9 Ways to Protect Your Business against Brexit Uncertainty - dummies

9 Ways to Protect Your Business against Brexit Uncertainty

By Nicholas Wallwork

Brexit, market shifts, global financial crises, advancing technology — businesses have always had to cope with uncertainty and change in one way or another. While Brexit presents new challenges, stay confident that this is a storm your business can weather.

When the going gets tough — whether it’s temporary disruption or huge industry change — the businesses that survive (and thrive, in fact) are the ones that keep their eyes on the ball while finding ways to adapt.

This article looks at practical ways to maintain a successful business in the light of Brexit, even when times are changing and uncertainty is rife. Whether you’re a small business owner, a leader in a larger company, or the manager of a team, this article helps you keep focused, stay positive, and continue to deliver great results.

Do a Brexit impact assessment

There’s an old saying in business: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Sure, Peter Drucker, the management guru who coined the phrase, was talking about using key performance indicators to track progress, but I think there’s a deeper lesson to learn here. Namely, if you don’t first get the lay of the land, how on earth can you expect to steer your business or team in the right direction? If you don’t understand the potential impact of Brexit, how can you manage it?

Work with a “dream team” of experts to get through Brexit

A dream team comprises experts in all the fields where you lack specialized skills and knowledge. These would be professional advisers, and you should rely on them to give you the most relevant, accurate, and up-to-date advice you need to steer your businesses correctly.

Brexit is a complicated, evolving subject, and you’ll undoubtedly need professional expertise to guide you in certain areas as the business climate changes. If you already have that expertise in house, great! Consider, though, whether your in-house dream team could benefit from upskilling and training to ensure they have all the right knowledge and tools at this time.

If you don’t have the people in house, it’s never too late to start expanding your network and connecting with expert, external services. This may involve:

  • Connecting with specialists via your local networking groups
  • Seeking word-of-mouth recommendations from people you know and trust
  • Connecting with experts online via LinkedIn and specialist forums

You could, of course, spend an awful lot of your own time keeping up with nitty-gritty Brexit developments, researching legal implications, deciphering potential tax changes, and all that jazz — but is that really the best approach for your business or the best use of your time? Probably not. That’s what your professional advisers are for.

Besides, it’s not a great idea to rely on your own reading of the Brexit situation. If you misread new rules, for instance, it could end up costing your business dearly in the long term. Seek professional advice and make sure your business gets it right the first time.

Stay in the loop on Brexit developments

Remember when you were advised not to get too embroiled in the latest, nitty-gritty Brexit developments? (Of course you do, it was only a couple of paragraphs ago.) To be clear, this isn’t permission to ignore Brexit developments altogether, or bury your head in the sand. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “la la la” — tempting though it may be sometimes — isn’t much of a strategy.

Bottom line: You do still need to stay in the loop on the latest big-picture Brexit news. Even if the latest development isn’t what you, personally, wanted to see happen. Even if you’re exhausted by the subject (as many people are). If you don’t stay up to date at a basic level, how will you know what questions to ask your dream team of expert advisers?

Engage with government support and business resources for Brexit

Many business owners, leaders, and managers are in the same boat as you — trying to pick their way through an extremely complicated subject and unearth the practical implications for their business. You’re not alone, in other words.

Recognizing this need for clear information, the government and lots of independent organizations are offering support for businesses. The Confederation of British Industry is one great example of this.

Keep your foot on the gas to get through Brexit

Change usually affects a company in one of two ways:

  • It spurs the business on to evolve and adapt. In this scenario, change is a force for good, something that encourages innovation, positivity, and excitement.
  • It sucks the energy and motivation from a business. People get distracted by temporary uncertainty. Engagement dips. Negativity rises. Everyday business activity suffers.

Which camp do you want your business to be in?

Don’t let your business get distracted by Brexit-related uncertainty (or any business uncertainty, for that matter). Don’t get bogged down or take your foot off the gas.

Stay focused on your core activities at this time — “core activities” means continuing to deliver outstanding products, and wowing your customers or clients with incredible service. Isn’t that why you started the business in the first place? (Or, if you’re an employee, isn’t that why you get out of bed and go to work each day?)

If you let that everyday activity slip, if you don’t stay true to your business’s mission, even if it’s just for a little while, your customers will notice. Don’t give them an excuse to take their business elsewhere.

Diversify and create multiple streams of income to survive Brexit

During uncertain times, keeping your business doing what it does best is vital. There’s a counterpoint to that important rule: While maintaining your core everyday business activity, you may also want to take this opportunity to consider diversifying your business and finding new sources of revenue.

Any business that’s reliant on one market, one big customer, one major supplier, or one single product is vulnerable. Over-reliance on one thing is risky at any time, but especially so in uncertain times — and especially when it comes to revenue. That’s why, wherever possible, you should look for ways to grow your business through new revenue streams.

This may mean

  • Developing new products and services
  • Expanding into new geographic regions
  • Targeting new customer segments
  • Partnering with or acquiring another provider who brings something new and exciting to the party
  • Expanding your professional network

After the United Kingdom (UK) has exited the European Union (EU) — assuming the UK exits under the terms of a withdrawal agreement — there’s then a formal transition period that’s likely to run until December 2020, but could run until December 2022, or later, depending on when the UK leaves. Think of this transition period as your innovation and diversification period.

In other words, you’ve got X many months to a) think about where your company is going and how best to evolve and future-proof the business, and b) put those plans into action. Turn Brexit into an opportunity — that’s the message!

Small businesses are at a big advantage here, because they can usually innovate, adapt, and respond to market changes quicker than huge multinational corporations, with their many layers of leadership and approval processes. If you’re a small business, find a way to take advantage of the market conditions. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Find out what works and what doesn’t for your business, keep pushing and always be growing.

Working with a business adviser is a great way to identify and assess new business opportunities and find ways to grow your business. Look for a local business adviser or consultant wherever possible (perhaps through local networking groups or word-of-mouth recommendations). A local adviser can really get to know your business in depth, and the two of you can develop that important face-to-face rapport.

Also, review your marketing efforts and don’t join the masses and cut marketing spend through fear. Try this mantra: Observe the masses and do the opposite, and you won’t go wrong. While your competition panics and loses market share through inaction, you can take this opportunity to get ahead!

Keep staff engaged and motivated to get your business through Brexit

Some of your employees may be EU citizens unsure of their rights in the UK after Brexit. These employees will obviously need clear information and support from your business.

But whether your employees hail from Spain, South America, or Southend-on-Sea, Brexit uncertainty has the potential to cause unease among the workforce. People may have big fears about the business as a whole or, on a smaller scale, be worried about certain processes or their roles changing.

Few things kill off staff engagement and motivation faster than uncertainty, so make sure to manage this carefully. For the most part, this is about communicating openly and clearly with staff on how the business will be impacted (if at all), where there may be changes, and how those changes will be managed.

In other words, reassure your employees that you’re on top of the situation, and that there’s a plan (or that a plan is being developed, which is better than nothing).

Above all, remind your employees of the business’s mission and goals at this time, and the need for everyone to keep doing what they’re doing — delivering awesome products and delighting customers with amazing service.

If you aren’t already monitoring employee engagement on a regular basis, now may be a good time to start. Gone are the days of expensive, time-consuming annual staff surveys; these days, there are tons of inexpensive tools that can assess employee mood frequently, using just a few well-chosen questions.

Communicate with your customers about Brexit

Just as you should be communicating openly with your employees during uncertain times, you also need to be communicating openly with your customers and suppliers (more on suppliers coming up next).

Your customers will need to know whether anything is likely to change after the UK is no longer part of the EU. For example, are overseas orders likely to take a few days longer? Are prices changing? Are you offering new products and services?

In short, keep communicating with your customers, and reassure them that it’s business as usual in terms of your company delivering outstanding customer service.

Make sure your customer communications don’t fall foul of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Communicate with your suppliers about Brexit

The impact of the Brexit referendum on your supply chain will depend on what type of business you run and the suppliers you work with. But, whatever the impact (if any), it’s vital you maintain a clear line of communication with your suppliers.

Are your suppliers keeping you up to date on any potential service changes or delays? If not, press them for more information and ask them for more regular updates. After all, you’ve got to keep your own customers informed.

There may be times when the picture is a little foggy. A supplier may, for example, know that a particular process will change, but not yet have 100 percent certainty on how it will change. That’s understandable. What you need is transparent communication on what’s definitely happening, where there may be gray areas, and a timeline for resolving any unknowns.

If both parties can maintain that open line of communication, you’ll be well placed to weather uncertainty together and emerge with a stronger, closer business relationship.