At Harvard: Part 5

Since my last entry, it’s been busy!  If you recall, we had voted for the winning strategies and 20 classmates had risen to the top.  These winning strategies were critiqued during 3-hour sessions by assigned groups, then the next day each winner presented their strategy in class before their classmates, and was followed by the prepared critique of their strategy.  Each presenter had 5 minutes, carefully monitored and enforced by a forceful German-Venezuelan classmate who enjoyed his role as time-keeper tremendously.

We each voted for what we considered the strongest presentation and critique.  It was difficult!  There were many impressive contenders, including a Chinese pharmaceutical company (led by a woman!) that is now listed on the NYSE and plans on being one of China’s top 5 in a few years; an ambitious New Zealander who is jumping into the cement business; a brand new Free Trade, organic coffee producer from New England; and a high tech business whose presentation was seriously sophisticated (and a little beyond me, to be honest).  In the end, after struggling to decide between cement and coffee, I decided in favor of coffee, as the presenter’s passion came through loud and clear.

As far as cases in the past few days, we have looked at Shouldice Hospital in Canada, a hernia specialist clinic established after WW2 by a doctor who discovered early on that recovery is accelerated when the patient becomes active shortly after surgery.  His hernia repair technique proved highly successful, and he managed to create a very unique hospital where patients would come from all over the US and Canada.  He managed to infuse such a sense of well-being in the post-op recovery period that patients would reconvene for “hernia” reunions on an annual basis!  The business is still going today.

In Negotiation class, we enjoyed a 6-party exercise, where the class was divided into groups of 6 where there was a seller, the seller’s management team and four buyers.  I was one of the buyers.  We each had our own confidential role which we read through and prepared for 20 minutes. Then we spent an hour negotiating among ourselves and the seller.  The end results for the entire class were fascinating and all over the map.  The sellers were able to obtain prices between $275 million and $745 million for their company!  Now that’s quite a range.  Those that figured out that by having the buyers cooperate, there would be more value to bring to the table, ended up with the higher prices.  Alas, my group was not one of these creative ones.  We decided that, in the real world, the seller would dictate what would happen and would likely not allow the buyers to talk. Many lessons to be learned!

Kate Simpson

President,
Academic Travel Abroad

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