9 Business Ideas for a Post-Brexit World - dummies

9 Business Ideas for a Post-Brexit World

By Nicholas Wallwork

So much of the news around Brexit, and particularly the impact of Brexit on business, has been, well, not exactly cheerful. (Some would say downright doom and gloom, while others might say hysterical.) And although there are obviously issues to be aware of and prepare for, but plenty of businesses are finding positive opportunities in the face of Brexit.

This article looks at just a few of the potential opportunities that businesses in the United Kingdom (UK) could exploit as a result of Brexit.

Some of these are short-term opportunities, while others may take longer to pay off. And some will be more applicable to your company than others. These are not one-size-fits-all solutions here. It’s up to you to pick and choose the ideas that may deliver the most value for your business.

Pick one or two ideas that you think best apply to your business, taking into account the size of your company, your capabilities, where your business is in its life cycle, and the wider industry in which you operate. Having cherry-picked the most applicable opportunities, you can then investigate them further.

Brexit will open up new markets beyond the EU

If you’re already exporting goods outside the UK, or you’re eager to explore overseas markets, Brexit could deliver a welcome boost. Or, more specifically, the devalued pound resulting from Brexit uncertainty could help to boost your export sales.

A weaker pound tends to help companies that export goods overseas, because it makes UK products cheaper than those produced in countries with stronger currencies.

For a reverse illustration of this, consider imports of cheap Chinese steel. Even though the product is coming all the way from China, it may still be cheaper than British steel, because it costs a Chinese steel producer less to manufacturer than it costs a British company.

The UK’s ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries is far from crystal clear at the moment. So, to fully understand the impact on your exports, stay tuned to future trade negotiations.

Brexit will increase domestic demand for products and services

What’s the flip side of cheaper UK exports being more attractive to overseas buyers? Imports from outside the UK become more expensive for UK businesses and consumers.

Of course, if you’re importing parts or products from abroad, this will cause you some headaches in terms of profitability, in which case, you may be looking to trade more with UK partners. But, on the positive side, rising import prices can bring big benefits.

When foreign products become more expensive (perhaps because of currency fluctuations or trade tariffs), consumers tend to look closer to home for goods and services. In other words, your business may be more competitive than foreign companies.

Brexit will lead to reduced regulation

On the whole, the UK is likely to remain fairly closely aligned with European Union (EU) rules. Yet, in some areas, it’s possible that post-Brexit changes to regulations and standards may offer UK businesses greater freedom and flexibility than EU rules.

Reduced regulation may make your business processes easier and quicker, and potentially reduce your costs — all of which could make your business more competitive.

Help solve your customers’ Brexit-related problems

If you’ve struggled to comprehend the implications of Brexit for your business, it’s fair to assume that some or all of your customers (and potential customers) may find themselves in the same boat.

Consider whether there’s a market opportunity to offer tailored Brexit services to your customers. Ask yourself, “What are our customers struggling with in relation to Brexit, and how can we help them to solve those problems?”

Now, this doesn’t mean you should set up a new business as an all-singing-all-dancing Brexit consultancy service (although, for those who have the skills and knowledge, such a business would probably prove quite valuable in the short term). Instead, this means

  • Tailoring your products and services in line with your customers’ Brexit “pain points.” These pain points could be around access to labor, VAT, cash flow, stockpiling goods, seeking investment, or whatever.
  • Tweaking your marketing messages to emphasize how your business is ready to help clients overcome Brexit hurdles.

For example, if you’re an accountant primarily dealing with small and midsize firms, your clients may need extra support to understand potential VAT changes — in which case, you’re there to guide them through changes and help them implement new processes.

Or, if you run a legal firm dealing with employment law, you’re well placed to help local businesses that employ workers from outside the UK stay on the right side of the law.

If you’re a business coach or adviser, your clients may be looking to explore new growth strategies for their company or revise their business strategy in light of Brexit developments.

This strategy is a relatively short-term one, but you may find it pays long-term dividends. By positioning your business as more prepared and more thoughtful than your competitors, you have the opportunity to gain market share and raise your company’s profile.

Brexit could be your chance to build a personal reputation as a leader in your industry

In addition to raising the profile of your business, Brexit may also present a tantalizing career opportunity for you.

Where possible, collaborate with others outside your own organization to discuss Brexit implications, stay in the loop on the industry’s response, and strengthen your personal network.

Here are just a few ways you could potentially increase your personal profile within your industry in light of Brexit:

  • Engage on a broader scale outside your business by joining Brexit committees set up by your trade association or other organizations in your field.
  • If the government asks for participation and consultation in your area of expertise, consider getting involved.
  • Publish online articles and white papers setting out how your company is dealing with Brexit implications and staying ahead of the field.
  • If you work in a large organization, you could volunteer to represent the company on industry committees and working groups, or present updates to the company’s leadership team on how your department is managing Brexit implications.

Brexit may create opportunities for business process automation

Rising automation is a huge topic in business, thanks largely to massive leaps in technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and so on. If your company hasn’t already looked at the potential to automate processes and roles, now is a good time to start.

Looking at automation opportunities is a bit like renewing your car insurance. We all know we shouldn’t just stick with the status quo and accept the renewal price from our current insurer; we know that if we spent half a day calling around dozens of insurers, we could get a better deal elsewhere. Yet, when renewal time comes around, how many of us take the easy route and stick with the status quo? Come on, you’re among friends, be honest.

Think of exploring automation as being forced to renew your car insurance the “proper” way. Sticking with the status quo isn’t an option, not unless you’ve really done your homework and you’re sure there isn’t a better alternative out there.

Automation may be particularly relevant if your business is reliant on labor from overseas to fulfill critical business functions. If attracting British workers isn’t a realistic option (some industries do struggle to recruit locally and have to look farther afield), then automating certain processes may be an unavoidable long-term strategy for your business.

You may think automation only applies in manufacturing or agricultural contexts, but think again. A wide range of business processes are increasingly being automated, across all sorts of business functions, including HR, sales, marketing, and finance. For example, in sales, software can now automate lead prioritization, scheduling appointments, and logging follow-up tasks.

Automation doesn’t necessarily mean taking jobs away from human workers and giving them to machines. In a lot of cases, automation simply improves what human employees do by helping to streamline processes. And when your human employees are freed up from more menial, repetitive tasks (such as scheduling appointments), they have more time to focus on tasks that directly benefit the business.

Therefore, use Brexit as an excuse to review your processes across the business and see where you have an opportunity to automate and improve processes. If you’re a big believer in work–life balance and the passive income mind-set, you should be constantly reviewing processes in your businesses to see what can be done quicker, cheaper, and easier with software or well-designed systems.

Brexit could lead to investment from overseas investors

There’s a definite sense that overseas investors have been holding back from investing in UK real estate development projects in light of Brexit uncertainty. In other words, there’s potentially a massive backlog of external investment just waiting to pile into the UK property market after the dust settles, especially because the pound is weak and investments represent better value and yield.

There are indications of a wider downturn in foreign investment. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that foreign investment fell 90 percent in 2017, after a bumper 2016. That’s obviously concerning in the short term, but the long-term picture is more positive, with many believing that foreign investment will flood back into the country after Brexit.

Why would overseas investors want to invest in UK businesses and projects? Quite simply, because the weak pound means their money goes further in the UK. They get more bang for their buck (or euros, or whatever) and the UK fundamentally remains an excellent investment location. So, when the short-term uncertainty is over, external investment will likely pick up the pace.

Investment promotion agencies may be able to help your business attract foreign investors. (InvestUK is one example of such an agency.) You can also get help and advice from the Department for International Trade.

Brexit could be the opportunity you need to pick up business from companies that have left the UK

In the event that a direct competitor pulls out of the UK, consider whether there’s a chance to suck up some of their business. This could, for example, involve buying their client lists (where possible), advertising to their primary audience, or even acquiring the UK arm of an EU company.

Take the UK fishing industry as a big-picture example. If EU countries lose the right to fish in British waters after Brexit, this could give UK fleets a much fairer share of fishing rights. (In 2018, EU fleets were landing eight times as much fish in UK waters as British fleets were landing in EU waters.)

Whether you’re a fisherman or a financial adviser, if your competitors leave a gap to be filled, make sure your business is the one that fills it. Be ready to expand your market share and attract new customers.

Brexit may cause homegrown support for British businesses

Many in the UK see Brexit as an opportunity to become more self-sufficient, to prioritize homegrown solutions over imported products and services. (In the case of the agricultural sector, the word homegrown is highly relevant because imported food potentially becomes more expensive.)

This isn’t just about Brexit, though. For all sorts of reasons, including climate change, more and more people are thinking “local” rather than “global.” Local producers, local suppliers, local services — all offer an opportunity for customers, clients, and consumers to feel more connected to the companies they deal with.

People in the UK want to support UK businesses. If you’re a local alternative to faceless, global entities, don’t be afraid to say so!