Benefits flow both ways in exchange of managers

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The Independent Online
A PROGRAMME to place young Eastern European managers and potential entrepreneurs with British companies, to learn market economy skills, has become the first project to receive large-scale funding from the Thatcher Foundation.

Enterprise Europe, a charitable organisation, announced it had received a grant of pounds 30,000 to cover the costs of placing 10 managers from Eastern Europe with British businesses for up to three months. The Thatcher Foundation, formed by Margaret Thatcher in 1991 to support such ideals as free enterprise, democracy and freedom of the individual, is particularly interested in ventures involving Eastern Europe.

Commenting on the donation, Baroness Thatcher said: 'This programme gives both practical and effective help to the young entrepreneurs whose small businesses will be the bedrock of the new free-market economies rising from the ashes of Communism.

'I hope that every one of the young people we help becomes a catalyst for the changes which are so necessary to transform the economies in Central and Eastern Europe.'

Enterprise Europe was founded to forge links between British companies and potential entrepreneurial talent in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. According to Pippa Markus, director of Enterprise Europe, there are benefits on both sides. The manager gains invaluable knowledge of Western ways of doing business; the host company can gain a useful contact in a new market.

So far, host companies have included Marks & Spencer, Cable and Wireless, Rank Xerox and KPMG Peat Marwick, the accountants. While large companies are expected to pay the placement costs themselves (one month costs pounds 2,750, three months costs pounds 5,500), smaller companies often cannot afford it and this is where the Thatcher Foundation money will be used.

One small business that has already reaped the benefit of a placement is Business Link, a mobile exhibition company based in Northampton. It played host to Richard Benda, a young Czechoslovakian manager, for a month last summer. He was ideally suited to Business Link as he was a manager in the Brno exhibition centre, his country's equivalent of Birmingham's NEC.

While Mr Benda picked up insights into British ways of marketing, Business Link found a way into a market it had been considering but did not know quite how to tackle. With Mr Benda helping with inside knowledge and translation, Business Link organised a tour to Brno and Prague in November and December, taking along representatives of 20 Northamptonshire companies.

'We were very well received,' said Andrew Calvert, the operations director. 'Many Czechs did not seem to know much about British companies. They knew more about those in Germany, France and Holland.'

In all, Business Link visited 60 companies and generated 270 sales enquiries. The company now keeps Mr Benda on a retainer, is hoping to visit the region every yearand is considering trips to Poland. 'We were very pleased,' Mr Calvert said. 'The placement worked both ways.'

With help from the Thatcher Foundation, Enterprise Europe hopes to organise 30 placements this year and to forge links with entrepreneurial managers in Russia. The foundation is looking at assisting educational exchanges and other business programmes, including courses for Central European business people on understanding the media.

Enterprise Europe: 071-976 8157.

(Photograph omitted)