Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, advises UK technology business on how they can prepare for Brexit uncertainty
With the fog of Brexit uncertainty hanging over the UK since the 2016 EU referendum, it would be understandable for businesses to feel overwhelming pessimism for the future. So, it is perhaps surprising to hear of optimism within the tech sector. Indeed, a survey conducted by Studio Graphene recently found that as many as three in four tech firms were confident they would grow their bottom line over the coming twelve months. Such confidence is not unjustified — British technology firms sourced a record £10.1 billion in venture capital investment in 2019, and the sector seems buoyant.
However, the reality is perhaps more complex, with many companies harbouring more specific, procedural concerns about the future that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, our research also found that 69% of tech leaders were worried that Brexit will inhibit their ability to find the new talent they need to expand.
Further, there were concerns about the shape of the UK’s eventual relationship with the European Union. With these considerations in mind, what should tech companies be aware of as the Brexit negotiations enter their final stages? And how should they prepare for Brexit?
Before anything else, tech firms should consider seeking professional advice on how to manage the Brexit process. The latter is arguably the most complex diplomatic and administrative task ever undertaken within the UK, and so there are a multiplicity of potential risks and opportunities worth being aware of. With the many highly regarded Brexit consultancies available, now may be the time to ask the experts.
Consider alternative talent streams
With recruiting from the EU likely to become more difficult after Brexit, now may be the time to consider alternative talent streams to bolster your organisation for the future. You could, for example, establish an International Professional Employer Organisation, which helps reduce the admin of having staff overseas and allows founders and CEOs to focus on strategy and value-adding. Alternatively, look within your current staff pool to see which individuals could be upskilled. Training staff eliminates recruitment costs and allows you to build on pre-existing relationships.
Make a buffer fund
The final outcome of Brexit is far from decided, so it’s worth modelling all the possible outcomes and how they could impact your costs and bottom line. After all, whatever the long-term outcome of Brexit, there is a chance that uncertainty could continue until the future relationship is entirely established.
Exploring how future tariffs and export rates might affect your business, for instance, will give you an indication of whether you should begin saving some funds if things don’t go as expected — or adding to existing “rainy day” accounts.
Open a new office
Opening a new branch on the continent will likely be a huge investment of time and money, and so won’t be the right option for many tech firms. At Studio Graphene, though, we found our new Lisbon office to be an excellent addition to our roster of offices in the UK, Switzerland and India. Most importantly, growing our roots in international tech hubs removes any risk of us losing our close working relationship with European partners.
Don’t forgot about other opportunities
The tech industry has performed well in difficult times — especially compared to other industries that are struggling to adapt. If the UK is able to make new deals with other, non-EU countries, then ‘Brand Britain’ may add to this buoyancy and allow tech firms to explore new pastures. Whatever happens down the line, keep an eye out at all times for new opportunities.
In sum, whilst Brexit will continue to add complexity to the political landscape, there is much tech firms can do to assure their future. The main point is simply to thoroughly research all the potential risks and opportunities before making any decisions. Thankfully, the transition period, which takes place through most of 2021, allows time for this.
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