Richard Jucks (left) and Aaron Dube visit Iguazu Falls, the world's widest, during a class trip to Argentina.
After venturing to Argentina over spring break for a class trip, first-year MBA student Richard Jucks now has a much better idea of what it takes for a U.S. company to set up shop in another country.
"It really opened my eyes to how difficult it can be to expand internationally," says Jucks, who took the trip with his International Operations Practicum class.
The twelve students in the class divided into three teams, conducting market analyses for Georgia companies interested in doing business in Argentina. "They used us as their eyes and ears and foot soldiers down there," Jucks says. "We analyzed what they need to consider in terms of risk and how successful they would be if they started operations there."
Jucks chose to consult for ECR Biodiesel Atlanta because of his interest in sustainable business practices. The company is at the forefront of eco-business, employing technology developed at Georgia Tech that can turn soybeans, animal fat, and food waste into biodiesel fuel. ECR is considering expanding to Argentina because the country is a major producer of soybeans and beef. Argentina seems like good fit for the company, says Jucks, whose team prepared a report on its findings, but ECR could face a lot of competition there.
The two other class teams consulted for Carrier Web, a manufacturer of sophisticated radio frequency identification (RFID) devices that is already doing business in Brazil; and Fry Reglet, which wants to sell more of its aluminum products in South America. Practicum teacher Mark Ferguson, an assistant professor of operations management, received help recruiting companies for the course's semester-long consulting project from the Georgia Tech Center for International Business Education and Research (GT CIBER), a co-sponsor of the trip.
Ferguson, who first taught the practicum last year on doing business in Singapore, says the course is intended to give students both industry and international experience. "It exposes them to different cultures and what's it's like to do business in different geographic areas," says Ferguson, who is planning to visit Ireland for next year's trip.
He chose Argentina this year not only because it's an important market, but also because most students wouldn't have traveled there before. "It's generally a good surrogate for doing business in South America," Ferguson says.
The class afforded Jucks, an Atlanta native, the opportunity to leave the United States for the first time. "It made me much more well-rounded, exposing me to a lot of culture," he says.
As part of their research, students visited the U.S Embassy in Argentina to discuss doing business in the country. They also had the opportunity to learn about the Argentinian wine industry at a wine tasting, visit the world's largest confectionary company (Arcor), attend a soccer game, watch a tango show, see Iguazu Falls, and go to a gaucho (cowboy) ranch.
They also learned more about the economic challenges facing Argentina during a visit to Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires. "Argentina basically just went through a great depression and still hasn't fully recovered," Ferguson explains. "It's top on the minds of everyone you talk to there."