Special Report on Manchester Business School

The word ‘unemployment’ is not one which rates very highly in the vocabulary of Dr Peter Chisnall. His role at MBS is, after all, to make people with sufficient ‘get up and go’ to do just that.

Dr Chisnall is director of the Small Business Development Unit (SBDU), a department which thrives on a string of success stories equal to anywhere else in the school.

The main aims of the SBDU are two-fold – to help fledgling entrepreneurs put sound propositions into viable reality and to develop tailor-made programs for small and medium-sized firms which have come to a full stop after a few years’ trading. Dr Chisnall and his team help them to become bigger, better – and wealthier.

In order to reflect more accurately the aims and ideals of the department, its name was changed last year to SBDU from New Enterprise Centre.

Since then, Dr Chisnall has helped many people up the ladder of commercial success. Such as the man who wanted to start a do-it-yourself garage; another who has established a home for the aged; a woman who now manages a highly recommended ethnic food center; the Irishman who is flourishing with his natural yoghurt and quality ice-cream center; the man who is boss of his own security firm which guards commercial properties; and the man who is planning to open up his very own drift mine with the enthusiastic support of the CEGB.

Dr Chisnall said: ‘We’re not interested in the bucket and ladder man. But if someone comes up to us with what appears to be a sound idea with growth potential, employing up to 20 people within 18 months to two years, then we’re in business. ‘

At present, three experimental programs are running in the SBDU: Business Opportunities Program (BOP), Firm Start (FS) and Tools for Growth (TFG).

BOP covers 18 weeks, takes between 11 to 18 participants and involves 10 non-residential teaching days. In addition, unemployed participants who are mature, experienced executives are attached to small ‘host’ companies in order to provide specific help.

This also gives them an opportunity to exercise their management skills while they are seeking career employment which, in some cases, may well arise from working closely with the companies they are attached to over the three-month period.

Dr Chisnall is proud of his 90 percent-plus success rate of placing executives, redundant or otherwise out of work, in new and remunerative employment. BOP is funded by the regional office of the Manpower Services Commission.

FS is an experimental scheme which has 18 participants and runs over 52 weeks. It is funded nationally by the MSC and promoted by Greater Manchester Economic Development Corporation. It provides a framework within which individuals or prospective business partners seeking to start a new business, or develop one which is in its early stage, can test the feasibility of their ideas.

Each program caters for both men and women who learn not only from experienced MBS faculty and outside experts, but also from one another.

TFG is another pilot program covering a three-year period during which three courses a year will be run, covering a total of 100 participants. The target market is defined as the top management of developing and established small and medium-sized firms, and the course is funded by GMEDC and the European Social Fund.

One of the main lessons it teaches is the management of money and cash flow and, more importantly, where to get it when you have not got it.

In general, MBS is actively seeking the co-operation of large corporations in enterprise training and hopes to extend its activities significantly.