How are small businesses preparing for Brexit?

If you have no idea how to make preparations for your small business ahead of Brexit, take some tips from these entrepreneurs.

Small business owners are exasperated trying to figure out how to plan for our departure from the EU – whether it is on 29th March or at a later date.

We speak to six such business owners about the impact of Brexit and what kind of guidance they want to see from experts and the government.

David Morel, CEO of Tiger Recruitment

David talks about how he is preparing his small business for Brexit

The situation we’re in is absurd. The way the government has handled the entire saga is irresponsible and its effects will be felt for years to come.

At Tiger, we are preparing for Brexit in two ways. Firstly, we’re building up a slush fund of cash, in case we see a serious drop in business. We haven’t seen this yet, however with more and more clients augmenting their overseas offices, it seems inevitable that the economy will eventually feel the effects.

“We’re building up a slush fund of cash and starting to look at international offices”

Secondly, we’re starting to look at international offices, from where we could offer services to the EU, from inside the EU. So, as an SME, that means spending more money to service Europe, and I imagine that others are doing the same.

Matt Sims, owner of Bristol-based Motorhome Holiday Company, a business that hires motorhomes for holidays abroad and in the UK

Matt talks about how he is preparing his small business for Brexit

Currently dogs, cats and ferrets can travel anywhere in the EU as long as they have a pet passport. But in the worst case no deal Brexit, pet owners would already have had to make arrangements to have their pet’s vaccinated and allowed time for the follow-up blood tests to qualify for travel. So for many, it’s already too late. I want to avoid any situation for our customers who could potentially face issues getting back into the UK with their pets.

For those clients travelling to Europe we are advising them that they must have six months left on their passport from the day they are returning to the UK. Bookings for travel to Europe were very slow in the first half of January but we have seen them increase slightly over the last couple of weeks.

We have also increased our prices in anticipation of the pound falling and we do expect to see more Europeans travelling to the UK. Anyone driving to Europe also needs to ensure they have an international driving permit – people need to apply from this from 1st February – for it to be valid after the end of March.

For us as a small British business, the uncertainty of Brexit is already impacting holiday bookings at the Bristol leisure firm with bookings down 50 per cent on this time last year.

I am also keen to understand what’s happening with import tariffs – this is holding back our plans to purchase new motorhomes because until any changes on this are clear, we don’t want to make any commitments because of the risks of new tariffs being introduced and including VAT after the end of March.

If we were to buy a motorhome from Germany at the moment for example, there are no tariffs.

Matt Stevens, director at The Mortgage Genie

We’ve had the busiest month on record for new introductions and client enquiries in January 2019. However, we are cautious as to how the property market and buyer confidence is affected by Brexit.

We’ve already scaled back certain marketing budgets yet redistributed that into the account management sector to ensure smooth process for our clients.

Our current recruitment drive has paused as we couldn’t allow ourselves to be in a position of being overstaffed if we see a reduction in business through the doors.

We’ll wait to see how any decisions relating to Brexit affect our clients who hold EU passport or are from the EU. There has been a reduction in mortgage enquires from this demographic as they’re probably fearful of their future status. That said, we have seen a rise in insurance and protection enquiries across the board but especially from EU clients who are based in the UK.

Peter Watson, managing director of Distract, a social media marketing agency

Peter talks about how he is preparing his small business for Brexit

When it comes to Brexit, we are definitely of the opinion that until the full effects are clear then it is business as usual.

So far, the only remotely negative consequences have been a few newer clients being a little wary of signing long-standing contracts. Other than that, we continue to grow as an agency and this may well be our busiest year yet – signs are positive.

But at the same time, there’s been a disturbing set of messaging rearing its head within marketing. Brexit has loomed heavy on some people’s minds, with even some of the most reliable sources for advice within the industry giving their thoughts like it will change everything.

One thing that I truly believe however is that we shouldn’t be changing the way we market businesses, on any level.

This might seem controversial, but in this industry, the ones who continue to do well are those that show innovation in the face of adversity and carry on down their own paths. Simply scaling back is akin to giving up and I’d urge most businesses to stick to their plans for this year and not to circle back on themselves.

What we’d like to see, as those who deal with myriad industries, is some clearer answers when it comes to trade. So many of our customers either rely on or are set to explore the export market at the highest level. Uncertainty can lead to lethargy in markets, so knowing where our clients might be headed will help us plan ahead. Property, manufacturing, service industries, these are areas in which all our clients would like some clearer answers.

What we’ve seen with the whole process of Brexit is that rumour and second-guessing outcomes can be dangerous. We’d all like some guidance but ruminating upon situations that haven’t presented themselves yet seems foolish.

Like I’ve suggested before, know what works for you within marketing and stick to it, build upon it. That’s what we’re doing.

Simon Hill, CEO and founder, Wazoku, an idea management software platform

Simon talks about how he is preparing his small business for Brexit

From the outset the whole process has been poorly handled. The government has taken an admittedly difficult situation and made an absolute mess of it. The lack of collaboration and meaningful openness is alarming and leaves us now in a very difficult situation.

It would be great to see government taking a more collaborative and co-creative approach to change, ideally on a bi-partisan basis – wishful thinking, I know! For the government to not even discuss options with other parties until a month or so before Brexit takes place is beggars’ belief.

But in the medium-to-long-term I am hopeful that Brexit won’t be a massive issue once the uncertainty of it all has been resolved. We’ve had a couple of years to prepare and we have used that time well, putting data centres in Germany more than a year ago to anticipate any challenges around data and data sovereignty, for example.

That was particularly key for us as the data we deal with is hugely important to companies – it is their IP, their future strategies and the innovative ideas that they hope will transform their organisation.

Listen to Simon talk about reaching a £1 million annual rate of return on the Small Business Snippets podcast

Ruben Schreurs, CEO of digital media and technology consulting firm, Digital Decisions

Ruben talks about how he is preparing his small business for Brexit
Although we only set up around one and half years ago in the Netherlands, we’re expanding rapidly and we see London as a vital stepping stone into the US market, regardless of Brexit.

We do not feel Brexit will fundamentally impact our core business, which is media consultancy, because of the strong media and client regional HQ presence in London. And London remains the media hub for Europe thanks to its abundance of creative and media businesses whom we work with on behalf of our clients.

“We do not feel Brexit will fundamentally impact our core business because of the strong media presence in London”

As there may indeed be challenges ahead, we are currently in talks with our advisors about the best way to incorporate in the UK post-March. However, we are fully committed and I have moved myself to be permanently based in London overseeing our UK expansion at the beginning of this year.

It is a shame that the UK is leaving the union, as I personally strongly believe in open markets and free trade. I hope and believe that there will be a set-up after March that allows for continuity and ongoing cooperation between the union and the UK.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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