Brexit - How can medium to small sized businesses prepare?

With Brexit looming, Claire Ferguson, CEO of Nelsons, was recently asked by the BBC World Service how the company was getting ready and what advice she would give to similar sized companies to prepare for it.

Here, Claire gives her thoughts.

As a longstanding British exporter – we have been exporting to around 70 countries for almost 160 years. We are used to the paperwork that comes with that and used to trading globally. Brexit doesn’t keep me awake at night -it’s more a frustration that is always there. For us it is the regulatory element that is a huge piece as we are always dealing in licenced medicines and food supplements for example so we have to have the right licence and that can be quite complex at times so we are having to have to do a huge amount of work to ensure that our packaging is correct and that we can over-label. That takes time, effort and cost that we could be focussing elsewhere. We have also increased our stock levels which ties up working capital. For us that is OK, and we can do that but, obviously, for a number of companies this is stopping them investing. We have the regulations in place, we’ve got the stock levels up and clearly, we’ve made sure we know how to trade if there is a no deal situation and we are registered appropriately. But you know what, we have been around for 160 years – this is change but we have seen a lot of change over that time.

For businesses who have not had to face customs paperwork before and are a bit daunted by it my advice would be don’t ignore it. We don’t know exactly what is coming but obviously there is a significant possibility that we are going to have a no deal Brexit and almost every company I speak to care about their users and about their customers – we can’t get into a situation where people are not able to get British manufactured products so lean into it. We’ve got to.

In terms of pricing as a result of the extra work and cost that Brexit may bring with it we are lucky as we work across 70 markets so we do have flexibility. Of course we will have to review it but we don’t know what is going to happen or what the tariffs are going to be. We will just have to wait and see and we will review that as part of our planning.

My message to the government with just weeks away from the end of October and Brexit would be is to ask for clarity. This has been hanging over us for a number of years so we just need to know what is happening. We have been around for almost 160 years so we can deal with almost anything we just need to know and plan appropriately.