UF MBA students at Ctrip
UF MBA students with Ctrip CEO and Warrington alumna Jane Sun while visiting Ctrip headquarters in China.

Global Immersion Experience in China highlights importance of goal setting and empowering employees for UF MBA student

Sarah Beth Hoover

By Sarah Beth Hoover (BSBA Marketing ’15, MBA ’18)

I don’t remember the exact moment when I noticed my love for traveling. Rather, growing up in a military family meant that I started to itch for a new adventure every 3 or 4 years. It runs through my blood, just like my love for the Gators. As a third-generation Gator alumna, I was impressed by UF once again when I started researching MBA programs. I wanted to continue working while pursuing my MBA, and UF was strongly positioned as one of the top online MBA programs in the country, so I decided to pursue the UF MBA Online 1-Year degree option.

Having studied and interned in London during my undergraduate program at UF, I knew that Asia would be my next destination. When a Global Immersion Experience (GIE) to China was offered during the final semester of my MBA program, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. From the rapid growth of the Chinese economy to the current trade tensions, I couldn’t wait to meet with businesses and learn more about the country on the other side of the equation.

While I initially chose to visit China to learn about the differences between doing business in each country, what surprised me most was how much we still shared in common. Despite tensions in the current trade environment, I noticed two underlying business concepts that remain universally true across borders: the power of goal setting and the importance of taking care of your people.

The Power of Goal Setting

Clear, defined goals are powerful tools, and China is a powerful testament to this concept. Merely stepping foot into China’s cities and onto its transportation are evidence of the rapid development of the country’s infrastructure.

From the U.S. Consulate in China, we learned how much of this rapid progress is attributed to the Chinese government’s focus on setting narrow and defined stretch goals. Once identified, the government then allocates the resources necessary to accomplish these goals within their appointed timeframes.

Much of my current role as Senior Manager of Store Operations at Dick’s Sporting Goods involves planning and communicating the strategic vision of our store organization, and aligning our goals to evolve us toward that vision. While China’s rapid progress has come at some detriment to consumer safety, its accomplishments demonstrate how narrow, measurable goals aligned to a clear long-term vision can be powerful catalysts for advancement. This message resonated with me not only as I reflect on this years’ progress toward my personal, professional, and organizational goals, but also as I begin to set goals for next year and beyond.

The Importance of Taking Care of Your People

One of our final company visits was to Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency. We had the pleasure of hearing from Jane Sun, the company’s CEO and a UF alumna, who feels a personal commitment to making Ctrip an exciting and accommodating place to work. For example, Ctrip expanded its maternity benefits to include paying for female managers to freeze their eggs. They also provide additional financial allowances for pregnant employees and reimbursements for their commutes to and from work during their pregnancy.

Ctrip’s employee engagement doesn’t only benefit its female staff. Ctrip also created an incubator to encourage new business ideas from its young and passionate staff. Employees present their business plans to the executive team and, if approved, are allocated the headcount and resources to bring the new business category or concept alive. With an average employee age of 25-26 years old, these opportunities engage and enable its young, passionate workforce.

Our people are one of our greatest assets. An investment in our people is an investment in our business. This may look different in practice across countries, markets, and industries, but the underlying concept reigns true on a universal level.

While there are many differences between American and Chinese business culture, sometimes the greatest lessons come from paying attention to what bonds us together. My GIE experience opened my eyes to what is possible when you set clear, measurable goals and invest in your people – two integral ingredients to success in either culture. These lessons will help me set and communicate impactful goals and programs to over 30,000 employees in 700+ Dick’s Sporting Goods stores this year.


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