DEEDEE CUDDIHY discovers how a former lead guitarist learned to pull the right strings in business.

How heartening to meet someone like Charles McSherry. Back in the Seventies he was known as Chic McSherry and played lead guitar for a Scottish group called La Pase. (No, I haven't heard of them either).

''We played in every town and city in Britain,'' he recalls. ''And starved in every one as well! The crunch came when they were going to stop my dole money. That was when I decided it was time to do something meaningful.''

So Chic - ''that's what everyone, apart from my mother, still calls me'' - went back to his Lanarkshire roots and signed up for a computer training course at Bell's College in Hamilton.

He recalls: ''I picked the subject almost at random, discovered I was good at it and qualified three years later as an analyst programmer.''

Chic landed a job immediately, was put in sales, found he was also ''quite good'' at that and, within a year, had decided to start up his own business. That was in January 1988 and, as Mr McSherry puts it, ''I haven't stopped since.''

It would seem that being lead guitarist in a (let's be honest) not-too-successful rock group is no bar to becoming a successful businessman.

''Not at all,'' Chic agrees. ''That sort of experience can help you adapt to lots of different situations, think on your feet, and mix easily with a great variety of people.''

Ten years on, Prosys Business Solutions has established itself as one of the country's top performing information technology companies.

''There are about 40 of us in Scotland,'' says Chic. ''And we were one of the first to realise that, to grow and develop in any significant way, we would have to offer clients - who range from small businesses to the corporate market - more than just equipment and training.

''Yes, we sell IT systems and software to businesses and train their employees to use it but the IT package we put together will be one that is tailored to your needs and the needs of your staff and, if used and maintained properly - and regularly reassessed and upgraded - will pay for itself in terms of money and time saved, business increased, etc. We show clients how to make the IT system they've bought from us work best for them. We may train their staff here but will also give them back-up in the workplace to show how to apply that training to their own situation.''

Says Chic McSherry: ''Ten years ago IT companies could make money by selling hardware; five years ago big profits could be made on software sales, but prices have now come down to such an extent that, currently, businesses can only survive if they also offer advice and expertise.

''Fortunately, we've been doing that from the start. Before we draw up a proposal for a client, we like to find out what makes the company tick and what it's

trying to achieve.

''I can't pretend I had a sudden flash of inspiration about this. Ten years ago, it just seemed the logical thing to do, and getting to know a company and its individual needs certainly makes the job more interesting for our employees and for us.''

(Chic's business partner didn't have the benefit of an early career in rock music and prefers to leave the PR work to him.)

But running a business which tailors itself to the needs of individual clients and doesn't rely on textbook solutions, means employing people who are able to deliver that kind of service.

''We need clever people,'' Chic McSherry explained, ''career-minded individuals who want to develop their skills; not work their shift and go home.

'But I'm up against companies such as Cable & Wireless and Scottish Telecom who can just Hoover-up talented people. I can't compete in terms of hefty salaries and prestige, so I have to be able to offer them something else.''

That ''something'' is the opportunity to develop skills and widen experience in what is, apparently, a fairly unusual way.

Basically, everyone who works for Prosys has a hand in, and is responsible for, making the company grow and prosper. In fact, if you're not willing to get involved you won't get taken on, whether you're an office junior or an engineer.

But staff are not expected to pluck their contributions out of thin air. Ideas are stimulated through a series of projects where employees are split into teams, given a real in-house problem to solve - ''What do we do in this area to move the company forward?'' - and are then provided with specialist training to get the

creative processes going.

Chic McSherry explained: ''We get experts to come in, not to find solutions to our problem, but to provide us with a fresh pair of eyes to help us look at those problems in a different way so we can find the answers ourselves.

''Certainly in Scotland it's fairly unusual to train staff in this way and to find employees so involved in the development of a company. Or so I am told by the professionals who have recently started studying our methods. They say they've never seen it done before,''

And it's a method of training which seems to work, because Prosys not only attracts a high calibre of staff but in an industry which is notorious for its high employee turnover, manages to keep them as well.

''It's not a 'touchy, feely' thing,'' says Chic McSherry. ''We wouldn't do it if it didn't make money. It's a good idea that just grew up, not because I have a monopoly on smart ideas but because I have smart people working for me.

''In a 'butterfly' industry like ours, where people flit from job to job, only 18 employees have left our company in its 10-year history.

''We now have 19 people on our staff, two of whom have been here for over nine years, another for over seven.

''Customers, a number of whom have also been with us from the start, like that kind of continuity.'' This is reflected in the company's annual business turnover which last year, was a healthy #2m. ''It's not meteoric growth,'' Chic McSherry declares, ''but it's steady and good for Scotland, and we're happy with that.''

Though Prosys is situated in Royal Crescent, one of Glasgow's recently refurbished architectural heritage sites - ''We aren't unaware of the importance of making a good impression on clients,'' says Chic - the company puts a lot of the money it makes back into the business by investing in training.

But the sort of training they provide doesn't come cheap. The cost of last year's project, for instance, which involved the services of three experts in their field, came to #20,000. And that's where the Glasgow Development Agency, part of the Scottish Enterprise Network, comes into the picture.

As Chic McSherry explains the GDA has been providing help, support and expertise for the company's annual training and development projects since 1990:

''Initially, we didn't think we could get funding from the GDA because our training - which one year involved the services of a Euro linguist - wasn't the conventional type that fit into any of the usual boxes. Then we learned that, provided a company can come up with a serious business plan and show a return for the investment - with a measured result - projects like ours will be considered.

''To date, all our GDA-sponsored projects have had a positive outcome with one or more jobs having been created and productivity being increased.''

Prosys has found that buying in services for their training and development schemes is easier when the GDA is on board.

''Companies and individuals have more confidence that they'll get paid,'' Chic McSherry frankly admits, ''and the connection removes hassles and makes it easier to set projects up. Without the GDA we would have got where we are now, eventually, but it would have taken longer.''

Prosys hope that the GDA might consider supporting their ongoing graduate training scheme.

Chic McSherry explains: ''Our growth depends on an increasingly skilled workforce - one that can keep on top of all the changes and developments in IT.

''We've been taking on talented graduates and training them, over a period of two years, to Microsoft Certificate Systems Engineer (MCSE) level. The training costs between #10,000 and #15,000 per person but it means we're now an

official Microsoft Solutions Partner, one of only four companies in Scotland to have achieved that status.

''Good training is expensive,'' Chic McSherry acknowledges, ''but any company that, like ours, wants to hold on to its Scottish customers and continue to expand in the English and American markets, must be prepared to make that investment.''