Linden Centre’s Collaboration with the Kelley School of Business: Cross Cultural Exchange at its Finest
The Linden Centre is not merely a boutique hotel but a pillar of the Xizhou and Dali communities; a social enterprise devoted to promoting a more sustainable tourism model for China as well as cross cultural exchange and education. As such, the Centre was delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and host their 2018 Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) China program.
The idea for the collaboration came from Kelley Finance Professor Joe Fitter, who has extensive experience living in the P.R.C. and abroad. The Linden Centre wants to thank Joe so much for all of the hard work he put into making this project happen, it has been truly amazing.
This year was the first that Kelley expanded its GLOBASE program to China, and this was the first time in the P.R.C. for nearly all thirty MBA candidates participating. The group of MBA students were split into four teams and worked on four distinct consulting projects here in Dali:
- Consulting the Dali Hilton on ways to improve overall customer experience and guest feedback procedures
- Marketing specialty food items created by locally based organic farmer Faraz Maani
- Investigating and developing business development options for Shilong Village, the community where the Linden Centre’s newest project is based
- Working directly with the Linden Centre branding and marketing team to give us concrete ways of taking our media outreach and brand to the next level
While the Hilton and organic food marketing groups did excellent work as well, the rest of the article will focus more on the two groups who worked more directly with the Linden Centre team on their projects.
The first group, which specialized in microfinance, was assigned the large task of providing recommendations to the Linden Centre team on ways to best help promote the development of local businesses within the isolated mountain community of Shilong Village, the location of the Linden Centre’s newest site in Shibao Mountain National Park.
The second group did an in depth examination of the Linden Centre’s existing marketing strategy and brand success, and consulted the LC team on ways to improve our overall marketing strategy and brand agenda as the company continues to grow.
These two groups spent their first two days with us getting to know Xizhou, going on tours of the village, meeting with Brian, Jeanee, the rest of our team, and the Dali Tourism Development Company, the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) responsible for tourism development in this area.
After getting a better sense of this place, and of the ways in which business development happens in the rural Chinese context, the two groups split up to focus on their individual projects.
The Shilong Village group spent a day on site, talking with villagers about their assets, skills, and abilities to start profit making enterprises. Through their conversations with locals, the MBA students gained a better sense of the on the ground challenges faced by this remote community.
The LC Marketing group spent this time honing in on specific aspects of the Linden Centre experience, talking to staff, guests, taking a cooking class, and working to identify the gaps in the company’s existing marketing strategy.
Many of the MBA students were also able to go on a hike in Shibao Mountain National Park with Brian and Jeanee, to get a better sense of the natural scenery that makes this part of Yunnan so special.
After several days of hard work and conversation, all four GLOBASE groups gave presentations on their projects, their findings, and their recommendations to each of their respective clients. I know I speak for the entire Linden Centre team and Brian and Jeanee when I say that the quality of work produced by the students far exceeded my expectations and was truly impressive. The suggestions made by the two groups consulting for the LC on our marketing and Shilong Village were especially useful and critical in helping our team readjust our approach on both projects.
As Jeanee Linden said of the visit, “This collaborative program between Kelley and the Linden Centre is ideal in that it encourages both innovation and education on both sides. The Linden Centre team received concrete advice on how to proceed, not only in our marketing but also in supporting local business development in Shilongcun. This truly is cross-cultural learning at its best!”
Yujiang Mou, the Linden Centre’s General Manager also had this to say: “The Linden Centre’s mission is to build cross cultural understanding while coming up with creative solution for facilitating sustainable local development. Kelley’s visit is an excellent example of these initiatives. Despite the short length of the students’ time with us, I feel confident in saying that all participants are leaving with a better understanding of and appreciation for rural China. This collaboration will extend beyond this trip and this spring, and the Linden Centre is excited to continue to work with the students and the Kelley School of Business as these projects progress.”
Exciting stuff! Stay tuned to see how we go about putting the Kelley students’ suggestions to work!