6 things SMEs can do to help themselves survive Brexit

Yesterday I attended the 6 weekly meeting of my local business club. Unsurprisingly what was on everyone’s mind was how to survive Brexit.  In addition to our usual presentations and discussions, it seems sensible to break out in to small groups to look at exactly how leaving the EU was going to impact each of our businesses and brainstorm suggestions as to what we could do.

Using the age-old business tool of a SWOT analysis which is quick and easy for mapping out challenges, what became very clear is that no-one felt ‘untouched’ by the potential of an exit from the EU to challenge their business, but that some had already seen immediate impact.  It obviously depends on the industry you are in.

In our group those who felt most at risk included:-

  • Service sector businesses providing what could appear to be a ‘non-essential’ service in a time of economic slowdown
  • Organisations providing products which require a longer sales process – for example a company helping organisations to reduce energy footprints had already seen existing negotiations for new contracts paused
  • Manufacturers who import components parts were very concerned about the falling currency market
  • Exporters with a high percentage of business done in the EU such as local specialist food producers

If you are a small business what can you do to help yourself through this current crisis? Here are some of the things we came up with:-

  1. Run a straightforward SWOT Assessment

STRENGTHS – Make a fresh assessment of your company strengths, your leadership team and employee strengths,  and your position in  your wider industry
WEAKNESS – What could be immediately improved? And how? What can you take action on?
OPPORTUNITIES – Who might need your help today that didn’t prior to Brexit? Has it opened up new opportunities for you? Where can you collaborate? What new markets could you be focusing on?
THREATS – One of the biggest threats is succumbing to inaction and fear. Whilst there may be little we can do at the moment about the unstable political climate and future international trade, we can take action inside our own businesses.

2. Fix international money transfers 

Companies who are purchasing goods or components overseas should be looking to use currency services via a broker rather than a bank, which will allow them to not only make significant savings on their international money transfers, but it also gives them the option to fix rates for a period of time. This can help the business because they will know what their costs are going forward for a set period – up to two years – and that should buy them time while things settle.

3. Reposition Services and Create New Ones

We identified a number of way in which small business service providers in particular might help themselves in the current conditions.

  • Could service providers who are focused on facilitating long term change, reshape their position and messaging more towards profit and growth?  In a nervous market where essential services are the focus, anything that drives sales, profit and business growth generally continues to see investment.
  • Is there any short term opportunity to re-price or re-package services to support clients through instability that you could create?
  • Take another look at how you are positioning the benefits of your service/product; is there anything you need to emphasise even more?

Take action! One of my clients who provides specialist coaching support to high performers in the City took the opportunity of Brexit to create a series of 3 videos focusing on how to mitigate the effects of uncertainty and stress and had over 1000 responses in 72 hours.

4. Reinforce the Strength of Your Brand (and personal brand)

  • Brand and personal brand credibility; during a period of instability, people are looking for someone they can trust.  What thought leadership content can you produce to emphasise your credibility and expertise that might also be helpful to your clients?
  • What can you do to enhance the profile of your CEO as a credible, trustworthy and reliable leader at this time?
  • What can you do to strengthen the social purpose of your brand and business? If trust has been lost in politicians, it’s not much higher in big business.  But there’s more openness to support small businesses, especially ones who can show they have compassion and interest in supporting the community around them.  What can you do to increase your local social or environmental impact and connection to your community?

5. Look at new markets

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to consider new markets.  For many SMEs, particularly those at the smaller end of the spectrum, travelling overseas on investigative missions may not be possible.  But there’s still a lot of advice you can get at home.  The government runs the UKTI (UK trade and Investment) service which provides tailored support and even face-to-face meetings with advisers to help answer any questions that business owners may have. Yes, they may soon be busy re-negotiating Europe, but one of the first things a new government is going to have to do is make sure there is support in place for our critical SMEs to go looking for new export markets.

6. Think about energy policy

With the possibility of rising energy prices, small business owners should look to cut back wherever they can. This can include introducing some energy efficiency policies for your office, whether that’s greener LED lightbulbs, installing bigger windows for more natural light or adding movement detectors to turn off your lights automatically. There are so many small changes to be made, and they all add up to save a great deal of money for SMEs.

If you are interested in exploring how you can strengthen your brand, or activate a stronger social or environmental connection with  your local community and stakeholders, I would love to help you.  I’m happy to explore with you in a short meeting – in person or via Skype – how activating purpose inside your organisation might help you stabilise connections with your clients, employees and customers during these turbulent times.  You can call +44 (0) 7702 285207 or email me on jenny@jenandersson.com

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