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Business Sustainability: A cleaner production approach to small business management

Student Manual

Environment Australia
October 2000
ISBN 0642547149

Business Sustainability: Session 4 - The Small Business Client

Objective of this session

To give an understanding of some of the realities of small business and to gain enough knowledge to find a small business client for the project

The following topics will be covered in this session
Types of Small Business
Realities of Small Business
Finding a Small Business Client


Forming Teams and Finding a Business Client

The majority of time on this course will be devoted to conducting an actual cleaner production assessment on a small business. You will form teams of three, and each team will be responsible for searching out and "signing up" a small business for their project (ie. each team of three students will work with one small business). The teams will be formed in the next lecture period and have two weeks to find and make a presentation to a small business client for the project.

Before approaching a small business about participating in the project, you should be aware of some of the realities of small businesses. You may believe that small businesses operate like larger companies, but this generally isn't true. The unfortunate reality is that you are unlikely to be welcomed with open arms and it is important to understand why.

Types of Small Business

Small businesses may operate in one or more of the following business sectors:

Primary Sector
Small businesses in this sector include farming, mining and forestry. Most primary sector businesses make good candidates for cleaner production assessments.

Secondary Sector
The secondary sector comprises manufacturing businesses. These, too are good candidates for cleaner production assessments.

Tertiary Sector
The tertiary sector is the main domain of small business. They comprise the retailers and service providers. Examples of tertiary sector businesses that would make suitable candidates for cleaner production assessment include dry cleaning services, petrol stations and even convenience stores.

Realities of Small Business

Class Activity

Objective: interact with other students to find out others' experiences of small businesses for the benefit of the class.

If you have worked in a small business, or had other first-hand experience of a small business, share with the class your impressions of what life is like for the manager and employees of that business.

Realities of Small Business

The following statements will apply to many small businesses:

Class Activity

Objective: to think realistically about possible reactions from small businesses to an approach - this will help prepare you for what may be a negative reaction from the business, and also may help teams realise that they will need to present a convincing argument when approaching small businesses.

If you had earlier volunteered information about working in a small business, describe how that business might react to an approach from a student to conduct a class project?

Finding a Small Business Client

Choice of Small Business Client

Each team will need to find a small business client willing to work with them to complete a cleaner production assessment. Small business prospects may include a business in which a team member has worked, a small business owned or managed by a family member or friend, or one known to a team member or their family.

The small business prospect will preferably:

Before students approach a business with which they have no personal contact, they should check with the facilitator - this is to avoid a local business being bombarded with several requests from different groups of students, or for a business that has recently said "no" being approached again.

Technical Expertise

Students will not need specific technical knowledge of the processes involved in the business - the limited process-specific knowledge they need for the assessment will be picked up during their time with the business.

However, it is useful if at least one of the team has a basic knowledge of the science or other discipline related to the business. For example, if a metal-plating business is selected, the team would benefit from someone having basic chemistry or metallurgy knowledge.

Team Responsibility

It is the responsibility of the student team, not the educational institution, to find a business "client" for the project. (The tight timeframe for finding the business client is emphasised).

Class Activity

Objective: to assist teams who may be scratching their heads or unable to think of any likely targets, and to clarify/reinforce the types of business that might be suitable.

Brainstorm the types of businesses that may make suitable small business targets. The suitability of these businesses should be assessed using the criteria given earlier, ie.

Class Activity

Objective: to draw out marketing ideas for the benefit of the class, and to further develop some of these ideas in the context of the brainstorming session. It will also give the facilitator an opportunity to add value to the ideas put up by the students.


Student Action

Upon obtaining verbal approval from the prospective business to conduct the cleaner production project, students should make a formal presentation to the business management. This formal presentation will be discussed in Session 6.