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The Brexit checklist for UK tech companies

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It’s difficult to deny that the Brexit referendum has caused a huge amount of uncertainty in the UK. Indeed, the years following the vote have been some of the most politically tumultuous in living memory.

Now that the UK’s transition from the EU has been kicked into gear, business leaders see it as good news. Indeed, many decisions have been mothballed due to the lack of clarity, and UK businesses can now move forward with renewed confidence.

There is a broadly rosy feeling particularly within the UK tech industry. Studio Graphene recently ran a poll that found that as many as 74% of UK tech startups are positive that their turnover will increase over the coming year.

However, companies do have some procedural, detail-orientated concerns; hiring the right talent remains the top concern for startups, with 73% expressing their reservations — a not insignificant leap of 13% compared to the start of the year. There are other worries, too, surrounding considerations like tariffs. With this in mind, what areas should tech firms pay closest attention to as Brexit proceeds?

Consider a continental branch

Every tech company will have different needs and come across different challenges as Brexit continues, and there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. However, here at Studio Graphene, opening a European office was one way of ensuring that we can continue to grow, whatever the future may hold. We recently planted one in Lisbon, where our developers, designers and marketers can continue to work alongside our teams in the UK, India and Switzerland. This approach allows us to continue to enjoy unfettered access to the EU post-Brexit, and gives us peace of mind for the future.

Prepare your team

If your team includes members of staff from the EU — which, in the tech space is likely — then make sure you offer them full support during the Brexit process. People management should always be a priority and, in these trying times, it’s crucial that HR teams are on hand to work on issues like visas. 

Model, plan, save

There is still a huge amount to be sorted in the Brexit process, despite the passing of the Withdrawal Bill. As such, the tech sector is still not out of the woods when it comes to Brexit uncertainty; the possibility of increased costs due to Brexit, from tariffs or duties, exists. Prudent business leaders will integrate these kinds of costs into versions of their long-term business plan to find out what impact it might have — and whether it’s time to start saving for a rainy day.

Consider alternative talent streams

As our research showed, one of the biggest concerns for tech firms is finding the best talent post-Brexit, and creative solutions can help. Firms should first consider upskilling their current staff. Doing so has a huge host of potential benefits — it is cheaper due to reduced recruitment costs, and it encourages businesses to invest in employees and build on pre-existing relationships.

If your team does require access to European talent, consider establishing an International Professional Employer Organisation. This can reduce much of the administration of employing overseas, reducing costs and negating the need for a new legal entity. Most importantly, it frees up the C-level to focus on strategy and management. 

Explore your options

If Brexit does allow the UK to form new partnerships with the likes of Canada, Australia and the US, then ‘Brand Britain’ may be exposed to a different international audience. Tech firms must be prepared for this new opportunity and orient themselves as such — market research, for example, could be a useful first step.

On the supply chain side of things, firms could also consider looking inward. Whilst a disorderly No Deal Brexit is off the table for now, forging closer ties with British suppliers reduces any risk of being caught out by punitive tariffs down the line.

Consult an expert

Even after conducting thorough research, confusion can still reign. However, businesses don’t have to struggle through the complexities of Brexit alone. Indeed, there are numerous Brexit and business consultancies on hand, who can offer tailored advice to suit your needs. Whilst they will charge for their services, such firms could be a useful tool to aid the development of your post-Brexit strategy.

In sum, tech firms simply need to prepare, do their research, and prioritise their people. By on-boarding the best talent and saving for a rainy day, the proposition of Brexit may begin to feel less like a risk. I now look to the government to see how they will support UK tech businesses in this period of change.

Ritam Gandhi, founder and director, Studio Graphene

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