01 Feb 2002


Europe Business Conference Forecasts the Future


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Building on the success of last year's inaugural conference, the HBS European Club hosted the second annual Europe Business Conference on the HBS campus November 2-3. The event included some 50 panelists and speakers and drew over 350 participants from HBS and other graduate schools around the country.

Guillaume Hannezo, CFO and senior EVP at Vivendi Universal, delivered the opening keynote address on Saturday morning. Suggesting that the events of September 11 have created a new collective reality for the United States and Europe, Hannezo noted, "Part of being European is living with the memory of war on one's home soil. We know how tragic history can be, and we understand the fragility of society."

A native of France who relocated to New York last summer, Hannezo recalled John F. Kennedy's famous declaration, "Ich bin ein Berliner." Today, he observed, every European feels a bit like a New Yorker. In the business world, Hannezo predicted that synergies will continue to develop between Europe and the United States, thanks to a shared system of values and a wealth of talent on both sides of the Atlantic. "Together, we will succeed in enhancing the expansion of trade and economic freedom that will favor universal growth and prosperity in a more diverse, open world,"
he concluded.

Panels held throughout the day included "Consulting in a Bear Market," "Opportunities in Eastern Europe," and "Managing Brands across Multiple European Markets." Students were given the opportunity to meet with panelists one-on-one and could also attend a career workshop, hosted by Juergen Bracht of Frankfurt-based GRIP Personal Consulting, on the status of the European job market.

Bert W.M. Twaalfhoven (MBA '54), founder and president of the Dutch holding company Indivers B.V., delivered a high-spirited address at the conference's conclusion. An entrepreneur responsible for starting fifty companies in ten countries, Twaalfhoven passed along his perspective on a number of topics, including the economic performance of Central and Eastern Europe. "The remarkable thing is that they have been forced to innovate in order to survive," he remarked. "The entrepreneurial spirit in Central and Eastern Europe is much higher than in Western Europe, because we still believe in British Telecom and Philips and Unilever." Twaalfhoven closed by reminding students why it's important to try, try again. "The Chinese say, 'Failure is the basis for future success.' I'd like to hire you if you've had a failure, and you realize what the reason for that failure was."

Cochairs Peter Everett and Marijana Kolak (both HBS '02) thanked the thirty student organizers and corporate sponsors who made the conference a success. "In just its second year, the conference has grown to be the largest event of its kind in the United States," said Everett. "We've really benefited from the work of some amazing classmates, as well as fantastic support from HBS alumni around Europe. We're confident that the conference has the momentum to become an even bigger and more remarkable event next year."

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Class of MBA 1954, Section D

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