Written by Jennifer Navarro, Jennifer, a second-year student in Wharton’s executive MBA program in Philadelphia, is director of government relations for a Virginia-based aerospace and defense company.
For our international seminar trip, we had several choices: Argentina, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. While all of them sounded interesting, my class ultimately selected Argentina. Many of my classmates spend time in China, Singapore and India for work so Buenos Aires was the one unfamiliar location, which really resonated with us.
Our week-long trip, which followed the core courses Competitive Strategy and Global Strategic Management, took place in September. During that time, we visited a wide variety of businesses ranging from financial services companies to food manufacturers to pharmaceutical firms to local startups. The visits usually involved a tour, presentation and Q&A session.
The Q&As were really interesting because they gave us a chance to understand how these companies are handling the challenges caused by Argentina’s troubled economy. In addition to 10-25% yearly inflation (the number depends on who you ask), Argentina is locked out of international capital markets, and companies face extremely stringent currency and import laws. Our discussions often centered around financing because it’s very hard to get bank loans, which carry interest rates of up to 30%. It was amazing to see how well these companies are doing in light of those restrictions.
My favorite visit, which I helped set up, was to the first CrossFit gym in Argentina. Since it launched, the business’ four owners have expanded and now own four CrossFit gyms in Buenos Aires. They started the business when nobody in Argentina had heard of CrossFit so they really had to advertise and educate customers. They also faced difficulty with loans so they ended up getting startup capital from a private investor. Now, the gyms are self-funded with their own revenue streams. In addition to learning about the business, our visit also included a sample introductory workout, which was a lot of fun.
Originally Published October 21, 2013 by Wharton’s MBA for Executives Blog.