TEACH YOURSELF BRITISH BUSINESS
Richard Normington, winner of
our Young Writer (schools) Prize, joins a mini-enterprise scheme
1 November At the beginning of term over one hundred budding entrepreneurs and I packed into a small classroom. Miss Fish, a sturdy woman with a fetish for skin-tight track- suits, told us of the school governors' latest whim. 'They want to start a "mini- enterprise" scheme, and are going to give you a grant that will allow you to run your, own companies and trade as small businesses. This means that you will learn about every aspect of British management. What I want you to do is organise yourselves into companies by next week.' She left the room and we milled around aimlessly.
8 November Still trying to get ourselves together.
11 November Today we told Miss Fish what we planned to do. There are three groups. One is going to publish recipes from the famous, another is going to print business cards and the lot I'm stuck with, pretentiously named `Visual Dynamics', are supposed to print T-shirts. She told us that we could expect two teachers to join each group and act as `advisers' or non-executive directors. Then we gave ourselves business titles and jobs. The first meeting was minuted by the new company secretary and read:
Meeting started 3.27 on 7/10/85. It was decided that W. Dickson should be the managing director because it was his idea to print the shirts. H. Flick is financial director because he is in the top maths group. R. Edwards is sales and marketing director since he has got the biggest mouth. P. Matheivs is technical director because- he printed things when he was in the Cubs . .
13 November There was a bit of a problem today. Marks wanted my job and offered to fight me in the corridor. He reckons he has got a bigger mouth and should run our sales and marketing. We went to the managing director— but he said that it wasn't his job to make decisions.
14 November No minutes taken but the meeting ran like this: Financial director: Edwards is better! Kick Marks out! Technical director: Rubbish!
Company secretary: Shut up, Mathews, you're just a stupid wally!
Personnel director: Push off, Marks, you son of a—.
W. Marks: Get knotted, you bunch of wasters!
All directors: You're fired!
It was just like a real business meeting.
15 November The works director bought £70 worth of silk screens and inks.
17 November Today we decided to start by printing some samples. We should have our first shirt done by next week.
One month later 13 December We are having some printing problems. The technical director has forgotten how to do shirts. We are not the only group suffering. The recipe group wrote to Boy George and 20 other pop stars — so far they have 16 recipes for lentils. It's the Royal Family next.
18 December I drafted a press release about our group. Went to see the 'non-executive' directors about it. They told me that it wasn't my job to think of such things. I told them that I was the sales and marketing director, but they shrugged their shoulders. They must be right because they are teachers who have had a lot of experience in business.
Christmas holidays 14 January We couldn't get the printing to work after all. The personnel director resigned and was followed by five other directors. The technical director went within the hour. We fired the works director and rather enjoyed it.
15 January Things are looking bleak. Instead of our regular Tuesday meetings, the managing director goes to work at the chemist's, our advisers 'forget' and the company secretary is taking his driving lessons. There were two of us today. We are £70 in debt.
Two months later 16 March After an emergency meeting the directors of Visual Dynamics have decided that the only way to avoid bankruptcy is to buy the shirts wholesale and contract out the print- ing to professionals. However, our market- ing enterprise is not quite the cottage industry that Miss Fish had in mind.
17 March Told the teachers of the scheme. They said `Humph!' Told them how we had spent last night dealing with wholesalers and had a viable business.
'Humph! It is disgraceful,' they said, `you're just a bunch of middlemen.'
`We can have our first shirts in produc- tion tomorrow.'
`You're still middlemen.' 20 March We had our first shirt printed today. The teachers would not speak to us. Miss Fish has adopted the recipe group and will be chairing their meetings.
Half term 23 March How do we get publicity? Send off a press release. I wrote one up and arranged for a photo session.
28 March The managing director called me at 7.00 tonight. The finance director told him not to go ahead with the press release because it will be too expensive; his dad could take a photo and get it processed at the chem- ist's. I told him it would be a better idea to get a professional but he could not be convinced. So I told him about the £10 cancellation fee.
29 March Photo session with photographer. 3 April Sent off press releases today. Don't think much will happen.
Back to school 14 April The Post and the Bugle called the school and said that they wanted to run a story on us. Miss Fish asked me into her office and told me never ever to use my initiative again. She made it very clear that we should have waited until all the groups were ready before sending off a release. I suppose that's how businesses are run. We apologised for the trouble we had caused her.
15 April I saw our picture in the Post this morning and two orders came in. The teachers are still not talking to us (though Miss Fish did demand another apology and told us we will be closed as soon as we can repay the loan), ) I wonder what the card group is doing?
16 April Our local MP replied to my letter and said that he would be very happy to help us. Mr Morris is willing to pay us an 'official' visit and plans to bring the press along with him. This will be a super opportunity for a bit of decent publicity for us and the school.
17 April Saw the headmaster about arranging Mr Morris's visit. I thought we could have him come in June when we have our School Festival; this would mean that the recipe group will have their book printed and we could share the publicity with them: The Head muttered dismissively, 'I am a very good friend of Mr Morris and don't think that he would be at all interested in your scheme.' Oh dear.
18 April Our photo appeared in the Bugle. Miss Fish went berserk and demanded an in- stant apology. Received £40 worth of orders today. Haven't heard anything ab- out the card group.
21 April Had another close encounter with Miss Fish, it was a very unpleasant experience.
Viking Radio called the school saying that they wanted us to come and be interviewed this Sunday. She thought that we had gone too far. She told us that the managing director of the recipe group had a boy- friend whose brother worked as the station janitor and he arranged a ten-second `blurb' for the recipe group between the midnight news and weather. She was shocked to see that our press release was read by the news desk and they wanted an interview. 'From now on, I will not allow you to have any more publicity.' I was then asked to apologise. Later that day, the Herald called and suggested a series on the enterprise scheme. Fish accepted and arranged for them to take pictures of her and the recipe group.
22 April This morning I saw my face beaming from the Telegraph. Waves of nausea overcame me.
24 April Another session of coal-walking today. Miss Fish told us it was disgraceful that our group had only four members and the others had 12 each. We were ordered to apologise.
25 April The card group got their first order today, to print the tickets for the sixth form party. They did it; got the name of the disco wrong, misspelt one word and discovered that the ifs did not come out. They spent the rest of the day colouring them in.
28 April The card group folded today and Miss Fish threatened to kick us out of the scheme unless we apologised to her.
29 April Miss Fish told us that the radio interview will take place this Sunday. Fortunately we were not ordered to apologise.
30 April Miss Fish has postponed the radio inter- view because of some exams coming up. The man from the Herald came today and took pictures of Fish and her recipe group. When I tried to thank the reporter for running our story last week, Fish told me to go away and not to bother him as he had more important things to do. 1 May Miss Fish really postponed this Sunday's radio interview because she is going to London for the weekend. She has also laid down some conditions: a list of questions in advance so that she can prepare the answers, a two-hour guided tour of the station and £10 compensation for lost holiday time. They have not replied.
5 May Dickson was asked to write about our company for the school paper. The figures are pretty amazing; out of a workforce of eleven, one was sacked and six resigned, leaving a debt of £70. I hope he will be diplomatic.
12 May Profit!!! We have made a profit. The four of us have made back the £70 and made £5 profit.
14 May Fish told us that the managing directors have been invited to a dinner at the local businessmen's club. They will listen to a speech given by a former chairman of the NCB (on 'Business management and pro- fitability'). The managing director of the now defunct card printing group will head our delegation.
6 June Recipe book published today. Fish invited the media into the school.
15 June Bought a recipe book. It is an excellent publication though there are some slight problems. The chilli con came had no kidney beans and the shortbread was to be baked for one hour. Food from the Famous has 50 recipes, 22 from the directors' families, 16 from schoolteachers, ten from town councillors and all the rest are from the famous.
22 June Miss Fish is organising a 'School Enterprise Evening'. The recipe group will be produc- ing a buffet dinner for distinguished guests from local industry. Visual Dynamics has not been invited, though we were asked to help serve drinks.
End of term 11 July Frantic goings-on in the Home Economics room. Dickson reprimanded for referring to tomorrow as the 'Salmonella' evening. Visual Dynamics officially ordered to close.
12 July Enterprise evening took place tonight. It was very enjoyable. We drank the eleven bottles of white wine which were 'in reserve' and played midnight cricket with the roast potatoes. Our behaviour aroused no comment as Miss Fish joined in the celebrations. 13 July Saw the bank manager: four months' trad- ing, £105 in the black and a turnover of £660. It is the last day of term but the first of 'Visual Dynamics Ltd — Directors: W. Dickson, H. Flick and R. Edwards' . . . The press release goes out tomorrow.