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How might Brexit affect UK tech companies?

Brexit will undoubtedly be a complex process for many UK companies, but for those in tech, Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, provides us with a ‘Brexit checklist’ highlighting which aspects of preparation we should be focusing on.

After years of back and forth, politicking, hostility and delay, the UK has arrived at a consensus: we are no longer members of the EU as of January 31. The most important moment in deciding this was Boris Johnson’s landslide victory in the first December election since the 1920s.

Newfound certainty means business leaders are now able to plan with relative foresight and begin ‘Brexit-proofing’ their enterprises for the future, but which aspects of preparation require the most attention?

Remember the positives

Brexit means the UK is on course for a radically different economic future. For businesses, this may be daunting. However, there’s no need to panic. Indeed, the tech sector appears to be surprisingly buoyant; according to Studio Graphene’s recent Tech Tracker survey, a large and growing majority (74%) of UK startups were confident that their turnover will increase over the coming year.

Similarly, around two thirds (67%) had plans to raise investment in that time. This bullish positivity is backed by evidence; in the first seven months of 2019, the UK tech sector attracted an average investment of $1 billion each month. So, whilst change is coming, the sector is keeping its head held high.

Consider an international presence

Of course, every company has its own needs and resources, so opening an office in Europe won’t be appropriate for everyone. But if it’s within your capability, do consider it. Here at Studio Graphene, we recently planted an office in Lisbon to run alongside our locations in the UK, Switzerland and India, and will allow us to maintain frictionless ties with our European clients. However, you don’t need to open a new office to obtain this advantage; building ties with international partners before Brexit is concluded will certainly pay similar dividends.

Make a talent plan

The poll, conducted in Q4 of 2019, was not entirely rosy, however. 69% of businesses surveyed were worried Brexit will make it harder for them to hire the tech talent they need to grow. It’s vital for these firms to consider where they will source their people from down the line. But there’s plenty of strong options to consider for those without a continental base.

For example, upskilling your current team may be more cost-effective and better for morale than simply hiring new. Or, you could consider some alternative approaches, such as starting an International Professional Employer Organisation, which will allow you to hire abroad whilst minimising the admin.

Analyse and save

The Brexit process is still ongoing and will be for two years during the transition period. As such, it’s crucial that tech firms are still prepared for a suboptimal outcome. For example, rates could increase on certain commodities, so it is worth modelling how this would impact your bottom line. Should you begin saving for a “rainy day” buffer fund or rethink your supply chains? These are the kinds of questions you won’t regret answering down the line.

Remember the UK

The UK will still have ample domestic opportunities post-Brexit. Consider switching your supply chains to home soil, for example; this could mean avoiding tariffs and make your production process much more cost-effective.

On the other side of things, if the eventual trade agreements allow us to trade more freely with other markets (such as Canada or Australia), demand for the British brand may grow. Make sure that if this outcome does materialise, your firm is ready to capitalise on the opportunities presented.

Speak to experts

Despite conducting thorough research, the complexities of Brexit can still cause confusion. So, it might be beneficial to seek guidance from an expert. There are numerous Brexit and business consultancies on hand to offer tailored advice to help develop your future strategy. Whilst they will charge for their services, such firms could be a useful tool to assist the growth of your business in a post-Brexit world.

If there’s one overriding point for British tech firms, it’s that Brexit heralds new opportunities. So long as businesses research and prepare, I have no doubt that the UK technology space will continue to flourish.

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