The summer was here, and everyone was ready to leave for their vacations, but that was not the case for many T-Birds. We were about to embark on the most exciting adventure yet, personally and professionally, the GCL. We had a total of ten options to choose from, and I chose Habanero Foods in Dubai, UAE, as my first. It was an intriguing project given that I had no experience in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), and entering a new market was extremely compelling since I had done that in the past but for global finance conferences. I was excited to find out that I was selected to be part of this project, along with a very diverse team. Our team was comprised of six T-birds from Canada, Taiwan, the US, and Mexico that had not met each other before, but we were thrilled to represent Thunderbird.
Habanero Foods International is owned by two Thunderbird alumni that decided to move to India and open Mexican restaurants to share the amazing flavor of tacos they tried in Arizona. As with any business, they realized that people loved the salsas, not so much the restaurants. They decided to close them and mass-produce their sauces and salsas instead.
Currently, two of their products are listed as #1 on Amazon India, which is a huge success. And, as any T-Bird would, they decided to expand operations to Dubai, UAE. This is where the project scope took shape: we were tasked with creating a market-entry strategy, including marketing, sales, social media, and financial projections.
Our team started the research for the first two weeks in Phoenix, AZ. During this time, we fleshed out the roles of each team member and set ground rules for the upcoming trip to ensure everyone was on the same page. This also allowed individuals to express their feelings before we embarked on a work adventure to Dubai for three weeks.
I was selected as co-lead with David DeBaggis because we understood that every consulting project needs two in command to address different situations. Our journey started with David managing the client while I managed the team and tasks at hand. After two weeks of prep work, we flew to Dubai, UAE, for on-the-ground research and meetings with different stakeholders and potential partners.
The GCL is not just a vacation with some work while you’re there; no, it was 12-hour days of Focus groups, interviews, on-the-ground research, etc. It is not for the faint of heart. Our client was a great man that challenged us in every way possible, including asking for more than twelve separate deliverables. At this point, our team had to make a decision on how much we could handle. Yes, we pushed back and advised our client of our capabilities, given the timeframe and number of team members. So, we went from 12 deliverables to a total of 7; this allowed our team to be able to enjoy and explore Dubai! Because it is important to balance life and work, and that’s what we did!
As a team, we became very close, and though work was crazy, we would find time to visit all the main attractions together. We also gave each other space to allow for peace, quiet, and our own exploration. Understanding that we all came from different backgrounds, we had moments in which not everyone was happy, but we came to the table and talked it out. This allowed others to see the situation from their lens and assist with a resolution or suggestion. To be honest, we only had one major issue that was discussed and worked out within the same day. Communication is KEY for any teamwork, especially in a foreign country with people you hardly know but are now your support group and closest allies.
My best advice is ALWAYS to talk to your team, set boundaries, and express in a respectful manner your opinions and sentiments. Also, utilize the time in that foreign country to explore, meet people, and make new friends, as these are all aspects of being a successful T-Bird!