Between a Rock and Hard Place: How to manage the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit

30 Mar 2021

These last 12 months have been challenging for virtually all businesses (and individuals). And for those of us in the UK, that goes beyond just the impacts of COVID-19. The run up to and changes from Brexit have added challenges of a different sort.

For businesses wondering if (and how) they can respond to these challenges and changes, our MD has some advice. Three things you simply must do.

This article can be found in the latest issue of Business Edge.

This article has also been published in the latest issue of Business Comment.

As I write this, it’s almost exactly a year to the day our business changed overnight. From a lively and often noisy office to a string of quiet kitchens and home offices, linked by a series of video calls.

It’s been a challenging 12 months, that’s for sure. And that’s for a business that doesn’t directly import or export anything. For those companies who have had their day-to-day operations impacted by Brexit, it’s been far worse.

When you face challenges like those we’ve faced over the last year, you have to take a hard look around you and ask yourself: can my business survive?

Sometimes, that answer will be no. And trust me, I know how painful that can be.

Other times, the answer will be a resounding yes.

But more often than not, the answer will be “yes, if…”—and that “if” can sometimes be doing a lot of work. Yes, if nothing else goes wrong. Yes, if that grant comes through. Yes, if I can just get through this next month.

When you face a “yes, if…” situation, there are three things that every business will need to get:

  1. a second opinion
  2. the help you need
  3. organised

Get a Second Opinion (and some Real Advice)

Every business owner and manager needs to have people they trust to tell them the truth. This is doubly important when you’re facing a difficult situation.

Asking someone else to “check your maths” can be hard, after all, no one likes to admit when things are tough.

But it is vital that you get a second opinion on your current situation. And ask for honest opinions on both your assessment of the situation and ability to get through it.

If someone with no stake in the game agrees with you, then you can feel a bit more confident in your assessment. But if they don’t agree with you (and if their reasons are sound), it might be worth taking another hard look at whether you’re seeing the world as you want it to be, rather than how it is.

Get the Experts in—Even if You Have to Pay Them

And that’s a Yorkshireman saying that!

So, on a slightly less depressing note, once you have identified which areas of your business need attention, you have to make sure you have the right people lined up to do the work.

Ideally, the people doing the hard graft are already on your payroll. But if you need to get some extra hands in or pay someone with more experience to advise you or even manage the work, then you’ve just got to bite the bullet.

Having the resource to do this work and get this advice should be part of the previous step. After all, just seeing the way out isn’t enough. You’ve got to do the work as well.

When it comes to Coronavirus, this meant purchasing some extra webcams for our team. The expense wasn’t huge, but the payoff was—we all got to feel so much more connected and that went a long way towards keeping everyone working towards a common goal.

For managing new import/export rules under Brexit, some businesses will be faced with paying custom agents and/or hiring new full-time staff to manage the paperwork.

Keep Detailed Records—of everything

I have two reasons for this: one practical, the other more emotional.

Emotional first.

When you’re digging yourself out of a hole, you need to be able to see progress to stay motivated. And that goes for your whole team.

Being able to point to a report that shows the increase in your ROI or customer numbers, that’s what will make it all feel worth the effort.

Practical now.

When things are bad, you need to keep your records immaculate. This is both for your accountability to your stakeholders, to your team, and to yourself. You need to be able to see where every penny has been spent and which accounts were won and lost (on which days and for what reason).

These records are essential for tracking your progress (and loss), but also for identifying where you need to tighten up your processes.

As we move forward in this new world of managing infection rates and custom regulations, there will be a lot of businesses that struggle. Some will go under. Others will thrive. And still more will just manage to keep their heads above water.

We all want to be the one that thrives…it won’t be easy, but getting the right advice, hiring the right people, and documenting your progress are all steps you can take towards that goal.