Brexit and small businesses: what is in store?

Brexit and small businesses: what is in store?

Many small businesses are finding the lack of details and clear information about what Brexit has in store for them disconcerting because preparing for the considerable changes ahead is practically impossible without a clear roadmap ahead. However, there are steps that SMEs can take to start to get ready for the potential scenarios that might be approaching.

Creating a Brexit roadmap starts with a good look at where you are now

Your journey to Brexit preparation should probably start with a look at your current situation. You definitely need to actively look for ways in which a potential hard Brexit could leave you exposed and think about ways you could protect yourself; you may need to get a bit creative.

For example, one major concern for many companies (large and small) is the prospect of losing access to EU labour, and how you deal with this challenge would depend on your situation. You may be able to get visas for skilled staff or to allow some people to work remotely from overseas or you might be able to automate at least some of their tasks or look ahead for ways to find UK-based alternatives even if it means providing additional training.

Now would also be a good time to look at your business as a whole to identify areas that could benefit from improvement, regardless of what form Brexit takes. Come up with different scenarios you may be faced with under different circumstances, and plan for how your business can make the best of those situations while avoiding risk and losses. This could be a time of great innovation for your business, so take advantage of the unknown and start creating.

Assume EU directives will continue to apply unless you receive clear guidance to the contrary

For the moment, the UK is still a member of the EU and so all EU directives continue to be applied as normal (such as the soon-to-be-implemented GDPR).

It is possible that Brexit will mean that the UK will decline to implement any directives that are scheduled to come into force after Brexit occurs (even if they have already been agreed upon), however, unless and until this is made clear, you should probably assume that the directives will go ahead and make your preparations accordingly.

In fact, even if the UK does decline to implement certain directives, you may find that it is in your best interests to comply with them voluntarily in order to continue your business with the EU on the best possible footing. You will find that you are better equipped to bid for contracts on the European mainland, for instance, if you are complying with the directives that local companies must also adhere to.

Look for ways to use technology to make your business run more smoothly post-Brexit

In very simple terms, look out for ways to digitise your interactions with partners or collaborators in the EU as much as you possibly can. For example, while face-to-face meetings are usually best for both engagement and privacy, video conferencing now comes a very close second and even audio-only conferencing can be highly effective.