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Negotiations: Creating a business idea

Alex Redman

"An MBA at AMBS tackles your weaknesses and builds on your strengths in an applied way. We’ve studied the theory, read the case studies, but most importantly we’ve done the trial negotiations."

— Alex Redman, Full-time MBA Class of 2018, looks back on his favourite course on the MBA to date.

"To learn how to best assess potential and then execute entrepreneurial/continuous improvement ideas, particularly around disruptive technologies, in commercial/industrial implementation settings for competitive advantage.”

This was my fourth objective on the list of reasons, or better still 'aspirations', that I gave to Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) to explain why I wanted to complete an MBA. Just ask Emma Watson from the admissions team; she’ll confirm. Perhaps it reads a little pompously on reflection, but it was and still is pertinent to me. The aspiration bred two further and more targeted questions:

“How do I write a business plan?”

…and…

“How do I raise capital?”

If I was pushed to get to the nub of my weaknesses in the context of my 'aspiration', these two questions would sum them up. Enter “The Negotiation Skills, Strategies and Tactics” course at AMBS…

At the start of the winter term, I remember sitting in on the first lecture of the module series. After the all-important sharing of Christmas holiday stories, and with a full flask of piping hot tea, it was back to the books for the Class of 2018. The course leader and primary lecturer, Malcolm Smith, hushed the class; everybody sat and the module began.

Malcolm explained that the skills of negotiation would be tackled in the context of a new business idea being formed, teams derived around it, with the groups then pitching for meetings with investors whilst pulling together their respective business plans. To finish, teams negotiate for investment from real-world venture capitalists (VCs) that assist with running the course, indeed they mentor the groups on a ratio of approx. 3:1 (3 teams per VC). If any course on the MBA would meet my aforementioned 'aspiration' and my target questions, then surely this module was it?

Just before midnight on our business plan submission “D-Day”; Rohit, Yusuke and I hit the 'submit' button before the clock hit the 23:59 deadline. We’d been working solidly over the weekend and throughout the previous week to bring our business idea to life, on paper at least. In a few days, we would negotiate for investment based on our business plan and we had the coming days to derive our negotiation strategy accordingly. Would we get the investment? I hoped so, but more importantly, how do I now respond to my two questions? Do I now know how to write a business plan? Do I now know how to raise capital?

Yes.

An MBA at AMBS tackles your weaknesses and builds on your strengths in an applied way. It may read as quite convenient for me to quote “The Manchester Method” of applied learning, but it is true - we’ve studied the theory, read the case studies, but most importantly we’ve done the trial negotiations, put left foot in front of right; some soared, some bumbled and some flopped, but everybody learned. The practice sessions were videoed and all our efforts were reviewed. What was 'good' and what was not so 'good' was evaluated in a constructive environment, with a few laughs to boot.

That’s just my small story though, in the context of far larger ones. It makes me wonder whether every buyer in every SME in the UK has had formal training in negotiation skills? Think of the millions of pounds sterling that could be saved and the associated increase in competitiveness? The Negotiation Skills, Strategies & Tactics course has been fantastic and a highlight of the MBA to date for me. In fact, I can think of one 'CEO' who could do with sending her team on the course:

Theresa May.

Brexit anybody?

Best put the course fees up Malcolm…

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