As the future for UK businesses looks as clear as mud in terms of Brexit, Greater Manchester SMEs are being warned not to stick their head in the sand and instead make plans to address any issues or concerns in any eventuality.
Interviewed by regional news publisher Insider, Mark Hughes – who has been chief executive of The Growth Company, which incorporates the Business Growth Hub, since 2013 – has spoken about the concerns being raised by thousands of small companies across the region as uncertainty surrounding the Brexit deal continues.
“They’re faced with a confusing situation,” he said. “They don’t feel like there’s a lot of good information and latterly there’s been a lot of commentary around it being too late to act now on Brexit.
“It’s those types of issues that we are trying to address. There is still time for companies to think about their plans and act on whether Brexit will or won’t affect the business.”
Hughes noted that proportionally, Greater Manchester exports “more of its goods to the EU than the country does as a whole”.
“We do employ a lot of EU nationals in our businesses, so Brexit is going to be an issue for companies whether or not they trade with Europe,” he added.
“In some respects, we can’t alleviate the concerns purely because of the political situation. There’s no silver bullet or easy way through this.
“However, that doesn’t mean you should stick your head in the sand and think it’s too complex. That’s not being responsible and could damage your business.”
Hughes concluded by warning SMEs not to panic:
“There’s still time to speak to the Growth Hub, your trade association or an actual human being. You’ve got to plan and think about a ‘no deal’ scenario.”
*Ten ‘no regret’ actions Greater Manchester SMEs can take now:
1. Plan to be flexible
Ensure there is someone responsible for monitoring Brexit at a senior level in your organisation, with access to professional advice and good sources of information. Make Brexit planning a priority.
2. Reassure your customers
Be open with your customers about your planning process and ask to be included in your customers’ plans
3. Prepare for impacts on your people
Keep talking to your non-UK EU employees to understand their thinking and share latest information, review your recruitment plan for risks brought by Brexit and consider how your business will attract the right talent in the post-Brexit labour market.
4. Assess the Risks in your Supply Chain
Consider an end to end review of your supply chains and where there are price or supply risks, consider alternative plan
5. Review your Contracts
Review the contracts you have in place, look to renegotiate any negative impacts and engage with your legal advisor to discuss the adjustments that may need to be made for future contracts
6. Review your current Trade Data
Refamiliarise, prepare and classify your trade data to ensure compliance with likely regulations
7. Build your Systems to Capture the right Trade Data
Design and capture additional data and any export documentation within your systems to speed up customs clearances once we leave the EU
8. Investigate Existing Government Schemes
Look at current initiatives like ‘trusted trader’ scheme and warehousing and how your business can benefit, when moving goods in and out of the EU and consider registration or using a partner that has AEO status.
9. Prepare for Currency Volatility
Engage with your accountant, bank and finance advisors to look at products and processes to lower your exposure to currency exchange fluctuations.
10. Engage with your Key Business Partners
Speak to your advisors and suppliers about common goals and how to plan towards them together.
*Source: Growth Hub: “Thanks to our partner PwC for providing supporting information.”