Photo by Tony Cece

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Regent Finishes Entrepreneurship Program in Colombia

By Philip Foster

May 16th through the 21st I had the pleasure of traveling to Bogota Colombia to instruct a course titled “Leading and Managing a Small Business.” While in Bogota I met many wonderful people and saw the most beautiful country I could ever imagine. As part of my visit, I toured two primary schools and spoke to many students about entrepreneurship and leading an organization. The leaders of these schools asked many questions about leadership and entrepreneurship. These schools are private and the rooms are small but functional. The children all wore uniformed and when we entered the room they all stood until asked to be seated. While I spoke with an interpreter, most of the children understand English very well. They asked many questions about where I lived and what I did for a living. The most inquisitive class was the seventh graders. The most striking thing I noticed was that there were no computers in the classrooms and yet these children had an excellent command of business.

Another tour was of Cerro Norte which means the North Hill. This is one of the poorest barrios (district) in the northern part of Bogota. Bogota is a city of nearly 9 million people. As I stood on top of this mountain at an elevation above 6,000 feet I saw the splendor and beauty of this place. Bogota is surrounded by mountains and the city rests in the bowl of these mountains.

The view is breathtaking. Even my pictures do not do it justice. I was left speechless at the awe and beauty. In the distance I could see other mountains and before them I could see the flower farms where many of the flowers we purchase may come from.

Bogota is a contradiction. They have some of the most modern looking state-of-the-art buildings that I’ve ever seen. I dare say that these building rival some of the architecture of even the United States. But, right next to these areas of prosperity is factions of poor and extremely poor conditions. Cerro Norte runs up the side of a mountain. These are mostly squatters and the homes are, well…built with materials as they can obtain them. The road up to the top of the mountain is very steep and the switch backs are tight (I will tell you about the driving here in a moment). These people are very resourceful. These building spring up from the side of the mountain and in some cases are stacked on top of each other. Once you can look past the realities of poverty here the view off this mountain is stunning.

The food and coffee in Bogota was fantastic. I had the opportunity to visit what I would call a big box store called “Exito” which means success. I was most impressed with the store. Colombians are genius in their marketing techniques. Vibrant colors and the use of photography is a refreshing change of the blandness of the US marketplace. I think marketing companies could learn a lot from their colleagues here. As I understood it Exito is owned by the same company that owns the Target stores in the US.

Finally I had a meeting with the Dean of Education at the Universidad del Bosque (pronounced Boss-K). My role in this meeting was as Ambassador for Regent University and to introduce myself to them. They asked many questions about my education and the doctoral program at regent. What I have learned is that the education system in Bogota is extremely interested in Entrepreneurship and they were interested in talking about how I could help them develop the countries very first Entrepreneurship center with them and the help of Regent University. After the meeting I was able to enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee with the dean.

The conference on Leading and managing small business was held at the Universidad del Bosque. In attendance were over 130 students and business leaders from around the country. The Dean of Education was impressed with my presentation and complimented me on the ability to take complex subjects and reduce them to simplistic manageable messages that didn’t overwhelm but actually informed the audience in practical and useful ways. I was most honored to know this feedback. I spent a total of 10 hours lecturing on the subject matter.

What I’ve discovered is that Colombians are hungry for information on leadership and entrepreneurship.  The people are beautiful and very welcoming. I feel like I am amongst family there and I miss them very much. One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is to step outside of the United States and to walk amongst the cultures of this planet. In Leadership studies we talk about the cultural context of leadership and cross-cultural context of communication. When you step into a culture different than your own, you live out the context of those studies.

There were times when I was surrounded by language somewhat foreign from my own. Granted, I grew up in South Florida and have been around theSpanish culture half my life. But, this is different when for 5 days, over 100 hours – you are immersed in a language that is not your own. There are many things I still have to learn about Colombia. I desire to go back and engage this beautiful country and the beautiful people. I wanted to get to know them and to see their wonderful country.

It is not until we eat at someone’s table, live within their culture and take the time to get to know them one-on-one that we can begin to understand them. Going to Colombia has been rewarding but also very humbling. The people there are hungry for knowledge and information. It was strange to have so much focus on oneself. They welcomed me with friendly arms and hosted me, translated for me and made me feel like family. My heart now longs for the friends I have back there. My eyes long for the beautiful mountains that surround nearly 9 million people. I see a return trip sometime in my future… and it will be a wonderful homecoming.

No comments:

Post a Comment