What does Brexit really mean for SMEs?


The UK’s decision to leave the EU has left many SMEs feeling concerned over their future, along with an undeniable feeling of the unknown.

SMEs gathered together at London’s iconic landmark, The Shard, to understand the business challenges and potential impacts post the Brexit result, in a unique event hosted by Riverlite.
At the event, numerous business leaders spoke on the subjects of business, finance and IT, regarding the concerns that have been growing since Brexit. Included amongst the speakers was Richard Alvin, Founder & Chairman of Audere Capital and Managing Director of Capital Business Media, who felt that with the current uncertainty surrounding Brexit, SMEs are unaware of how the result is going to actually affect them, making it a business threat. As a respected businessman, Alvin has been involved with a vast selection of small to medium businesses over many years offering to help apply his expertise and wide knowledge of the market. He stated that SMEs need to be in a soft and managed Brexit as opposed to a hard one, in order to cope with the post-Brexit environment in the best way possible.
Alvin said: “The trouble with talking and trying to make sense of how Brexit will affect the UK’s small to medium business market at the moment is also made worse by not actually knowing what ‘Brexit’ actually means.
“Clearly UK SMEs are able to act faster than larger companies. But it doesn’t mean UK SMEs are immune.”
Collin Woolliscroft, Regional Director for the Anglia Region at Santander Business, was a panellist at the event. Woolliscroft has a 10 year history of working with SMEs both from the UK and China, with valuable understanding relating to the agriculture, education and defence sectors. From working with such a vast number of SMEs, Woolliscroft shared the Brexit views that many SME clients had presented to him.
Sharing Santander’s survey results of 119 London based SMEs which reflected a positive attitude towards the future, Woolliscroft stated that less than one in 10 feel pessimistic about London’s economy. Over half of respondents believed that exporting and international trade are a key way of taking advantage of the situation as they are destined for future success and sectors such as manufacturing are expected to do particularly well moving forward. The UK claims the title for being the 9th largest industrial nation and since 2010, has outperformed any other country except the US for job creation.
Woolliscroft stated: “We all know inflation rose, core inflation actually rose slightly higher than the Santander guys were expecting, up to 1.5 in September. Santander’s prediction is that in the November meeting, we’ll see those rates drop.”
Another panellist, Stephen Warburton, Partner and Head of Consulting (UK and Ireland) at Numitas LLP delivered a further interesting post-Brexit viewpoint from SMEs. With 25 years worth of experience working with startup and growth companies, as well as high profile assignments, Warburton’s view on the effect of Brexit on UK businesses was to be something of value.
Following on from Alvin’s point, it was agreed that SMEs are able to act more quickly than bigger businesses – which will very much stand in their favour at points of uncertainty and in future of the unknown. Warburton reinforced that SMEs are more likely to embrace opportunity, with the way in which they accept the fact that Brexit offers no plan B. More than two thirds of Britain’s SMEs expect to see growth over the next six months, despite Brexit concerns. However, businesses still need to prepare, plan and ensure resilience for the challenges ahead that may include the Labour market uncertainty and the legislative change.
To conclude the event, Miles Redding from Riverlite, referred to the IT side of the Brexit impact. Riverlite’s IT Benchmarking survey to SMEs found that most organisations believe their IT strategy and operations are generally fit for purpose, but most have areas for improvement.
Offering an IT perspective, Redding outlined that SMEs are able to take actions that will place their business in a better and more stable post-Brexit landscape. He shared key IT investment decisions to bear in mind when considering the potential impacts of Brexit:

Consider how investments are funded

Cash is king. Without a cash reserve, attempting to make change is difficult to do, so to ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected, keep an eye on your investments and reserves.

Secure supply chain costs

Making the right investment is crucial and sometimes difficult to distinguish, but cloud managed services are on hand to help you discover where you can limit costs and significantly help to save money.

Look at keeping data in the UK for data security and compliance

From what is understood at the moment, it is not yet clear as to how data from outside the UK will be protected. Keeping data in the UK ensures of an increased data security and compliance with less concern over costs that may involve fluctuation of exchange rate.
All of the speakers present at the event shared a mutual feeling of uncertainty regarding the future for UK SMEs as a result of the Brexit result revealed back in June. SME leaders were able to take on board the advice offered from each individual speaker, whom of which presented different concerns for SMEs, to ensure that SMEs are more aware of what they can do to help facilitate to the future of what is to come.