The top 10 tips to make sure your business is ready for Brexit

Mark Watson, director of financial adviser Grant Thornton's Norwich office. Picture: Genesis PR

Mark Watson, director of financial adviser Grant Thornton's Norwich office. Picture: Genesis PR - Credit: Genesis PR

While businesses across Norfolk consider the best way to tackle the behemoth of Brexit, future-proofing could be the strongest tool in their arsenal.

With the countdown to the UK's exit from the European Union in March 2019 under way, firms are being urged to understand their connection with the 27-nation bloc – from goods and services to labour and regulation – and explore new business models and markets to minimise the impact of separation.

Labour shortages are predicted to affect many sectors if freedom of movement is restricted, so bosses are also being advised to update their workforce plans, factoring in reduced access to EU workers, and consider using the apprenticeship levy to hone the talents of current staff and resolve skills shortages.

Planning for the impact of currency fluctuations – including potential opportunities from the weakened pound – and possible changes to compliance processes and customs duties should also be high on the checklist.

Sharing their top tips for Brexit preparation, financial and business advisers Grant Thornton are encouraging firms not to put themselves on the back foot by procrastinating or be 'lulled into a false sense of security' by the lack of serious shocks so far in the process.

Mark Watson, director of the firm's Norwich office, said: 'It's been almost a year since the Brexit vote and despite uncertainty over the future, the economy has generally held firm with many companies taking a 'business as usual' approach.

'At this stage, what shape the UK's relationship with Europe will take beyond March 2019 is unknown, but businesses need to prepare for the various scenarios which could arise to ensure they are agile enough to adapt to change as it unfolds.'

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Grant Thornton is also advising businesses to take a board-level assessment of the potential risks and opportunities from Brexit, to review supply chains and growth strategies, and consider any short-term exporting gains to be made with the weak pound while EU membership continues.

Mr Watson added: 'The bottom line is businesses need to take a heads-up approach. Keep up-to-date with industry advancements and seek professional advice where needed. Those companies which aren't prepared will struggle to capitalise on the opportunities presented.'

Here are Grant Thornton's top ten tips for Brexit readiness:

Understand your company's touchpoints with the EU – people, goods, services, financing, regulation – and exactly how changes could affect operations and financial performance

Explore new business models, markets and ways to source labour/develop existing employees to minimise inefficiencies now.

Consider how will currency fluctuations and potential changes to customs duties, administrative approvals, compliance processes and standards may affect your business

Review supply chains, identify which customers and suppliers might be affected and ensure contingency plans are in place

Test, and where necessary, update growth strategies – depreciation of the pound combined with continued membership of the EU provides a unique opportunity to maximise export growth over the next two years

Explore new markets – first movers will have an advantage so think ahead

Update workforce plans, considering the scenario of reduced access to EU workers

Review employee remuneration packages with a focus on non-cash benefits to remain attractive to international talent and minimise skills shortages

Consider the apprenticeship levy as a low-cost opportunity to upskill your workforce and help resolve skills shortages

Take a board-level assessment of the potential financial risks and opportunities presented by Brexit and how these will be managed, and communicate these clearly to maintain stakeholders' confidence