, told us that it was the first hot day in Hangzhou and we were lucky because it was raining the day before. Though, for some of us it was really `Caliente` (Spanish: hot) because we were still in our suits (some of us incorporated `Caliente` in our vocabulary the day before).

At the train station before returning to China Study Tour 2013 170Shanghai, we all bid farewell to Fangwei who went home to visit his family. As an appreciation for his help during the trip, the group presented him with Canadian ice wine.

Upon arrival to Shanghai we had our last suit fitting, and then each of us had their own way to say goodbye to China as we are all going back home tomorrow.

This blog was submitted to me for posting by Inna Li, Maria Cordoba and Wisam Haddadin

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May 12th, MBA China Study Tour 2013

“Today we were treated to a trip out to Venice… Venice of the Orient that is! China Study Tour 2013 153The Zhou Zhuang water village is located outside of Shanghai and the trip out there treated us to a view of the rural lifestyle including rice paddies and fresh water pearl farms. The water village itself is a 900 year old man-made wonder of engineering. It was developed to support the local merchants in shipping their wares to other villages along the lake and the Grand Canal. Not only is this a beautiful site to experience, but the shopping here was cheaper as well… We are continuously surprised by the lack of crowds in most of our tours, and other than a few areas of the village that were a bit busier than we have become accustomed to, things were still relatively calm versus what we expected.

One of the options available for the free time in the village was a gondola ride through the canals… 6 of the guys in the group (who shall remain nameless) decided to partake in this and for 100 Yuen, they were treated to an elderly lady paddling them through the canals while they sat back and enjoyed the sites… chivalry at its finest! To top this off they paid an additional 50 Yuen to have her serenade them along the way… just to make things more romantic!

Following our tour and shopping, we stopped at a local hotel for a treat of Pork Hocks for lunch… these were quite similar to pulled bbq pork that we are familiar with at home.

This tour reinforced the extremes in the wealth of the city versus the poverty of the rural. As China continues to develop, there is still struggles that are apparent in the smaller centres.

As we headed back in to Shanghai, we had the afternoon to ourselves to explore… most opted to head to Nanjing Road to enjoy the energy and sites in the area. A large group saw this as an opportunity to enjoy some Szechuan food… the report back was that it was exceptional… starting out with one pepper in the beef dish and ending up with a soup that was 3 peppers hot! Most were still sweating well in to the evening!

This evening our suits were brought in for their fittings, and most were perfect… others only required minor adjustments. This was the ideal opportunity for Sam the tailor to upsell us all, and many of us increased our orders to be delivered the next day (it takes his crew 4 hours to make a suit and 1 hour per shirt… they worked well in to the night to accomplish this and did not disappoint)

After suit fittings, we headed back in to the Nanjing areaChina Study Tour 2013 156 for a little more wandering (the night time there is reminiscent of the lights in Vegas). We took advantage of the local Pizza Hut to take in dinner, and were quite surprised by not only the ambiance – these are quite nice places to dine – but also by an extensive menu that included everything from pizza to steaks, seafood, etc… more like what we would expect from Joey`s or Earl`s at home!

This was also an opportunity for a few of us to get some last minute shopping done. There were numerous elastic powered helicopters purchased (despite the best efforts of the police to chase away the street vendors) and the evening was topped off with the purchase of a few more handbags from a dark back alley (literally – we all had concerns about entering the alley and set up a quick last minute plan to ensure that at least one of the 6 of us made it out alive to report any foul play… the last thing that was said as we walked in to the alley was “It`s all part of the experience…“) Thankfully this ended up being something that we could all joke about afterwards as we all made it out relatively unscathed (with the exception of our wallets which were lightened a little by the shopping)”

This blog post was submitted to me by Jeff Simpson and Tricia Waddell.

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May 8th, MBA China Study Tour 2013

“After a night spent packing, worrying about overweight luggage and cursing ourselves for letting go of ourselves in the silk market, we bid adieu to Beijing and Lisa with the words “Everybody follow the Lisa” still imprinted in our minds. We are leaving Beijing with a smile on our lips for the good times we had had and the better times that await us, little do we realize that there is another suit shopping fiasco lurking in the near future.

The ice is finally breaking and the boundaries are finally thinning between one another and as I wait for our flight, the overweight luggage finally checked in without a hiccup (Yay….), I realize that how much this study trip has helped us discover ourselves and others around us.

The flight turns out to be pretty uneventful with everybody trying to catch up on sleep and we reached Xi’an in relative silence. We are greeted with cool breeze and a warm welcome from Melanie at Xi’an, and we set out for the Terracotta warrior’s siteChina Study Tour 2013 068 immediately upon arrival. The visit turns out to be one of the most incredible experiences I have had which has become quite a norm on this study trip. The concept of designing one’s own tomb with an entire terracotta army to protect it in the afterlife bedazzled me and people think I’m the biggest narcissist!!!

The warrior’s site visit however was still not the best moment of the day with everybody’s eyes popping out at the sight of the hotel we were supposed to stay in. But Edy had saved the best for last with dinner at the Brazil Steakhouse, a perfect ending to a travel ridden day comprising mostly of fast food. Everybody thanked Edy and Jayne with a round of applause for the amazing trip so far and one of the best meals we had had.China Study Tour 2013 091

The final thoughts in my head before sleeping were “China, you will be missed”

I came up with the following phrase and only realized how true it was during this trip: “Which ever place you visit, you take a part of it along with you and leave a part of yourself over there”. This trip will definitely stay with us for our lives.

Zài jiàn!!!”

This blog post was submitted to me by Shivang Khanna, Heena Sengar and Sanu Sasindranath

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May 8th–Visiting Merck Group


May 8th, 2013 an exposure of Liquid Crystals at Merck- a global pharmaceutical and chemical family enterprise

On the second day of our stay in Koblenz, we spent the whole day at Merck Group, a global and also the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical enterprise.

We had a remarkable lecture in the morning, the company was founded in 1668, and now it is in its 13th generation of succession, while family owns an interest of about 70% via the general partner. In terms of family business succession, it is common for family businesses to survive less than three generations; however, Merck has proved that the business can be successful in a family way. In addition, we were also given how they found one of Merck’s major successful products, which is liquid crystals. Since 1904 Merck has had liquid crystals in its sales program in order to support science than anything else.

We had the production and facilities tour after, which included the chemical and pharmaceutical production as well as the pharmaceutical development labs. They showed us what production equipment they use in the labs and the processes of monitoring the pills.

We also visited their Warehousing & logistics and most interesting part was the history presentation at Merck museum. In the museum exhibits, there are sets of utensils for making up prescriptions, a comprehensive collection of pharmaceutical and chemical packaging materials, and cases of medical samples as well as pharmacy vessel.

The presentation was followed after the visiting of the museum, which was a fascinating discussion about family business which that gave us a better understanding of family business and how to keep the succession of the business.

As a family business, one of the most important things would be the succession of the business. Merck has been working very hard to keep the company stay within the family business. First, a strong brand name is one of the precious assets for the company. Merck is a high quality brand name around the world since the company was founded by Friedrich Jacob Merck in 1668. The company began with as a small pharmacy run by the Merck family and they produce medicines and chemical products as their major business later on. Their products have very high quality, credibility, innovative and customer loyalty as well, which is one of the reasons that the company can maintain its success within the family business. Secondly, Merck distinguishes itself from its competitors by building their own culture and maintain true to itself. The company’s culture fosters long-term oriented and an entrepreneurial spirit.

On May 10th, we had a lecture about strategic renewal in the family business during succession. Family business needs to deal with not only the external competition but also the internal challenges, specifically the relationship between family members. The close bonds between family members can be one of the biggest competitive advantages for company’s succession. The Walter Rau Group is one of the cases that we learned.  The company is a family owned and family led food producing company in Germany, however, the challenge of the transition they faced was big and family members are in disagreement about how and who to inherit the company. I still remember how one of the family members defines success. He thinks that success is family members are still talking to each other, that is, strong family involvement and a better relationship are necessary to a family business. A better relationship between the family members makes the transition easier and the companies with close family bonds have more opportunities to outperform than the one that does not have the bonds. That is why Merck is still within its family generations.

As well, communication is one of the key factors of running family business successfully. Family members must encounter a lot of new challenges during the growth of the family business, so they need to talk through and tack the challenges as well as solve the arguments together in order to operate the business successfully and maintain the succession.

What’s more, the business must clearly know the company not only pursue production and sales objectives, but also meet the social responsibility to maintain the long-term development of the business. No matter how the environment changes, the company should remain the company’s social responsibility. For example, the 250th anniversary of Merck is overshadowed by World War I, the company still held the same rights to the rest of the subsidiaries as we have learned during our tour.

Through the entire tour in Europe, we have visited few family businesses and also had presentations and lectures about family business. A big portion of enterprises in Europe are family businesses, which means the succession of these firms is very crucial to the European economy. Therefore, the transfer should be a big concern of family business in Europe. I believe that the key of the business succession should be family first and business second even though people may have different opinions at this point. The business is not only about the business itself, most part is about the people within the business, therefore, the succession or failure of the business cannot decide by the owner solely. The major components of succession of the business mainly focus on managing the family member relationship and family dynamics instead.

One the one hand, family business, such as Merck can successfully manage their succession plans and keep the family and business harmony while they are transferring the business so that they can maintain the business succession.  On the other hand, some businesses cannot reach the same because they fail to deal with the relationship between family members and hard to balance the harmony within the company. Hence they may end up with selling the company or only survive less than three generation like most of the family businesses.

In short, business succession is the biggest problem that many family businesses are facing and successfully transfer is crucial for every family business.  However, it is not easy to keep the long-term success in practice. If they want to do so, they have to learn how to better deal with the relationship among the family members as well as confront the arguments in order to maintain the succession of the businesses.

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Day 2 in Strasbourg

Strasbourg: rode a bike for the first in 3647563635 years, climbed a tree, sort of,  climbed 330 steps.  Ate a frog (tastes like chicken) and escargot for the first time.

That’s just a short summary of day two in Strasbourg on a bike.

The day started early at 8:30 so we could rent bikes and tour the city.  15 minutes to the rental kiosk at Place de la Garde, and half an hour battle with the automated machine left four discouraged would be bikers.  Thankfully, the woman of the group (me) followed the signs and found a rental store not five minutes away.  Bikes were acquired,  landmarks on the map noted and we were off!


First stop was the European parliament, feet were wet to take pictures on the fresh, dewy grass.

Next off to Park de l’Orangie where we admired history immortalized in the form of commemorative statues, climbed a tree (ok, I was boosted up into it, others were much more adept on their own) conquered a waterfall and more.  



We took a break with the best gelato around (I naturally out ate the boys) and stalked swans and storks alike.  The store owner was a sweet lady who came out often to feed what I call the stork. Its probably a heron of some sorts.



Hungry, we headed off along the river towards the Notre Dame cathedral along the river, snapping a picture of the batorama we would later be taking with the European Parliament building as the backdrop, something we would later see both on the batorama tour as well as in person the next day.


Lunch was an assortment of deserts (sponge toffee cake, strawberry shortcake, etc) as well as crepes.    French crepes.  They were awesome.

At the cathedral,  we climbed 330 steps to the top, which honestly sucked.  But that’s ok because the view from the top was unreal!



This was followed by meeting up with the class for the batorama tour which led us up and down the river, introducing awesome buildings in old town, as well as the European Parliament building from before.


After this was another famous gelato place and a cookie store recommended by professor Peter Jaskiewicz.  Much sugar was purchased (not scheduled to make it back to Canada)


Dinner was at the Au pont Saint Martin 15- rue de Martin where we had famous dishes from the region: tarte flambee (not to be mistaken with pizza), escargot, and monsieur Froggie.  (I felt horrible about eating him.  But seriously, tastes like chicken)



If you’re ever In the area you should absolutely visit the town, or maybe just take the whole European Family Business tour of 2014.  It was an unforgettable experience planned by Peter Jaskiewicz filled with new friends, new experiences and amazing things learned!


Text by Michelle Chin

Pictures Supplied by Zubair Akthar

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May 14 – Sao Paulo

Today we visited Comgas, Sao Paulo’s major natural gas distributor.  We learned about how they are supplied NGV from Petrobras, and then have “concessions” by the government for areas where they can distribute gas.  Their growth strategy is to move residents away from electricity for showers to natural gas.  With a current customer base of 1.2 million out of a potential market of 20 million, they have lots of room to grow.  There is a culture shift required to move people away from electricity to gas, and that is their big challenge.

We then visited the newly appointed Consul General of Canada to Sao Paulo, Stephane Larue and Trade Commissioner Benoit Prefontaine to hear about the efforts Canada is making to create more bi-lateral opportunities between the two countries.  It was a most interesting presentation, and we learned about both the hurdles of doing business in Brazil, but also the rewards for the efforts.




A map of Sao Paulo in 2005 – Yes, it’s that big!   

ImageConsul-General Stephane Larue and Trade Commissioner Benoit Prefontaine with the students


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May 13 – Sao PAulo

Today was travel day from Rio to Sao Paulo. we were all amazed flying into Sao Paulo just how big it is. We arrived and visited FAAP, a major university in Sao Paulo for a lecture with Professor Tharcisio, Dean of the MBA program.  We did a Q&A on Brazil and its challenges and opportunities.



We had a free evening and many of us took in Game 7 of the Leafs / Boston series at an Irish Pub in the heart of Sao Paulo.  Despite the fact the Leafs lost in OT, it was a memorable experience.

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