[Sponsored Article] Conducting a consultancy report for a social enterprise not only allowed Baptist University (HKBU) MBA students to put theory into practice, the exercise also provided a social enterprise with practical recommendations. As part of their core “MBA Project Report” course requirement, a team of five HKBU MBA students produced a consultancy report for Yan Chai Hospital Healthy Herbal Packs Centre (YCHHHPC). The aim of the project focused on boosting financial performance and ensuring the Centre's sustainability. The consultancy initiative supports the HKBU’s core objectives of integrating teamwork, innovation, integrity and social responsibility into its part-time MBA programme. “Producing the consultancy report was exciting, rewarding and challenging,” says Laychoo Wong, the HKBU MBA team leader. “As a social enterprise we needed to spend time finding out how the YCHHHPC business functions,” adds Wong, who describes working on the consultancy report as an “eye-opening” experience. Consultancy report partnerships are arranged with participating enterprises through the HKBU Business School. Established in 2013, YCHHHPC is a social enterprise set up under the Home Affairs Department’s Enhancing Self-Reliance scheme and operated through the District Partnership Programme. The Centre helps to provide employment opportunities on a part-time basis for underemployed women or those who have to take care of their children and are unable to do full-time job in the Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing districts. Apart from providing financial support, employment opportunities also help women integrate into the wider community. Our MBA programme provided a good platform that helped us put our skills into practice to develop suitable solutions applicable to the Yan Chai business needs Nic Tang Putting MBA skills into practice Wong says the consultancy team was able to utilise knowledge and insights gained through their MBA programme coupled with individual business experience and skills to ensure the recommendations were significant and meaningful. “We were able to build a very good working relationship with the Yan Chai staff and management, which helped us to look deep into the business and retail functions of the organisation,” says Wong. As organisations increasingly focus on corporate social responsibility, Wong believes MBA students can gain valuable knowledge and experience through working with social enterprises, which can be applied to their own organisations. Attention to detail Starting from October 2013, the HKBU MBA team spent more than six months working with the Yan Chai Centre conducting interviews, collecting data and carrying out market research to develop a list of proposals and sustainability strategies. The students also demonstrated how they were prepared to go the extra mile to provide a comprehensive consultation report. For example, with the support of their employers, the students took time off from their day jobs to attend sales events. “We wanted to see the sales activities in operation so we had a better understanding of the goals and objectives,” says Michael Yeung, an accountant and a member of the MBA team who specialises in using analytical software. Nic Tang, another member, says the consultancy team quickly discovered that textbook solutions do not always necessarily apply to small businesses such as YCHHHPC. Economies of scale and restraints on financial and human resources are just two examples. “Our MBA programme provided a good platform that helped us put our skills into practice to develop suitable solutions applicable to the Yan Chai business needs,” says Tang. Highlighting the way that just like a for-profit business, social enterprises need to function with sound business philosophies, Alex Wong says producing a report for a non-corporate enterprise has enriched the MBA team’s understanding of diverse market situations. Echoing Wong's sentiments, the fifth team member, Bono Tsang, who works in sales expertise sales and marketing, notes the importance of using market research to develop solutions. Part of the consultancy team’s recommendation is to work with larger organisations to offer health packs as a customer reward scheme. Working together Meanwhile, Yuen So-ying, assistant manager, development department, Yan Chai Hospital Board, says that because HKBU MBA students tend to have sound knowledge of how enterprises are run, this makes it easier for them to grasp the essence of getting to know the pros and cons of a small-scale social enterprise business such as YCHHHPC. “They are able to provide new insights and views on how to improve the business though the ideas that can be implemented during the short and longer-term,” says Yuen. In addition, Yuen says that through their business ties, HKBU MBA students can help to widen the Yan Chai Centre's business network via publicity and even the sale of herbal packs. “With these networks established we can expand our charitable objectives and enable the underprivileged to have greater social interaction and more economic opportunities,” says Yuen.