Brexit deal or no-deal: how SMEs can hope to thrive when we depart the EU

Tuesday’s Brexit deal deadline has come and gone, and UK businesses continue to wait with bated breath to see if a deal can be done. European tempers appear to be fraying, neither side is willing to wave the white flag first and if an agreement isn’t reached by Saturday there won’t be time to get it through Brussels or UK parliaments before the end of the year. Despite a late-night pizza delivery at Westminster yesterday evening, sparking reports a deal must surely be close, a no-deal Brexit is now looking likely against an already-fraught backdrop of economic uncertainty.

What positive steps can SMEs take to prepare as we batten down the hatches for an unpredictable new year? And how can these businesses reap the benefits of technology solutions like cloud ERP and CRM software to maximise efficiency, improve productivity, manage unpredictable overseas supply and plan for future growth? Against all odds, we explore the possibility of SMEs prospering in a post-Brexit world – with tips to help them get there.

 

Taking control of your cash

With the effective management of cashflow crucial to smooth operations at the best of times, how can SMEs hope to maintain this approach with both Covid-19 and a no-deal Brexit threatening to capsize even the most steadfast of firms? While a financial forecast may not provide the accurate results required at this point in time, plotting possible future scenarios can help you take some control. Cloud ERP software such as Oracle NetSuite provides businesses with the tools to plan and budget accordingly, with powerful financial planning analysis and reporting built in. Cutting unnecessary costs within your control – such as the cost of energy – can also help businesses save in the run-up to 2021. In addition, Government financial support such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) remain open for applications until 31st January 2021.

 

Maintaining compliance excellence

Once the UK has left the EU at the end of the year, companies will need to stay up to speed with new trade compliance and tariffs; and that’s a necessity whether a no-deal decision is reached this week and subsequent arrangements dribble in, or if firms have something solid to work with this side of Christmas. Goods that were once traded duty-free between the UK and EU will now very likely be subject to higher tariffs – not only raising the cost for importers but also triggering new administrative costs associated with duty rates and classification codes. For those with supply chain concerns, an existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may no longer be valid under new law. Companies with EU supply chains must therefore consider the option of alternative trade routes or new suppliers altogether while aiming to keep associated logistical challenges to a minimum. To assist with the former, the classification function within NetSuite can help businesses with effective tracking and segmentation of data.

 

Adopting transparent processes

If you’re a digital-first business that already prides itself on sleek communications, how can this be further improved? And for those SMEs yet to enhance visibility between team members (often from afar), where is a good place to start? Not only can business management software like NetSuite help SMEs to streamline core processes on a company-wide basis, but with features such as automated reporting, business owners can access up-to-the-minute intel at any given time – while saving precious time in the process. From NetSuite Business Intelligence providing manufacturing businesses with user-friendly reporting tools and dashboards, to financial teams receiving real-time analysis to inform future decision-making, time is of the essence when it comes to Brexit – and making it count for the right reasons.

 

Embracing a hybrid working culture

If SMEs wish to weather the storm that is Covid-19 – while also taking the necessary steps to comply with new Brexit obligations – company owners will want to put their people first to ensure commitment for the long-term. With the majority of sectors now familiar with the process of remote working, businesses that embrace this as a permanent (or partially permanent) way of operating, as well the tools that facilitate remote collaboration, can boost productivity as a result. With the nation facing the very real possibility of future lockdowns and financial instability, the willingness to function on both an office and home-working basis provides employees with a more flexible solution around other demands, such as caring for dependants. Welcoming this as a long-term business change and utilising cloud software that truly connects every person in a business – such as Microsoft Teams – can help strengthen employer-employee relationships at a time when they are most stretched and possibly feeling the most isolated. With a no-deal Brexit potentially stirring feelings of uncertainty and job security worries, no business wants employees to feel disconnected from their colleagues or operations.

 

Taking care of your customers

Now more than ever before, it is your customers who will largely help determine your place in a post-Brexit world, so reaching them with the right message at the right time is crucial. Effective customer management tools using solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help you develop this process. Whether it’s personalising that customer experience through customised marketing techniques or the creation of cross-selling/upselling opportunities based on existing data, hearing your customer loud and clear can help to establish any room for improvement within your existing customer journey. Companies that adapt quickly to ever-changing demands and take full advantage of technologies designed to boost engagement – from AI service bots to automated workflows – will typically weather the storm more successfully and be ready to embrace the sunshine of a new day.

 

While we don’t know what’s around the corner, (or what news is going to break in the next hour!) we are sure there is no time to waste in taking measures that will help safeguard the future of your business. If the multiple potential Brexit outcomes (combined with the uncertainty of the pandemic) has you concerned for the future of your business, we’re here to offer our expertise. Contact our friendly team to discuss your challenges and goals today.