Small businesses and Brexit
Despite all the Brexit facts and figures we’ve been bombarded with in the wake of the referendum, the only thing anyone knows for certain is that no one really knows what the long-term effects will be, especially for small businesses. A plummeting pound is a sign of panic rather than a clear indication of things to come, and until the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU have been clarified and Article 50 triggered, there’s no telling what’s in store – whether that means things will be better, worse, or the same. The smartest thing businesses can do at the moment is prepare for life within and without the EU, taking comfort in the fact that there’s potential opportunity in the turmoil and that some things probably won’t change.
Buy an atlas
Whatever its perceived advantages or disadvantages, the world doesn’t end at the EU. If we lose access to the single market, there’s an argument that it will give us more freedom to pursue our own deals with a group of emerging markets known as BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China. While many are hopeful deals with the BRIC countries could make-up for the shortfall of the lack of access to the single market, others are less optimistic and anticipate courier costs rising. Now is the time to start thinking of how increased shipping costs might affect your customers, and how you can soften the blow and make them aware of any changes as possible. Businesses can also look to other countries not only for sales, but talent as well. With many tech companies in the UK benefiting from a talent pool of highly skilled workers who are free to work where they want in the EU, losing freedom of movement throughout the continent could be seen as bad news. However, the world is a lot more connected than it was when we joined the EU in 1973 and the World Wide Web was just a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye (and if you’re feeling upset about the result, take reassurance in the fact he was British). Thanks to Lee’s wonderful web, it’s now possible to telecommute from anywhere with an internet connection. This means that with some flexibility you’ll still be able to work with the most talented people, even if they’re not sat right next to you, and easily communicate with them through services like Skype. If you’re already a digital nomad, make the most of the next two years to travel and work in Europe as much as you can, and maybe offer some free hugs along the way.
Adopt a freelancer
Whether hiring from home or abroad, 73% of the UK’s SMEs are planning for growth meaning there’s going to be a lot of concerns about expanding workforces. However, there’s also a growing group of freelancers, contractors, and self-employed workers out there – who emerged out of the last recession and are used to making the best of a bad situation – which is helping to transform how businesses work in a way that benefits everyone. Hiring freelancers and contractors can be more cost effective for agencies who need skilled help for specific jobs but don’t necessarily require a full-time team member. Freelancers can offer cheap rates because most have no major overhead costs, don’t need to commute, and are generally more flexible in their working hours. Freed from all the distractions of working in an office, freelancers can also get more done and if there’s a really tight deadline they won’t mind working outside of normal office hours. In the US, with its world-beating economy, 34% of the workforce is made up of freelancers, while 29% of UK graduates see freelancing as an important part of their career plan. So the good news is people are as keen to be hired as freelancers as businesses are to hire them.
Learn a Language
For businesses who still want to deal with Europe in any hypothetical future scenario, it might be worth brushing up on your French or German. After the result, members of the European Parliament have stated that following Britain’s departure English will no longer be the official language of the EU. Of course no one’s going to forget their English overnight, but you’ll be perceived as more neighbourly for making the effort and learning a language can also be fun – you could even take lessons as a team-building activity for your business.
Keep it legal