Brexit – what’s next for business?

Let’s be honest: no one knows. For once, we are all speculators.

What we do know is that business thrives on confidence and that the enemy of confidence is uncertainty. I don’t think any of us would claim that we’ve faced more uncertain trading conditions than those we face today.

What’s the worst that could happen? We gain less than full access to the single market and/or restrictions on labour free movement inhibit business growth. We hunker down, give up on investment, recession looms, inflation soars and unemployment rises. Result: we are all poorer.

What’s the best that could happen? We negotiate full access to the single market in return for limited and modest restrictions on labour movement which are not detrimental to our business needs. Investment is stimulated by low-interest rates, and business and consumer confidence rises again. The fall in the value of sterling boosts exports, which in turn encourages British businesses to utilise language and translation services as they seek to trade in new and exciting markets. Result: we are all richer.

Which will it be? If we don’t know, and we’ve already established that no one does, what can we do?

Well, I’m going to stick to first principles and –

  • Stay focused on the needs of customers/clients
  • Retain/revise and articulate a clear vision for the business
  • Set a simply stated strategy to achieve that vision
  • Rigorously monitor performance against plan and be ready to amend and adjust in the light of changing circumstances. Make a Plan B
  • Act quickly – the world is more uncertain and changing faster than ever – we need to be responsive
  • Communicate frequently and effectively at all levels of the business – up and down – recalling that good communication is even more essential at times of crisis (everyone needs to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it)
  • Retain, and manage cash ever more carefully (well, what else would you expect an ex-banker to say?)
  • Keep it simple

Even on a worst case basis, there is always an upside. It is axiomatic that change brings opportunity. Stay optimistic. The best businesses can thrive, even in adversity. Brexit may still be a beginning, not an end.

The business verdict

John Charnock, MD of Jascots Wine Merchants

“We remain positive about the future; we are in constant dialogue with clients and suppliers and are not making knee-jerk decisions. We have some protection against falling sterling as bought our FX forward. Whilst we still expect to see business growth in the coming year, to mitigate market and UK political risks we have developed a robust contingency plan aimed at our investment growth programme that takes the form of a graduated response in accordance with how the economy develops in the coming year.

We remain ready to take advantage of the positive opportunities that will inevitably come our way. Overall, we remain vigilant, we have a sound plan, we should be able to protect the majority of current pricing for the immediate future, we are totally committed to our clients, and whatever the future holds we are confident we are well placed to manage it”

Shekhar Agarwal, MD of Stone World, a leading marble and granite supplier is pragmatic and already looking to adapt to the changing business landscape

“As importers, we do of course expect that prices will go up. We did see some slowdown in trade for the first few days after Brexit but that has settled now and we are very busy again. We review business strategy frequently and anticipating a possible exit from EU, we had already started to diversify the ranges we stock so it meets the needs of a wider audience. We will also consider a dedicated sales team rather than relying on marketing and advertising solely.”

Bruno Zoccola, Chairman of London based Italian deli and restaurant chain Valentina Fine Foods

“Of course there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, however, any knee-jerk reactions are unwise. The City is getting back to normal, the property market will correct itself in time, more so if the Bank of England takes pre-emptive precautions and lowers interest rates, property will be a good investment compared to saving cash.”

Whilst some of our goods are imported and we risk price increases, I feel confident that overall things will settle down given time, and we will see benefits of the UK being master of its own destiny.”