With the UK finally set to leave the UK, businesses are now waiting to see what the post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU will be like.
With a lack of clarity on what the future holds, Ritam Gandhi, founder of Studio Graphene, shares steps that UK tech companies can take to future-proof their business.
The years since the 2016 EU Referendum can be characterised by two main themes: political polarisation and uncertainty. Indeed, such instability caused by the deadlock in Westminster was enough to shake even the most seasoned business leaders.
However, with the Conservative party winning a “stonking” majority in the 2019 General Election, the future of the UK appears to be slightly clearer.
Following the election result, Boris Johnson was able to pass his Withdrawal Bill in early January, meaning that after 11pm GMT on 31st January, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU.
The question now lies over what form the final relationship between the UK and EU will take.
There appears to be some confidence about the future, with recent research by Studio Graphene, indicating that 74% of UK tech startups are confident their turnover will grow over the coming year.
Similarly, 67% have plans to raise investment in the coming year. However, firms need more than just optimism. So, what can tech businesses do to future-proof themselves?
Think about your current staff
Naturally, there’s been a huge business focus on how the UK, EU and world economies are going to be affected by the various possible Brexit outcomes. Now that we understand the vague shape of the final relationship, it’s time to look inward.
People management should always be your priority — employees are the lifeblood of your operation — so make sure your HR teams are fully able to work on issues like visas. Sensitive issues always take time to resolve, so get ahead by making sure those that work for you are fully supported and ready for the future.
Do you need a second home?
Here at Studio Graphene, we recently decided to plant a new office in Lisbon. It now runs alongside our other main office in London, and two offshoots in India and Switzerland.
This expansion supports our long-term business plan, and now we are able to have total access to the European continental market whatever the future holds. Knowing this provides peace of mind for the future.
Of course, expanding abroad won’t be suitable for every business; it can be costly, both financially and in terms of resource allocation. So, it’s important to conduct thorough due diligence, to help you decide whether this is a viable option.
Sort out talent
Access to talent is one of the most pressing concerns for those in the tech space. Ask anyone in the industry and they’re likely to understand the difficulty of finding experienced developers and designers.
It’s little wonder, then, that Studio Graphene’s aforementioned research found that 69% of companies are worried Brexit will make it harder for them to find tech talent they need for the future.
However, there are two main options which could help firms overcome potential recruitment hurdles posed by Brexit. First, consider upskilling your current workforce.
Those you work with currently are often there for a reason: they’re good. So, invest in them further with additional training or courses. Recognising and rewarding achievements will improve employee experience and you’ll be repaid in loyalty and drive.
Plus, recruiting new talent can be very expensive and long-winded; often the solution is in front of your nose.
Otherwise, consider utilising the International Professional Organisation. Whilst it sounds jargonistic, it actually refers to a relatively specific practice that allows employers to recruit staff from abroad with relatively little admin and without setting up (and investing in) a new legal entity.
Model and save
Whilst the final UK-EU relationship is becoming clearer, the process is still ongoing, and tech firms should prepare for every eventuality.
Consider modelling and predicting how your finances would react to, for example, new tariffs in the supply chain. Whilst the initial results might be somewhat unsettling, it will help you to establish a realistic plan for the future.
For example, it might be sensible to add to your savings (or start saving) to provide a buffer. Cash is the lifeblood of all firms, so having even a small stockpile will act as a ballast in the storm. Fix the roof while the sun is shining, as they say.
If in doubt, ask for help
Even after careful planning and due diligence, confusion can still reign; and there’s no shame in admitting that! If this is the case, however, don’t feel that you have to muddle through alone.
There are numerous Brexit and business consultancies available to offer guidance. Whilst they do charge for their services, they will be able to offer tailored advice to help your business find the solution that suits your specific needs.
In summary, UK tech firms must prepare, not panic, and make a plan for their people — especially new recruits.
A dearth of new talent is arguably the biggest threat to the sector, so it’s imperative that firms continue to make themselves appealing to European talent — and have the necessary processes in place for onboarding them.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene. Ritam worked as a consultant for a decade for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch before, in 2014, founding Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing amazing blank canvas tech products.
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