Peter Boumgarden contributed this post to the Olin Blog. He is the Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise and director of the Koch Family Center for Family Enterprise.
Given COVID’s impact on the global economy and our ability to travel, it has been nearly three years since we were able to take Olin’s MBA class to Spain as a part of their award-winning global immersion. And so, it was with great anticipation on March 26th that we hopped on a plane and headed to Barcelona with the class of 2022.
My colleague Sam Chun, professor of management practice, and I were able to lead the first of three courses in Europe. Our class, “Foundations of General Management,” integrates insights from strategy, organization and financial management to provide a practical way to think about developing and implementing a strategic vision.
Different dynamics in play
Throughout the coursework, one of the things that Sam and I ended up exploring was the different dynamics in play based on who owns a company. The five cases we used (Kodak, Chateau Margaux, Pandora, Aravind, Southwest) provided unique ways to think about how different forms of ownership (public versus private, VC- or PE-backed versus family held) lead to distinct goals and different competitive pressures. Fresh off the “Ownership Insights” course with Spencer Burke, an adjunct lecturer at Olin, it was fun to continue to explore the role of ownership in shaping the dynamics within an organization, a framing too often left behind the scenes.
Students’ task: Set up a wine distribution business
For the core project of the course, we tasked the student teams with setting up a wine distribution business. The group then visited three family-owned Spanish vineyards to understand better what a vineyard might look for in the distributor relationship. In addition to walking us through the strategic choices of product distribution, owners and key employees at Pere Ventura Family Wine Estates, Gramona, and Familia Torres offered unique perspectives on how their organizations sought to balance innovation and continuity over time. This theme resonated with this year’s Data+Design series on balancing continuity and change. Many thanks to St. Louis’ own JiaMin Dierberg for sharing insights with our students on how a winery like theirs thinks about the strategy of distributor relationships.
Specific to best practices around family ownership, it was wonderful to hear of the Familia Torres group and their involvement in the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) group. PFV is an “international association of some of the world’s finest wine-producing families from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.” This network of families has worked to generate, test and share several creative practices in sustainability and product quality across these some of the world’s leading wine-making families. It was a wonderful learning experience and one that I think continued to give our students insight into ownership and competitive strategy.
Top photo: Olin’s MBA class of 2022 in Spain in March 2022.