Growth & Customers

What Brexit means for your business: Advice from business owners

If you own a business, the June 23rd 2016 referendum which resulted in the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has probably given you reason to evaluate everything you can do to be prepared.

We asked the Sage Business Experts – small business owners in their own right – for their advice on surviving and thriving in the wake of the Brexit decision. Here’s what we asked them and some highlights from their responses.

Have you seen any impacts to your own business as a result of the ‘Leave’ vote?

Responses from our experts were largely “not really,” and “it’s too soon to tell.” Some have delayed decisions on new contracts and spending on marketing in light of the uncertainty that surrounds the long-term financial climate, but others have said that they have felt the short-term benefit of the weakening pound.

Jeremy Corner from greetings card manufacturers Blue Eyed Sun noted that: “The weakening of the GBP is great for our export business. The dollars and Euros we hold are immediately worth more.”

Ben Biscoe from jewellery retailers Fairyglass Ltd said that his business has seen “A significant increase in enquiries from Europe looking to take advantage of the exchange rate,” while at the same he time anticipates “a potential significant cost increase as we import most of our products, paying in either US Dollars or Euro.”

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Do you foresee any impacts to your business in future?

While much has been made about the vote meaning that the UK will be more separated from the EU, some small business owners actually see the ‘Leave’ moment as a signal to get busy building their business outside the UK.

One reason is to offset the increased cost of exports. As Amanda Alexander, founder of The Academy for Talented Women explained: “I pay for many of my services in US dollars. My costs will rise. I will be focusing very strongly on building my online client base from outside of the UK and I will be looking at positioning my services and programmes in light of ‘investing in yourself in turbulent times.'”

It’s also important to keep your long-term goals in mind, as Ola Agbaimoni of social media consultancy Eélan M advised: “It’s possible to trade successfully in any circumstances if you adjust your products to meet the prevailing market conditions.”

Some of our Business Experts are facing challenging decisions. “We’d planned to invest in a warehouse in Europe for our distributors,” said Ben Biscoe. “With the uncertainty over how the exit is going to happen I don’t feel confident going forward with this, but if we don’t we will harm our growth overall. This will have a knock-on effect on hiring new staff.”

In most cases, planning ahead is a challenge for many businesses as the impact on consumer spending, pricing and VAT regulations is yet to be seen. Many business are watching where their revenues and expenses occur, either in the UK or abroad, and studying how the current climate and upcoming decisions may affect them.

Have you taken any immediate action as a result of the ‘Leave’ decision?

For most, now is a time to monitor, plan and assess their business strategy. Many immediate actions that our small business owners have taken have been to focus on keeping in contact with their customers, advising them of what the ‘Leave’ vote means for that business and working on delivering an even better customer experience.

Many say that having to accept the vote has been an important action, too. Ola Agbaimoni of Eélan M added: “On a positive note, having to get on with it does focus the mind.”

If you were to give one piece of advice to a small business owner right now, what would it be?

Overwhelmingly, our Business Experts advise that business owners should seize the day and not let themselves be consumed by worry. Focus on customers and open your mind to the possibilities of your business not only beyond the UK, but even beyond Europe as “there is a much bigger world out there,” said one respondent.

It’s important to communicate more with clients, partners and staff to reassure them. On managing your workforce, Kevin Poulter of solicitors Child & Child advises that it’s important “not to make any knee-jerk decisions. There is likely to be a short-term relaxation around migration, particularly for those already resident in the UK”

Our Experts advise that business owners take responsibility for staying informed as decisions are made and in particular as legal proceedings are adjusted to remove the EU’s involvement.

This is above all a time to remember what makes small and medium business owners truly great: their resolve and tenacity, especially in times of uncertainty. Paul Donno of accountants 1 Accounts Online advised: “As business owners we adapt to change quickly and we would hope that the government will do the same. My advice is to carry on business as usual. We will still trade with our European partners and this political turmoil will settle down. Just don’t panic.”

Says Jenny Garrett of Reflexion Associates: “Tough times require creative thinking. As an SME you have the flexibility to adapt and be creative. Develop strong relationships with suppliers and customers which help loyalty whatever the referendum results.”

Thank you to the Sage Business Experts who provided insight for this article:

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