Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How start-ups can improve the UK’s image after Brexit

Whether you’re for or against Brexit, it’s a fact that the vote to leave the EU marks a turning point in our national history. The Government is still negotiating how to extricate the country from the EU. Until they provide clarity, we just don’t know how this will affect our economy and the way we do business.

Either way, we are still on the edge of a brand-new era for the UK. Our global position is changing all the time at the moment, and how we work together following Brexit will determine how we’re perceived. UK start-ups will have a meaningful role in shaping the UK’s brand when we have left the EU.

A positive opportunity for UK start-ups

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of start-up investment projects. I’ve met many entrepreneurs, innovators and start-up owners, and I know how passionate they are about their future. This energy is priceless, and show be harnessed to take the country forward post-Brexit.

At the moment, the UK remains fifth largest economy in the world, but whether this will be the case after Brexit remains to be seen. The Government is working to secure trade deals and presumably make the transition as smooth as possible. In the meantime, there has been speculation that other countries could replace the City of London as the global financial capital. However, the UK has a quality that other countries don’t – the ability to directly influence foreign investors through its culture, history and traditions.

How is the UK perceived around the world?

Every year, the British Council conducts a survey called From The Outside In, which shows how young people who live in other G20 countries perceive the UK. Results from the 2018 survey show that the generally positive impression enjoyed by the UK has remained relatively unchanged since the vote. More than 71% say that they still think the UK is an attractive business proposition.

Interestingly, the survey shows that the UK’s power lies in its people, not its Government or institutions. More than half of respondents are unaffected entirely by the vote, while 14% say they’re more likely to want to do business with the UK. Just 19% say that it has affected their opinion in an adverse way.

Start-ups should utilise information like this to really understand the position they hold not just in the UK’s economy, but the wider global business sector. We have a really strong foundation in the UK to work from post-Brexit. Intelligent communication, branding, marketing and an open, trustworthy position can capitalise on this.

What should UK start-ups do?

Lots of people underestimate the role UK start-ups could have in the global economic community. By using the same tactics as established multinationals, start-up owners can grow their client base and their influence. By attracting investment and being agile enough to adapt to the changing needs of the global economy, UK start-ups are ideally placed to create brands, services and products with a human face.

     1.    Prove your product or service really works.

Our business infrastructure is admired around the world, and our position in the global economy combines to create a generally favourable impression from overseas. And while the UK Government may seem slow to react to situations, the external perception of the UK is still positive.

We benefit particularly from the impression that ‘British-made’ means quality. The expectation that companies and products from the UK will be exemplary does add some pressure, but also gives an opportunity to prove it’s true. This covers everything from the product or service itself, to how you sell it, your online presence, advertising, customer service and social media.

      2.    Use cultural codes in your communications.

The UK still has the reputation of being mostly polite, well-mannered and trustworthy. Small start-ups should capitalise on this and use it in communications, whether with customers or suppliers. Demonstrating calm, rational, polite customer service and selling techniques can enhance a UK start-up’s reputation overseas.

     3.    Show you are welcoming and open-minded.

A negative consequence of the perception surrounding Brexit is that the UK is intolerant to foreign people and businesses. Show this isn’t the case through your marketing, as well as the product and service. Use a language in your communication that is subtly open and welcoming and doesn’t alienate anyone. You can also use design to create something accessible, welcoming and appealing to everyone in your target market. This will engender feelings of acceptance within your target demographic and show you are open, inclusive and welcoming.

There is not doubt that UK start-ups can meaningfully contribute to the future of our economy. Working together holistically with overseas customers from all around the world will help to build an impression of a UK that’s open for business and happy to work with everyone. Start-ups could form the backbone of the UK’s economy after Brexit and improve the way we are seen by other countries.

Monday, February 11, 2019

How will Brexit affect UK small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs are at the heart of the UK’s economy. How the sector reacts to Brexit and the challenges it may bring is key to the buoyancy of the economy after the UK leaves the EU.

But with so much speculation concerning the likely terms of the country’s withdrawal from the trading block, how should small businesses prepare? I’ve been investing in exciting entrepreneurs, small businesses and start-ups for many years, and I hope that my advice on how to prepare for Brexit will strike a chord with anyone looking for some assistance.

UK small businesses are getting ready for Brexit

The deal negotiated by the Prime Minister has just been struck down by Parliament, with a majority of 149 MPs voting against it. This is a blow for Theresa May as she struggles to honour the results of the Referendum and maintain trade links and ties with European countries.

There are now only a few likely scenarios left, which include a so-called ‘People’s Vote’, a second Referendum, a General Election or the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal at all.

It’s this final scenario that is causing the most concern for small businesses, and in particular those that rely on smooth cross-border supply chains. The Government is obviously aware of the worries this potential scenario is causing the sector and has published a number of documents on its website with advice for small businesses.

Broadly speaking, businesses should follow the steps taken right now by companies that deal in exports and imports from countries outside of the EU. You can find all kinds of advice, information and statistics about this here, including info on customs, excise and VAT.

What the Government says

These documents provide advice for all kinds of businesses in different sectors. In addition, the Government says that they will contact the UK SME sector with more instructions before the country leaves the EU.

At the moment, the date for Brexit is still fixed at 29 March 2019, but we know that this could be subject to change, given the difficulties in negotiation over the last couple of years.

However, small businesses should consider this the date that we will leave the EU and consider how they will operate under a no-deal Brexit. The issue of the Irish backstop has so far been a stumbling block in reaching a resolution.

The backstop is essentially a form of insurance that would allow Northern Ireland to continue trading under the customs union for a longer period of time. It has been negotiated by the Prime Minister to stop the potentially chaotic scenario of trade ceasing entirely on 29 March 2019, a situation which both sides would like to avoid.

Under the Prime Minister’s proposed deal, there is a transitional period for the UK to sort out trade deals and other logistical matters. The idea is that this lasts until July 2020, with the option to extend if necessary. However, as this deal has now been voted down, it’s unclear as to the next steps.
Preparing for a no-deal Brexit is the best way forward until we have more clarity from the Government. That way, the worst-case scenario can be dealt with. Either way, small businesses are traditionally resilient and it’s their strength that will continue to boost the UK’s standing after Brexit.