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.