When Luigi Stravino’s father started BLC Plant Company—an earthmoving equipment supplier—forty years ago, the business had five employees and was regional to South Africa. Now BLC Plant Co. is a leader in its field, has a staff of more than three hundred, and boasts clients throughout North and South America, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
It’s no surprise, then, that a few years ago Luigi—who serves as CEO and part owner of the company—worried that in an increasingly global industry and with an expanding business, he’d become too comfortable with the status quo. “I had been in the same business environment for twenty years and I needed a reboot,” he says. “I work in a dynamic business in a dynamic country, and I felt that I needed to re-stimulate my mind with new ideas and get more current with what is happening globally.”
TRIUM’s EMBA program intrigued him, he says, because of the international modules, the nature of the curriculum, and the prestigious reputation of the three schools that comprise the program. “I wanted to get more current and up to date with cultural and economic political development in the rest of the world, and TRIUM’s program delivers that,” he says.
Luigi admits that he felt overwhelmed at the start of the program (I’ve bit off more than I can chew, he thought when he received his first reading assignments), but once he was immersed in the modules and courses, he says, the benefits of the program quickly melted his initial anxieties.
One notable benefit for Luigi was the way the program opened his eyes to how insular business environments can be. “In South Africa, we think we know what’s going on globally: we watch and read the news, we pay attention best we can,” he says. “What TRIUM made me realize is that we actually live in a cocoon. The program really gave me the ability to look at the whole world and become very comfortable with globalization. You really come away with a good holistic knowledge of the global business environment.”
He adds: “TRIUM gave me a much more developed skill set and a new way of seeing how BLC fits in the global scheme—which helps me move the company forward according to my vision for it.”
One of Luigi’s biggest takeaways was the credibility the program offered and the confidence he gained in turn. He explains: “You’ve broadened your horizons, both intellectually and culturally—you’ve gained a lot of experience. That adds to your credibility; you find that people listen to you in a way they may not have before. This alone delivers a lot of confidence.”
Another highlight of the program was the Capstone project, in which he and his four-person team developed Craft Capital, a financing business for small to medium enterprises in Africa. Craft Capital’s value proposition was developed as a result of the team’s observation of an unfilled need for SME financing in sub Saharan Africa, Luigi says.
The team spent seventeen months fine-tuning their business plan—no easy task, considering they had to coordinate schedules and deadlines around one another’s business travels to London, New York, Ireland, Japan, South Africa and Canada. “It truly was a microcosm of what TRIUM represents: a unique exchange of varied ideas, background, skills, and worldviews,” he says of his globally-based team. “The key was to maintain a good sense of humor and to buy in and commit to the process. We made it as enjoyable as possible, and had a lot of fun doing it.”
The tenacity and good humour paid off: Craft Capital not only won the inaugural 2017 Capstone Cup, but it is in the process of formalizing and will soon provide equipment financing to African small to medium enterprises who work in the resource, agricultural and infrastructure sectors.
Luigi has maintained close relationships not only with his Capstone team, but with the rest of his cohort. “At any time, I can travel anywhere in the world and have close friends I can call up and have a beer with. TRIUM helps you build a global network of trusted friends, and the value of the lifelong friendships you form with your cohort members is intangible. It’s worth a fortune,” he says.
Reflecting on his experience with TRIUM, Luigi is grateful for the rigor of the program, the confidence he gained, and the personal and professional growth that resulted. “I’m always looking to improve myself, to be a better person: physically, academically, mentally, culturally. It takes a great deal of humility to try to improve on each one of those and maintain a holistic balance in all areas of your life. TRIUM was a way for me to improve on that academic and professional side of myself—the rigors of the program challenged me in the most important ways,” he says. “It’s been an amazing experience.”
Most impactful course/professor: They were all quite incredible, but Quantitative Methods & Analysis in London and Negotiations in India with Matt Mulford made a particular impact.
Words to live by: “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel” and “The wheel always turns.” I’m also a great believer in the simple idea that hard work always pays off.
Proudest professional moment? When I was just starting out in my career, I attended the Italian South African Chamber of Business awards ceremony, in which they announce the Businessman of the Year. That year it was an established CEO well into his career who received the recognition. I thought: one day I’d like to be named the Businessman of the Year. Just eight years later, I was nominated and won.
If I had a month off work to do anything I wanted, I would: I enjoy doing Triathlons. I would train up and travel Europe doing the summer Ironman circuit.
Advice to prospective students: “Don’t think twice about doing the program. Many people have concerns about how to fit the workload in. Anything is possible. If I am able to do it, anyone is able to do it. I am so grateful I did it.”