I am writing from the plane that is taking me to my internship in Brussels. My IBD team and I actually landed last night from South Africa, and I am on the plane again today! Sorry that we could not update you before about what was going on in our project, but it was a very busy and demanding project and you will see why now.
So we were one of the lucky teams that had the chance to travel to more than one country. Actually our in-country experience started way before the official 3 weeks in-country period. Our client EPI-USE, a technology solutions provider mainly focused in SAP Human Capital Management products and implementations, is based in South Africa and has 3 other major Territories (as they call them) where they operate: Australia, United Kingdom and the U.S.
Before I start to go more in details about what we did in each country it is important to mention that our main contact from EPI-USE was Quintin Smith, HAAS alumnus 2008. He, along with the CEO of the company and the Managing Director of the U.S. office came to visit us the 1st week of IBD to discuss with us. You could tell right away that Quintin had the Haas defining principles well marked, and that he was going to be more than a client to us.
Here is a picture of our first dinner down at the Shattuck Hotel bar (Berkeley).
EPI-USE hired two Haas teams. The $1bn Plan Team, in charge of evaluating new revenue stream ideas under a strategic and financial point of view, and the Branding Team (our team) in charge of evaluating how aligned these ideas were with their current brand and how to position them in the market.
So our first step was to determine EPI-USE’s current brand value so that we could later evaluate if those new revenue stream ideas were aligned with its brand. To get a better sense of EPI-USE’s current brand value we decided it was important to visit the four major territories and verify if the client’s perception of the brand was the same in all these locations.
Therefore we started in the U.S. where we conducted many interviews with EPI-USE’s clients, partners and employees. We did some by phone, but the majority of them we did in person at the client’s offices.
We then needed to cover Australia, U.K. and South Africa during the official in-country official period, and for budget and logistical reasons we decided that the best approach was to split the team in two. For the 1st week, two members had to go to U.K. and the two others to Australia, then meet in South Africa for the last two weeks.
Emilie and I (Miguel) were to head to the U.K. office; however, Emilie was not able to join since the U.K. embassy took too long to process her visa. My time in London was great. I arrived early Saturday and walked around London city (I love that city).
On Monday, I went to the EPI-USE office and met with some its employees. During the week I spent a lot of time traveling by train and car around the U.K. in order to meet and interview a number of EPI-USE’s clients and employees. At the same time, Jenny and Aaron flew to Sydney, Australia where they also worked hard and had lots of fun. They had the chance to visit the city on Sunday and spent the rest of the week interviewing EPI-USE’s partners and employees.
Almost every day we had Skype sessions to know what was the other part of the team doing and to share important insights we were discovering in the different territories. It was challenging since we were in very different time zones: San Francisco (Emilie), London (Miguel) and Sydney (Jenny and Aaron).
At the end of the first week, Jenny, Aaron, and I flew to South Africa to meet in Pretoria where EPI-USE headquarters are located. Emilie finally received her passport back from the U.K. embassy and was able to join us on Thursday that week. During the second week we continued the interviews and launched an online survey to get quantitative data to verify if our hypothesis were correct and to collect additional information. One night, we met with 3 other Haas IBD teams in Johannesburg (a total of 5 Haas teams were in South Africa). We had a blast sharing each other stories and experiences.
During the day we worked very hard. We were having lunch at the office (a delicious honey mustard chicken sandwich that we bought every morning in front of our hotel before heading to the office), and at night we were having dinner at one of the 8 restaurants that were just in front of our hotel. After dinner we continued working in one of the hotel’s conference rooms.
On Thursday, Quintin arrived from the U.S. (he was busy with a project in Boston), and on Friday night we had an amazing dinner with his family at their beautiful house. We had our first delicious Braai, which is the South African Barbeque. On Saturday at 4:30am Quintin, his dad, his brother and even an EPI-USE client came to pick us up at the hotel in a big van. We did not know where we were headed as Quintin kept the itinerary as a surprise! And what a surprise!! He took us to Sun City, an amazing place in the middle of nowhere that they call “the Las Vegas of South Africa”. It is a resort with different amazing hotels and safari attractions. At 7am we ended up sitting on the top of huge African elephants doing a safari and seen many other animals and the amazing scenery. It was so peaceful, relaxing and beautiful.
Later we had breakfast at the Palace hotel. Probably the best and most amazing breakfast we ever had. We ate oysters, sushi, tropical fruits, champagne, everything you can imagine was available and at the highest quality. We almost couldn’t move anymore so much we ate. Later we drove for about 4 hours and headed to a farm of a friend of Quintin’s Dad. The farm, again located in the middle of nowhere had an incredible luxurious camp where we stayed overnight. We had an very nice dinner and stayed till late around a bonfire. Early morning we went for an unforgettable game drive where we saw so many different animals including: rhinos, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, cape buffalo, ostriches, impalas, etc. etc.
Our last week was very intense. We had to present several times and specially the last Friday for our Final presentation. So during the week we had to finalize everything. We had so much information to process, and deliverables that we probably slept for about 12 hours in total the last week. One night, it was 11pm and we were working at the conference room of the hotel when suddenly Quintin showed up with his laptop in one hand and a bag of Monster energy drinks & different candies in the other hand. He said: “I am here to work with you guys tonight.” He knew we were staying late to work and decided to bring us company and help us out whenever needed. He stayed till 4am with us!!!! You cannot imagine how grateful and lucky we were to have such an amazing person as client. Quintin if you read this, you rock!
On Wednesday, Quintin took us for a short lunch break to Farm Inn, a farm located few minutes away from the office that has tigers, lions, cheetahs, and other big predators. It was a great break to get refreshed before we continued working.
On Friday (the last day) we did an all-nighter. We worked, packed, and took a quick shower before our 1st final presentation at 7am for the Australian Office. Later at 3pm, we did a second round and presented to the UK, U.S. and South Africa territory leaders. As soon as we ended the presentation, we wrapped up quickly and headed to the hotel to pick up our luggage because the taxi was waiting for us to go to the airport. While at the hotel we had a short but memorable celebration with Quintin for our successful project. After some drinks we headed to Johannesburg airport where we met with the other Haas teams to head back to San Francisco.
In summary the IBD experience was a great experience. It allowed us to get to know each other better. It pushed us to our limits and sometimes beyond. We learned a bunch and also had fun. It was a LOT of work but we now fill satisfied and happy for what we accomplished and experienced.
The Branding Team (Aaron, Jenny, Emilie and Miguel)