Irazu – The beauty in the sky

In life we are always being torn between two opposite polarities, and settling somewhere in the middle where it can get exhausting and ugly.  Today, we visited the Parque Naciolnal Volcan Irazu and I noticed the beauty in living in the middle of the two opposite polarities, destruction and devastation when a volcano is erupting, lava and ash causing obliteration to anything in its path balanced, with what we saw today, the lush, fertile soils providing an abundant of vegetables and grazing fields for live stock for the people of Costa Rica to thrive on.  As we climbed higher and higher and pushed through the cloud tops, we arrived to Irazu’s crater and I felt as I was on another planet, where our moon, met the Amazon jungle.  I realized at that summit there is beauty in the balance of polarities, that you need both; soft and hard, hot and cold, light and dark, to be able to enjoy and prosper in the middle.

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Back to Business

Coming back to San Jose from Montreverde is like leaving a ranch in the rocky mountains and heading straight to time square, what opposite polarities.  On our way back we stopped to visit Boston Scientific in Coyol.


The site here in Costa Rica is a high quality medical device manufacture, which specializes in four product lines including endoscopy equipment.

The company is advancing its products by the implementation of Lean and Shingo concepts, which are a big part of the companies’ culture.  We learned that Costa Rica’s manufacturing has evolved from the beginning, when it was just low labor cost, to now, where it is low cost for intensive assembly.  Costa Rica’s current competitive advantage is educated labor, allowing it to produce some of the highest quality manufacturing technical products on the market today.  DSC_0569This is possible by having a school system in place, which is backed by law, requiring the youth to attend which in return, creates an educated workforce that are able to manufacture high quality advancing technology that other counties around the world cannot at the same low cost.  Costa Rica has recognized this and are marketing themselves as being essential, Essential Costa Rica Video Clip.


On Wednesday we were able to visit another world class facility, Hologic, which here in Costa Rica, produces six high-end medical products.


Similar to the other faculties we have visited, they produced products; in high volumes, using JIT, it’s a semi-automated processes and the use of Lean manufacturing concepts to produce low cost intensive assemblies.  The company has a culture of wanting to be the best; not just better than other faculties within its company, but the best in class.  Manufacturing, and Lean Concepts focuses more on the TEAM aspect, and Costa Rica has an advantage when it comes to team work, as their culture is inherently group oriented, and you can see this benefit in theproducts and the company.

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Got Pride?

The people of Costa Rica are marvelous, very friendly, good spirited, and always aiming to please.  The staff at our hotel continues to reach out to us, and make us use what Spanish we know, for any request.  One phrase I have gotten down at breakfast is Mas Café con leche, por favor?  You can’t just have one or two or three or even four cups, it really is just that good.

Today, was a long day, but one filled with much learning and experiences. We first traveled to the East side of town to visit Vitec Videocom Limitada, this company makes television shows, movies and sporting events happen, they produce the worlds best quality cameras, camera accessories and services.  We were able to sit in their board room and ask the tough questions to one of the senior managers of the plant.  Afterwards, we took a tour of one of the most technology advance manufacturing plants in all of Costa Rica.  This plant has also won an award for being one of the best places to work in all of Latin America, and when asked how they did it, Don John informed us that their greatest assets were their people.  They had pride in doing their work and being the best of the best of the best which really showed in their products, and throughout their facility.

After a quick stop at a local mall, which seemed very similar to one you would find in the states, it was off to Dos Pinos, a dairy producing plant.  Upon arrival, we were given a tour of the facility, which was a sprawling complex on a few hectors of land.  The facility consisted of several operations outside of dairy, but related.  Dos Pinos, supported the farmers which had the dairy cows, and had food, along with a farming supply store, additionally, they had a recycling plant where they collected the used packaging of their products to make chairs, desk and roofs.  We then entered their dairy processing plant, where the first thing you saw was a board, tracking their resource use; electricity, gas, water, waste, etc.  Costa Rica is very concerned with preserving nature, and this board was a reminder for all who worked there the goal of the company to be carbon neutral.   The small company had grown into one of the largest dairy producers, now doing business in 16 counties, including China and the United States.  The tour guide again informed us that their success was base on their people and their pride.

ViTecViTec 2What a powerful force, peoples pride; it can act as a multiplier to create a good business into a great business.  I have always know about American pride, and now  I have been given the chance to see another countries pride, and how it plays a role in their daily life, along with their working life, from highly technical manufacturing to producing milk, it’s the people of the company and country that make it great.

Day One

Bueno Tardes!  I have arrived in Costa Rica to 85 degree heat and 100% humidity and it feels and looks like Jurassic Park out here, only if J.P. had an airport instead of a waterfall helipad.  The adventures started shortly after landing, with an unlikely suspect.  As the first activity on the list, was to get some colones in my pocket so I could eat, I had to find and use an ATM, simple enough, challenge accpeted.  After spending some time finding the English button on the ATM, I requested $150.00 US dollars, the next thing you know, the ATM is doing its best impression of a Las Vegas slot machines expensing 10 Mil Colones by the handfuls.  The Colones looks a lot like Monopoly money except with beautiful nature scenes instead of Mr. Top Hat’s money train on the backside of them.  I was afraid I had pushed the wrong button or worse put in too many zeros, and that my wife at home was going to look at the bank activity and think we now have a new winter place we could not afford.  After confirming with my group and realizing the exchange rate was roughly 550.00 Colones to $1.00 American Dollar and that I had not made a mistake, and all parties accounted for, we could leave the airport, for the real adventure to start.

Sitting in the back of a red 20+ passenger bus, which had striking resemblance to the Oscar-Myer Wiener vehicle; we hit the road to our home base for the next week, Hotel Le Bergerac, about a forty-five minute drive through San Jose.

One of my favorite things to do while visiting a new place is just to observe, and the back seat of the Oscar-Myer Wiener Bus was the perfect place for me.  I began looking and seeing the businesses and brands of Costa Rica, and at first they did not look to different then home.  KFC, Hertz, Pizza Hut, Citi Bank, McDonalds, Volvo, Subway,  (I had not eaten yet, so food was definitely on my mind) all lined the major roadway we were traveling on and for the first time, I experienced these companies as being a global brand, not just an American brand.   However, something was different about these brands, it took a few hair pin curves, sudden stomping of the brakes, and a few toot of the horns, for me to realize but these brands were double-take-brands, copyrighted, right now.  Similar to being at an airport when you see someone out of the corner of your and you swear it’s your friend from high school, with whom you use to listen to Blink 182 too, and when you look again you realize that in fact they are not your high school blink buddy, but someone different, these companies were not the brands I grew up with back at the states, these brands were different.

These brands had small differences that made them Costa Rican brands, under a parent umbrella of their global brand of course.  The McDonald’s arches were still golden and found in their standard red box frame, but rather then advertising a Big Mac or a Mcdouble, for those who don’t frequent at the arches often these are both beef products, EL McPollo (Chicken) was the superstar product here and was clearly shown on a poster with a soccer player taking a big bite from it.  Pizza Hut had the same red color and logo, but it appears to be just called the Hut, or, another pizza store borrowed the first five letters, convenient to me and my point.  KFC still advertised a chicken bowl, but rather then chicken on top of a mountain of mashed potatoes with extra gravy, the chicken was placed upon white rice surrounded by steamed vegetables.  It seems simple but the companies had been influenced by the culture of Costa Rica to modify their products, and image, to be successful in this market.  I guess “all the small things” do make a difference for a global brand to make it locally.

And for those who are wondering, I went with the rice bowl, with chicken, mango, pineapple, and steam vegetables stirred in and washed it all down with eight glasses of water.

Getting Ready

Here I am, two weeks away from departing on my first study abroad adventure ever.  I expect this trip to be very memorable and filled with a lot of first, including my first blogging experience.   I am very excited to be able to travel with the Manning School of Business to the beautiful country of Costa Rica and take park of the “Pura Vida.”  Just today I began packing, well began making a list of what to pack and what I may need to purchase to be able to pack; speaking of which, I need to invest in a good rain jacket.  I begun reading the “Managing Across Borders and Cultures” text that has been assigned as part of the Comparative Management class and I am eager to take part in these lessons first hand during our trip which has a packed itinerary of onsite company visits along with many cultural visits.  In my work career it has been important to build on my experience in how others do task, and then improved on them, to do them better.  To date, I do not have much experience in my career toolbox outside of how things are done in the United States.  I am most excited to be able to get any insight on how business is done elsewhere and see if there are any best practices I can bring back home with me and apply to my company.  As globalization continues it is important for all cultures to understand each other more.  By taking the time to learn about each other it will prevent unnecessary business interruptions due to cultural translation errors.  Stay tune as more will come from my blog  as the departure date approaches.

Buenas Nochas!