First up was the multinational business services firm EY (Ernst and Young), where we heard from two partners in the M&A practice. They gave us insights into the intricacies of doing business in a complex tax environment, and how in Brazil, selling a business is a very personal process involving a great deal of relationship building.
From there it was a long bus ride to the outskirts of town for lunch at a upscale shopping mall. The mall wasn't the only reason for the long ride, across the road was the headquarters for Walmart Brazil, our next company on our trip.
Our presenter for the visit was Jason, a Cox MBA alumnus now a manager in the Brazilian office. He told us the best way to understand how they do business was to see it first hand, so he showed us through their flagship Walmart and Sam's Club stores, stopping to point out details along the way. He also let us do some shopping too...
After that, it was a long ride through peak traffic back to the hotel. São Paulo has a large Italian heritage (and very good espresso), so we went for dinner at a nearby pizzeria. After that, it was a taxi ride to a small bar in Vila Madalena where we danced the night away to a live Samba band.
The next morning, we were up early again to visit more companies. There's no rest for us here, we work hard and play hard.
Our first stop was Bunge, an agribusiness multinational. In a conference room overlooking the city, we had a lively discussion on the complexities of managing supply chains in agriculture, where harvests are at mercy of the weather, and farms are thousands of kilometres from the port. Being successful requires complex models and analysis, in concert with managing a diverse range of stakeholders.
From there we crossed town to visit OdontoPrev, a Brazilian success story. From humble beginnings as a small group of dentists in the late 1980s, to becoming a multi-billion dollar public company, OdontoPrev provide dental insurance plans to companies and individuals. What makes them successful is their unique business model, which combines eschewing debt with a sophisticated IT and analytics backbone. In fact, they perceive themselves as an IT company rather than a healthcare company.
Being able to speak with some of the top managers and executives has been a great experience, and food for thought going back to Dallas... but not quite yet. Tomorrow we fly to Santiago de Chile for the second half of our GLP tour.
One last note, we returned to find our hotel beseiged by screaming fans. The noise they made when our bus pulled up was deafening. Apparently our tour is causing quite a stir here. Though they seem to keep shouting "One Direction" a lot... not sure what that's all about.