Entrepreneurs get training and support

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am

The global recession has affected businesses across the board, but the livelihood of the city's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is most fragile, with many buckling under the pressure of tight budgets and limited resources.

'Training and support for SMEs has always been a necessity, but improvement in areas such as financial management has become more important during the downturn. SMEs need to find new ways of opening up opportunities,' said Paul Leung, programme director of Hong Kong University's school of professional and continuing education (HKU Space).

Although training and development opportunities for the city's 300,000 SMEs have grown, with trade bodies and universities offering a wealth of seminars, workshops and short courses, formal business education at tertiary level still remains largely focused on meeting the needs of professionals and executives in larger corporations.

'Unfortunately, formal business education tends to focus on training the manager in a functional area or a specialised stream rather than taking a general approach,' Mr Leung said.

This approach fails to meet the needs of those running an SME because this requires the business owner to be a jack of all trades.

'SME entrepreneurs need to be accountants, customer relationship managers, the person who can engage with the government and other stakeholders. Their focus cannot be limited to one area,' said Mr Leung, adding that what makes HKU Space special is its mission to address the needs of SMEs.

'We are the bridge between the practical and theoretical. By using case studies and taking a work-based learning approach, we can help SMEs apply theory to their everyday operations,' he said.

The school has also pioneered strategies to enhance business creativity. Individuals can hone their critical thinking and presentation skills by taking acting classes, while a directing and production course can improve students' event, time and resource management skills, and enhance their interpersonal abilities.

Some of the school's short courses relevant to the SME sector have addressed corporate governance, enterprise risk management, retailing management and yield management. Seminars have dealt with the more immediate business challenges of entrepreneurship and weathering adversity in a downturn.

Courses offered by Polytechnic University's management and executive development centre have included product development, human resources, strategy, workflow studies and language and soft skills.

'We aim to help SMEs standardise procedures and come up with improved quality solutions,' said Sidney Wong, director of the centre.