From Russia with love
The International Study Visit (ISV) to Moscow as part of my Henley Executive MBA studies was a very exciting opportunity for me. I see Russia as a fascinating growth area, different from anything else we know. And I wanted to gain insight on the key criteria needed for a Russian company to become successful.
And indeed, it was an eye-opening experience. I was exposed to different learning methods, real-life business challenges and got to know different cultures both from our host country and my international study colleagues. In all, it provided me with a very rich learning encounter with a deeper appreciation of the Russian way of doing business.
I’ve always been intrigued about learning how to differentiate, run a successful local business and provide unique value to customers in a given market.
The whole ISV team arrived in Moscow on Saturday evening and met in person for the first time on Sunday during a team-building event. The day included learning fun facts in the city centre and reviewing expectations for the week ahead.
Each Russian company had already provided their team with a problem statement and background information. Our team had met in advance via videoconferencing to review this information, talk about our teamwork and discuss various approaches to the problem. Our local client company provided us with a good information about their situation, so we felt we could consult them in a professional manner to solve their challenge.
The diversity of the programme was exceptional. Our whole ISV group got the opportunity to visit all the other Russian companies participating in the programme. These companies represented various industries, ranging from gold mining to energy, banking and financial services and manufacturing.
We also had special host lecturers, such as an American living 20+ years in Russia who opened up the economics and future of the country for us. Breakfast one morning at the British Embassy in Moscow was a special touch. And an exquisite river cruise on our free night was a memorable mix of relaxation and the chance get to know our fellow colleagues in a casual environment.
Evenings were reserved for group work. We needed to prepare a solid presentation to answer our company’s problem statement and give recommendations. Although it was intense during the day, the pressure was even greater in the evenings when we worked in smaller groups to deliver the highest possible result to our client. In general, the presentations on the final day were all of very high quality, and the Russian companies seemed quite amazed and excited to implement our proposals.
Highlights of this visit for me included meeting the different local companies and working as their expert consultant team. Each local company had prepared very thoroughly, going the extra mile. Everyone was enthusiastic to participate in the programme, and their hospitality was truly memorable. Another highlight was working in a multinational team in our consulting roles. This diversity is something truly special.
An important learning I took away was how vital relationships and trust are within the Russian business culture. If you don’t have that, you simply can’t do business in Russia. The people are warm hearted, similar to the Finns – and aim to be friends for life. For me, it brought the entire saying “From Russia with Love” to life by experiencing first-hand the deep bonds that were created during the short time we were working together.
Would I do it again? I would highly recommend it to everyone!
If you want to get the most from the experience, I strongly recommend each participant to be willing to be exposed to new things. This actually goes with the entire Henley study journey. The more you open your minds and hearts – and give others an opportunity – the richer is your learning and higher the return.