Third term starts here

After a (too-short) one week break to catch our breath, the students of the class of 2014 are back for the third term of the Manchester MBA. This time we are without our colleagues from the second year (class of 2013) who are now all done with their MBA and have to tip-toe back out into the big wide world and earn their keep for the first time in 18 months. We’ll miss them all although it will be nice not to have them clogging up all the computers in the lab 😉So what does this term have in store? Well, it’s certainly going to be more project focused which means less time sat on our backsides in a lecture theatre – no bad thing. By the end of the second term I was was suffering lecture fatigue and itching to actually produce something rather than just hear about the same subject for three hours at a time.

This term there are only really two modules that we are undertaking:

1. UK Consulting Project – the natural progression from the first term’s Not-For-Profit Project, this sees us working on live consultancy briefs for real organisations. The first two weeks of the module are taken up with pitching to secure your favourite brief. The student teams have to tender for their three top projects, culminating in a face to face meeting with the prospective clients. The client can then choose their preferred team for the project. Of course this does mean that you could end up being selected for multiple projects or, should things go horribly wrong, be selected for none and having to go with one of the leftover project briefs that nobody else wanted. Once this bun fight is all sorted and we have the final brief in our hot, sweaty hands we then have nine weeks to push on and deliver an outstanding piece of consultancy work for client and faculty alike.

At least that’s the theory. I’m sure that, despite having much more time to dedicate to the project than we did for NFP (which had to be fit around lectures, seminars and general settling in), many teams will run into the age old problems of uncooperative/absent clients, free riding team members and general falling out as deadlines loom. I’m hopeful that I’ve landed a good team so that won’t be a problem but even if the worst scenarios arise at least I can take comfort in the fact that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

2. Mergers & Acquisition – whilst UKC is all about working on “live” briefs, M&A is necessarily a mock exercise (don’t think that any company would let us loose with billion dollar budgets to snap up companies we thought were of interest). It is, however, no less intense a learning experience for that. Essentially we play the roles of board members of a major UK conglomerate with a penchant for acquisitions (it is a real company but I can’t reveal the name for confidentiality reasons). Our first task is to use all we have learnt on the course so far to value the company we work for (i.e. what should the stock market capitalisation be based on its future prospects).

Once we’ve done that we then need to do some digging and analyse at least 16 (yes that’s right, sixteen) potential acquisition targets before coming up with a shortlist of three. The target companies should be chosen based on future cash flows, synergies that can be created with the parent business, strategic fit and accessibility (i.e. will the current owners sell).

The following stage is then to put together a bid for one of these companies. In it we need to assess how much said company is worth, what we want to offer for it and how it should be paid for (cash, shares or a mix of both). We then are locked in a room with a member of faculty who will be posing as the board of the target company and have to negotiate a takeover with them. The meeting may be successful or unsuccessful depending on how belligerent your tutor is feeling but you are assessed on the quality of your thinking whether you have a clear strategy for the negotiations.

So, this is the term where the Manchester Method starts to hots up. The term where we exchange the class room for the syndicate room and move from the steady rhythm of lectures and exams to a staccato beat of consultancy and client whim.

Time to re-acquaint myself with the pain of the working world outside the MBA bubble!