Brexit uncertainty is now very much, in US parlance, a ‘known unknown’ which will affect everyone in the UK in a variety of ways.
The good news is that now that the deadline has been pushed back to 31 January, you have more time to prepare.
Brexit opportunities and challenges
Preparing for withdrawal from the EU should be slightly easier for a small to medium-sized business simply because their smaller size means they can often respond faster and more flexibly than their corporate competitors. So as an astute entrepreneur you should try to stay alert to any such niche opportunities Brexit may send your way.
However, your chief concern will be to weather Brexit uncertainty as best you can. To do this successfully, your first and most vital step must be to keep yourself informed about political and economic Brexit developments at both macro and micro levels.
This will require 360-degree vigilance because some issues may directly affect your business trading, perhaps in the form of new legislation. Other issues may indirectly affect your cash flow by impacting upon your supply chain or by altering the priorities of your customer base.
Elsewhere, there may be other changes which affect all businesses, such as new tax and VAT arrangements. And for those who employ a workforce, Brexit may also impose entirely new demands upon employers and/or employees.
For an overview of how to prepare your own business for Brexit, fill in the questionnaire on the Government’s website.
In the meantime, here are three other areas which are more likely to be affected by our departure from the EU.
Brexit and healthcare
The healthcare sector, which relies heavily upon a broad small business input from entities such as local pharmacies and care homes, is a useful example of the issues which may be encountered. Media publicity suggests that even common ‘over the counter’ medications might be subject to heavy demand and fluctuating supply – a matter which the NHS website deals with in much greater detail.
Yet healthcare providers may find that some more specialist medicines and equipment also become harder to source. Furthermore, business owners who have traditionally relied upon workers from abroad may find that new economic circumstances, and perhaps revised attitudes towards professional qualifications, may significantly alter the viability of such arrangements.
Brexit and transport
Most businesses depend upon transport at some level. So those directly or indirectly involved in maritime shipping, air freight and road haulage may soon need to acquaint themselves with a new range of logistical issues.
Likewise, at regional and local levels, buses, taxis and commercial vehicles are likely to encounter new licensing and insurance arrangements. Yet as with other sectors, those who are best prepared for any changes will also be the first to reap the business rewards.
Post-Brexit imports and exports
If your business involves sending or receiving goods and/or services from abroad, some business changes are sure to lie ahead. There may soon be trade tariffs applicable, new rates of VAT may apply and there may be new licensing, business declarations and other regulations which will all affect the way you trade. Furthermore, there may well be new laws affecting business travel.
Though some new Brexit requirements may seem onerous, they should at least apply to your rivals too – and a new level playing field will still favour (and reward) those entrepreneurs prepared to deliver the best possible deal to their customers. In addition, Brexit may encourage some business owners to source new markets which may offer even better opportunities post Brexit.
With the future economic and political climate likely to remain uncertain for some time, this may be an opportune moment for you as a business owner to find out the current value of your business. Not only is this a great way to help you decide whether now is the right time to sell, it can also provide you with a useful benchmark to inform any planning you now consider necessary to put in place in readiness to weather any possible storms which may lie ahead.
Jo Thornley is the head of brand and partnerships at Dynamis.
How are small businesses preparing for Brexit?