In early summer 2017, the Full Time MBA class and first year EMBA class travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for Smurfit’s first MBA International Consulting Project.
We (Lorcan, Louis, Niall & Peter) teamed up with As We Grow, an indigenous design company specialising in the design of children’s (and, as we later found out, women’s) clothing – a sector none of us had any experience in. We were originally tasked with the rather broad scope of re-designing their business plan and growing their international online sales to ISK 100 million within 3 years. (To date, their sales streams had been heavily focused on wholesale and distribution.)
We soon realised that they had more basic and fundamental problems to address and reasoned that the main issues we could assist with were:
- optimisation of their online presence
- clarification of their differentiating factor
- selection of new markets to target
After further discussions with the company, we agreed that selecting new markets to target wasn’t a priority so we dropped this point of business from the project but agreed to prioritise the whole area of brand awareness instead.
We soon learned that what customers like about As We Grow was:
- The simplicity of the garments
- Classic designs
- The concept of its production
- That they are made in Iceland
We provided the client with a presentation comprising real, practical recommendations that we felt addressed:
- Development and improvement of their digital sales strategy
- Optimisation of their branding
- Optimisation of their website
- Correction of some operational issues
- Improved communication of their story
One of our key learnings was that relevant industry experience or knowledge can be very valuable. One of us had two contacts operating in this industry and we set up relevant communication channels. While we may not have agreed with or used their advice verbatim, it expeditiously put us on the right path and saved us a considerable amount of time. It was also interesting that these two contacts had very differing views of the online arena, and our learning from this was that companies can have different views on the exact same market; it simply depends on their goals, priorities and, ultimately, company strategy.
Two rounds of study groups and learnings from our Global Virtual Team were great preparation for the team-working dynamic of the trip. For Year 2 of the MBA, we feel that our team-working skills are much improved by the experience and this will be a real benefit when dealing with more study groups and more GVTs over the remainder of the course.
All in all, we found the Iceland trip enjoyable, eye-opening and a great experience from start to finish. While it’s not untrue to say that Iceland is expensive, this is but a fleeting observation because the real value derived from this trip was the richness of the Icelandic culture, the beauty of its scenery, and the bonding of an MBA class – the class… of 2018.
Niall Gallagher, Executive MBA 2016-2018