A taste of SA business for German students

SEPTEMBER 3, 2015

Over the past two weeks, a group of 10 German students from the University of Osnabruck (Lingen Campus) have been getting a taste of the ins and outs of South African business deals through a unique winter school, run by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

The students – who are all in their third year of study in subjects ranging from marketing and communication to engineering – teamed up with post-graduate NMMU students studying internal auditing.

Placed in mixed Osnabruck/NMMU teams, the students had to work on a project which saw them deciding whether or not to “buy” a real Port Elizabeth business.

The four businesses selected – a beauty salon, a bed-and-breakfast, a pub-and-restaurant and an aluminium door and window manufacturer – are authentic businesses currently on the market. Each team had to visit their chosen business, chat to the estate agents conducting the sale, collect all the relevant paper work, work on the necessary financial documentation – and then decide whether it was viable for them to buy or not.

It is the first time such a school has been run at NMMU.

Osnabruck business engineering student Tim Fellendorf, 26, said what he enjoyed most about the school was “getting to know other people in other cultures, to get the stories of those people, where they come from and where they are now, in comparison to my life”.

Commenting on the business project, Fellendorf said it was the first time he had ever had to make a buying decision. “Personally, I don’t think I’ll buy a company in South Africa. But it was an achievement to deal with other persons – to experience inter-cultural communication – and to do it all in English, of course.”

“The most important experience was to learn about the country and the culture,” said Osnabruck Communication Management student Imke Weber, 21. Her team looked at buying the pub and restaurant. She said the financial side of the project was something completely new to her. “It was a great experience to learn something knew – and to learn how to plan to buy a business.”

NMMU student Priscah Kisimisi, 23, said the project had helped her realise that much information around the sale of a business was confidential – and one had to go to great lengths to gather it all.

“When you are studying this information as a student, you have it all [in front of you].” She said she had benefited a lot by being able to analyse such information in practice.

NMMU’s Matthews Jevan, 23, said his team had discovered that much information was “hidden” from potential buyers. “We found that if you decide to buy [without analysing all the relevant documentation], you will get into debt.” He said the amount of clauses in the buyer’s contract – for the aluminium door and window manufacturer they were looking at – was also “alarming”.

“I enjoyed working with my two [German] colleagues in terms of their creativity.” Both students are studying mechanical engineering.”

NMMU Accounting lecturer and winter school coordinator Prof Gerrit Radder said the school was geared towards preparing students for the business world, by giving them an opportunity to conduct business face-to-face. “They get to know how to speak to people and how to get along with people.”

“For the first week, we presented lectures on finance, corporate governance, marketing and economics. The students worked on their project in the second week.”

Osnabruck University’s Dr Josef Gochermann said Osnabruck’s Institute of Cooperative studies had “good experience and collaboration with SMMEs”, and the winter school presented an opportunity to share these experiences.

Image: CULTURAL EXCHANGE ... Among the participants in a German/South African winter school – which saw teams of students from Germany’s University of Osnabruck and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University working together to “buy” a new business, were (back, from left) Ntlohang Motlagomang, 24, Siphumle Ntsokolo, 23, NMMU’s Prof Gerrit Radder, Fabian Wiethoelter, 24, Osnabruck’s Dr Josef Gochermann and (front, from left) Tim Fellendorf, 26, Imke Weber, 21, Stefanie Feldmann, 24, Matthews Jevan, 23, and Priscah Kisimisi, 23. Picture: Nicky Willemse

---source NMMU