Sorry, but I’m going to have to mention the B-word. While the politicians have been arguing for the last two years, back in the real-world businesses having been trying to anticipate what might happen with Brexit.
At the time of writing all options remain on the table — a no-deal, a hard, soft, or delayed Brexit— and if you’re running a business that trades with Europe or employs EU citizens that’s a concern.
The Government has issued a large number of technical guides on how businesses should prepare for this broad range of scenarios, covering every aspect from VAT through to workers’ rights.
But, for hard pressed business owners, the idea of ploughing through reams of official documents to try to ensure they’ve covered all the bases, while at the same time trying to run their businesses, has been nigh on impossible.
The reality is that many have had to look at a ‘worst-case scenario’ and then at the practical steps they need to take to mitigate the potential impact.
That’s why for the past 12 months we’ve spent increasing amounts of our time working with our clients and helping them prepare for some of the Brexit unknowns — that’s issues like the potential increase in costs (perhaps due to a shortage in supply of goods or a lengthier delivery journey), possible tariffs and delays in importing and exporting that may be out of the business’ control.
One of the common areas of concern is contracts. We’ve looked at lots of our clients’ arrangements with customers and suppliers to ensure these offer enough wriggle room to cater for adverse changes like increased costs or delays, so that firms can avoid any liability and meet any agreed service levels. And, if they can’t alleviate the problem, they can at least be fully aware what their liability would be.
We’ve also helped some businesses who have needed to take practical steps to try to ensure production isn’t hit. Many of these have been increasing warehousing or storage facilities for building up stock levels.
Then there have been the workforce reviews and restructures designed to ensure, no matter what the scenario, a business is in the best shape. We’ve worked with several MDs and HR directors to review the demographics of their workforce, checking Right To Work documents and ensuring HR departments are up to speed with the latest immigration legislation.
This isn’t Project Fear, rather, sensible business planning.