The Management Development Centre of Hong Kong (MDC), part of the Vocational Training Council, will offer a part-time study business starter programme next month. The four-week 16-hour programme has been developed to provide potential business starters with proposed solutions for new businesses and to help owner/managers of existing small companies to improve their efficiency and profitability. The programme, taught in Cantonese, costs $2,300 and comprises eight two-hour sessions (Tuesdays and Fridays) beginning on June 23. There will be two classes of 25 students each in the first session and one class in July, August and September, depending on demand. The idea came about in the late 1980s when the MDC's Small Business Scheme began to provide company owners with advice on how to better operate their businesses. The programme was then redesigned, incorporating ideas and resources from similar overseas programmes. With the addition of feedback from participants, it was then transferred to course providers in 1993 at Lee Wai Lee Technical Institute and the School of Continuing Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Until now, more than 100 potential and existing owner-managers have taken part in the programme. Dr Wong Chiu-yum, senior adviser of the MDC and one of the tutors of the programme, said with the current unemployment rate close to record highs, the centre felt it needed to help resolve the situation. He said many unemployed were the so-called middle management, people who had the skills to launch their own businesses. 'These people may have held jobs as engineers or accountants. They are well educated and knowledgeable and we are trying to provide a service for this particular target group,' Dr Wong said. 'What we are trying to provide them with is an alternative. We are not saying this is the only approach but an alternative [to working for others].' Dr Wong said Hong Kong had a good environment for starting businesses despite the fact there were more than 600 bankruptcies last year. He said the legal procedures for start-ups were fairly simple but such factors as when to launch a business, costs of rents and salaries and quality of staff all had to be taken into account. 'Too many times people rush in to establish their own business, but they ignore how to manage it. 'We will provide them with skills in management and additional knowledge to better manage their business,' Dr Wong said. 'For people with existing businesses, we will focus on management skills and try to strengthen their managerial background.' The curriculum for the course covers classes on start-up alternative approaches (overview), company structure - company law and implications for taxes; factors determining the success and failure of a small business; how to finance your business; development of a business plan; and how to register a company. A 30-minute video illustrating major issues for starting and operating a business and three books are provided. Dr Wong said staff for the programme would be made up of management advisers who each had more than 10 years working experience as senior managers in industry or commerce. They would provide class discussions for six of the meetings and one-on-one counselling for the other two sessions. 'Some participants may have some concept or idea about establishing a business. Through these one-on-one counselling sessions they can ask their teachers for their ideas on whether this is the right time to launch their business and receive a thorough assessment. But, remember, we are only providing a guideline.' The business starters programme is one of many part-time study courses, workshops and seminars offered by the MDC. Next Monday, in a collaboration with the Institute of Training Professional, the MDC is offering a two-hour seminar on 'Ethics in Training and Development'. Professor Ip Po-keung of the Open University of Hong Kong and Sam Ying of the MDC will discuss how ethical considerations are beneficial in building human potential and adding value to organisations. On May 27, a seminar targeting supervisors and managers focuses on 'Hiring the best through effective Interviews'. Hiring the wrong person can often be costly to a company and this two-hour session explores the hiring process, common pitfalls in recruitment and effective interview techniques. 'Ethics at Work' and 'Professional Presence' are two one-day seminars being offered as part of the MDC's professionalism in management workshops series. 'Ethics', on May 29, focuses on how ethical behaviour shapes behaviour in the workplace, while 'Professional Presence' (June 16) is a self-help course designed to help people understand the impression they give to others and what can be done to improve it without impeding personal style. On June 10, a two-hour seminar looks at the benefits of 'Knowledge Management' and how to encourage knowledge-sharing activities among employees. For more information, visit the MDC at 11/F VTC Tower, 27 Wood Road, Wan Chai, or phone 2836 1818. The majority of the courses are in Cantonese, but some are in English.