Consulting on the Coast of the Myrtoan Sea

PROVO, Utah – Apr 06, 2022 – Nestled on the coast of a quiet inlet on the Myrtoan Sea is Nafplio, Greece. The town is home to two companies that currently have student consultants from a university on the other side of the world tucked on the side of the Wasatch Mountains. These student consultants from the BYU Marriott School of Business recently traveled to Greece to meet and learn from the business leaders with whom they are consulting during the winter 2022 semester.

Every year, a group of second-year MBA students at BYU Marriott are selected as Savage Scholars and paired with global supply chain (GSC) consulting projects. This year, 20 students were selected after an application process that focused on their academic performance, consulting skills, and ability to work in a group. The 20 students were split into two teams of 10 during the winter 2022 semester, with each team consulting for one of the two Nafplio companies looking to improve their product distribution and sales. One team worked for marble producers Marmyk Iliopoulos, while the other consulted for CHB Group, a fruit processing company.

In order to better understand Greek culture and the companies they are helping, the Savage Scholars spent 11 days in Greece in January 2022. “We learned about culture and how Greeks do business,” says Stephen Mortensen, an MBA student from Tumwater, Washington, and president of the Savage Scholars. “We saw a different view of the world and learned about the companies. This background knowledge and information about the businesses and how leaders try to operate is pivotal to our projects.”

Going to Greece was valuable for Mortensen because he is pivoting careers from behavioral health to global supply chain. He chose to earn his MBA from BYU Marriott to gain knowledge and real-life experience, with the Savage Scholar consulting opportunity being an ideal supplement to the education he was receiving in the classroom. “The trip was a huge motivator to take on a consulting project because I was able to go overseas and gain the experience I was looking for. Having funds provided through a scholarship was also a nice bonus,” he explains.

Visiting the businesses and seeing their operations helped students visualize their consulting projects, but Mortensen notes that every moment spent in Greece was valuable. He says the trip was a combination of business and fun designed to help the group understand how culture influences business. Both teams were able to see local sites, visit the home of the ancient Olympic Games in Olympia, and much more.

The group’s faculty advisor, associate GSC teaching professor Scott Webb, also wanted the Savage Scholars to have a meal with their hosts to experience a different approach to business. “My biggest hope is that these MBA students recognize that the United States’ way of doing business is not always the best way,” he explains. “In the US, we tend to be transactional in our approach while many other countries, including Greece, are more focused on relationships. Spending a long dinner with our Greek clients was important to help students recognize the importance of building relationships.”

The trip also helped the teams identify the goals of their projects, which they are working on now that they’re back in Provo. At the end of the semester, the groups will present their solutions to the companies from campus over video conferencing. In order to pair the Savage Scholars with these projects, BYU Marriott partnered with the World Trade Association of Utah.

Webb says Greece was an optimal destination given the country’s diligence against COVID-19, which included mask and vaccine requirements. As a result, the group was less worried about contracting the virus and all its ensuing complications. On the business side, Greek companies have valuable lessons Savage Scholars can apply now and in their future careers. “Greek businesspeople are business savvy, because Greece had some financially difficult years,” Webb says. “The companies that survived are adept. Seeing well-run businesses that are also open to outside help is good for students.”

The Savage Scholars at the Acropolis in Athens. Photo courtesy of Scott Webb.
The Savage Scholars at the Acropolis in Athens. Photo courtesy of Scott Webb.
One of the teams at a Marmyk Iliopoulos quarry. Photo courtesy of Stephen Mortensen.
One of the teams at a Marmyk Iliopoulos quarry. Photo courtesy of Stephen Mortensen.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller