My article on SABF Blog finally published, linking two amazing conventions in one brief piece of writing (with quite an unusual format, I should admit!)

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1. Family in Business. The most successful companies, and the most prone to survive crises are family owned. Treating the company as a part of your identity sparkles innovation and creativity; marvelous example is the Ferrero company where the founder Michele Ferrero designs almost all products. Moreover, when a company is hit by exogenous factors and economic hardships, the family as a whole acts as a catalyst in the survival of the firm due to the personal connection the members have established with its existence.

2. Michael Porter’s Shared Value Theory: instead of sharing the parts of the pie, grow the pie, as dynamic speaker Valerie Bockstette emphasized. Creating shared value lies in bridging the gap between company objectives, and societal needs, i.e. linking the company’s success with social progress. (Interesting summary can be found here: http://bit.ly/Zpq6wG)

3. Starbucks and Fair Trade. Where is Starbucks’ immense success attributed? I would say jazz music, comfortable chairs, raspberry syrup and the same relaxing, cosmopolitan ambience around the world. However, this is just the naïve interpretation of someone who spent her teen years in Greece considering the Starbucks concept as ‘cool’, ‘alternative,’ and ‘elitist,’ or in other words, too good to prevent you from spending 5 euros on a Frappuccino. However, the answer lies on the ‘Starbucks logo and its association with fair trade.’ Truth is that the longhaired, green mermaid alludes to ‘responsibly and ethically grown and purchased coffee.’ Surely, a very interesting idea (http://bit.ly/Zpq9IM), although as Ms. Bockstette argued, it only results in redistributing money and not creating shared value. Fair trade is thought to enhance ethical consumerism, hence reassuring the consumers of their ‘moral choices,’ while at the same time creating more accessible and fair grounds for farmers and producers to trade their products, especially in less developed countries. Too ideal to be true… (A nice, evidence-based critique here: http://bit.ly/ZpqcnU.)

4. Cost Leadership. While price leadership should not be confused with cost leadership, the one might reinforce the other. Being the low-cost provider can be achieved when the firm captures market share, and establishes its leading position by attracting cost-conscious and price-sensitive consumers. However, a firm employing a cost leadership strategy might endure a severe trade off, being associated with low customer loyalty and reputation for low quality. (For a deeper insight check ‘Porter’s Generic Strategies.’ (Brief and simple opposing view here: http://bit.ly/Zpqew5.)

5. Capitalizing on Sustainability. First thing to note; younger generation entrepreneurs and consultants implement much more open-minded and realistic approaches than their predecessors. Secondly, investment on sustainability can be fired only when the incentives to be sustainable are strong enough (e.g. Michelin does not sell tyres, but kilometers, a considerable motivation to constantly innovate.) Moreover, as the Head of Bayer’s Sustainability Branch and other entrepreneurship consultants admitted, it is true that there is no precise quantitative way, at the moment, to measure the degree of influence of pursuing sustainable projects into actual firms’ profits. However, a well phrased take home message can be that ‘in order to be sustainable, a firm should not only manage its stakeholders, but make them part of its business model.’

6. Alchemist Entrepreneurship. As Dr. Dumont reminded us, it is of utmost importance to have a catchy title at your executive session, successfully hitting the cliché that businessmen talk about mainstream topics. Ingenious talk, reference to skills development, entrepreneurship and consulting. A session that proved us that the dignity of looking in the past, and retrospectively evaluating the individual decisions taken then, has proven much more motivational to young generations, than being ‘tutored’ by the ‘constantly successful and subtly arrogant’ businessmen we meet and unquestionably admire. Interesting insight into skills development, moving from ‘consciously unskilled’ to ‘unconsciously skilled,’ that is the type of employees ideally companies need.

7. Consulting. Following from (6), and quoting Dr. Dumont ‘Consulting is paralyzing through analyzing’, in other words making people conscious of what they can do. A very intriguing insight into the art of consultancy, I must admit…

8. Quotes. As Goethe said, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’ This fascinating quotation reminded me of SABF speaker Fernando Maristany, and his alluring approach that ‘The only way to predict out future is to be able to imagine it.’ Both quotes go beyond the level of motivation and push for the instigation of the chain: imagining an idea, daring to initiate it and moving actively into creating, solidifying and seeing it flourish!

9. Why businessmen are rarely excellent political leaders? As Mr. Akram Baker illustrated in his unique, engaging, joyful and witty way, while a businessman and a political leader might share many characteristics, being successful in the former does not ensure an equivalent victory in the latter, and vice versa. Summing up: ‘A businessman/professional candidate should be able to provide employers with concise plans, while a political leader should not simply announce plans, but inspire dreams.’

10. Crisis. A quote I love as a Greek citizen: ‘Crisis in ancient Greek means judgment. Hence on a crisis, use your judgment to make personal entrepreneurial decisions.’ Thanks Dr. Dumont for reminding me that beyond admirable rhetoric, the power of language is concealing great truths…

11. Happiness in Business. I should acknowledge how entrancing it was to attend a panel on happiness at a business conference. The organization team proved that WBD is more than a typical business convention, enlarging our horizons beyond competing, job hunting and CVs’ strengthening. A very intriguing speech by the charismatic Bernd Kolb made us question the prevailing mentality that more expertise brings about more progress, pointing out that a ‘silo-thinking’ mentality can be devastating both for firms and individuals. He fired multiple dilemmas in our minds, notably by referring to materialistic objectives and self-centered goals that inhibit innovation and sustainability. Finally, he urged us to pursue our career plans, while ensuring that our inner state of psychology is harmonized with our professional attainments. It is hard to draw an objective conclusion from this panel, since I am persuaded it had a completely subjective impact on each one of us. Personally, I found striking his quote ‘A system driven by egos is not an eco-nomy but an ego-nomy,’ something that given the current financial crises looming over our everyday lives, I think is more relevant than ever…

12. SABF worldwide. It has been a pleasure to see how much SABF is appreciated around the globe. I always thought that the reason for its success was the dedication of each and every organization team. However, I realized that SABF’s success is much deeper, as it has managed to build up a very distinct reputation among students, for its very special character and its selectiveness. Hence, it has been constantly gaining more popularity worldwide. I dare to say that currently, it is categorized among the top 3 student-run conferences worldwide, along with WBD and HPAIR. I am very proud of this, and judging from how many people seek my advice on the application, I reckon this year is likely to experience an unprecedented rise in the applications received.

13. Friends. As my editor Daniel reminded me, the world is very small. Indeed, WBD, SABF, and similar conventions, bring our generation closer together. The initial motivation to apply might just be to complete another attainment for our CV, network, or acquire new professional connections. But it is only after attending, that we realize what each conference contributed to our personality. And believe me, it’s neither business cards, nor connections. It is all the inspiring and intelligent people you interact with, people to whom you first say hi treating them as another ‘participant’ out of many, and end up considering them as valuable friends. Such people I met in Buenos Aires, and then again in Cologne, who reminded me of how relative distances are, and how truly amazing it is to share my thoughts with such bright stars. SABF thank you for this…

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