By Dr Shailendra Vyakarnam, Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship
There is a fine balance between seeing Brexit either as an opportunity or a threat. We know that the Government and the EU are doing their best to find terms that suit everyone. The question is of course, will what they agree actually make small or big differences to our growing businesses?
And whom should we trust for opinions that can help us make decisions and take or mitigate risks?
Looking past the English Channel there are all the old Commonwealth countries the UK used to trade with, but over the past 40 years, they have formed new alliances with highly competitive industries from the Far East. So the challenge is to go back to those countries, trying to do new deals in the face of competition and perhaps some loss of good will.
We have to ask ourselves about the USA and whether that country can be relied upon for increased trade opportunities. And what will happen to us with all the paperwork and red tape in our dealings with one of our biggest markets – the EU?
These are clearly rather dark clouds that hang over us. But what about opportunities? The UK has always been inventive and created innovations of technologies and products that the world needs and wants.
I am old enough to remember when the UK joined the EU – we had misgivings about the benefits of leaving the Commonwealth behind. Then there was decimalisation that rocked the island. And Y2K for those who remember that far back about the doom that would befall companies that were unprepared. No one prepared us for the banking crisis of 2008 and we are all still here growing – if slowly – but growing.
During the Brexit referendum, we were told that data was irrelevant – that sentiment was more important. Yeah sure!
We need debates to help us clarify the fact from fiction, we need to talk in sensible ways to our peers and we probably need to do our own deep dive into our businesses to make sure we are resilient for whatever comes our way. Here are five things that we should be doing to secure ourselves?
1. Keep an ear to the ground
Take multiple soundings from the media and from other businesses. And keep track of what is trending. Be sure discuss these trends with your team.
2. Understand the threat to business
Do an internal audit of the business – for example how much of our supply chain is dependent on the EU?
3. Plan for the worst case scenario
What options are there if trading with the EU becomes unsustainable? Where are other markets and opportunities? This is when you probably need to go networking to get fresh ideas and learn about how others are thinking about the future.
4. Swot up on the facts
Maintaining a watching brief on standards, regulations and legal requirements that will or will not change for our businesses after Brexit. Some standards, for example, will follow you even after Brexit – the scariest one is probably GDPR (http://www.eugdpr.org/) which is about compliance with data protection.
5. Keep calm and carry on!
Continue to plan for growth with ambition while ensuring risks are mitigated. We can’t let market uncertainty and politicians get us down! But we need to make sure we have some contingency too.
We will be debating and discussing 'life after Brexit' at the 2017 Cranfield VentureDay (14th September). Cranfield VentureDay is a one-day annual conference for Entrepreneurs, 2017 will be the biggest event to date, partnering with the Festival of Enterprise, there is plenty on offer for everyone attending. Find more information, including the Keynote speaker details and the full agenda.
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