Preparing your business for the unknown - a Brexit checklist

We'll admit we're still as uncertain as the next person when it comes to the future of Britain's relationship with the EU. But what we do know it's important that small business owners prepare as well as they can, as far in advance as they can.

Whether you're reliant on imports or exports, worried about legislative changes, or looking to buy or sell, you should ensure you have a contingency plan in place so you're in the position to cope with a variety of possible outcomes.

We've put together a business Brexit checklist to help you prepare your business and ride the Brexit storm, wherever it may take us.

Make plans for your supply chain

Small businesses with suppliers in the EU are already struggling with fluctuations in currency, so if you can move your supply chain to the UK you may be able to minimise any further economic disruption while the outcome of Brexit is still being determined.

If that's not possible, try to find some time in the near future to work on strengthening your relationship with your suppliers. While you can't foresee the impact of Brexit, a strong contract between you and your suppliers could prevent you from feeling the full force of any changes to Britain's trading terms with the EU.

Manage your workforce

If you have employees from the EU it's important that you prepare for their place in the future of your company. It's likely that they'll need to apply for settled status in Britain in order to continue working with you, which is something you could consider assisting with to ensure the process goes smoothly.

If any of your EU employees are no longer be able to work in Britain there are a number of options to consider. Firstly, you could discuss the possibility of working with them or other EU workers via remote working, which is now feasible for many business thanks to modern remote working technology. Alternatively, you could consider hiring employees from within the UK or EU workers who have been granted settled status. Should you choose to take either of these paths, prepare as far in advance as possible to make the transition a fast and easy one.

Address trade legislation

The potential impact of Brexit on trade legislation is impossible to predict until we know whether it will be a deal or no deal split. In the case of a deal, you will need to read government guidance on the trade and customs agreements that have been made between Britain and the European Union. It's possible that you will see little impact, but prepare additional funds where possible to cover any unforeseen costs.

In the case of a no deal it's likely you will need to deal with new red tape in order to trade as normal. Current guidance suggests small businesses will be required to register for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI) in order to continue, so look into this in advance if possible.

Plan ahead when buying or selling

The looming uncertainty of Brexit means buying and selling businesses isn't likely to be straight forward. For buyers, Brexit can mean a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to commit. For sellers, it can mean struggling to achieve the price you wanted or accepting a slow sales process.

If you're hoping to sell, it's important to remember that a strong business will always receive attention, even in an economic climate as unstable as that surrounding Brexit. If you're prepared to be patient, you may be able to wait out the inevitable dip in value that will follow any Brexit decision.

If you're hoping to buy and you're willing to be flexible, Brexit could provide you will the opportunity to get a great deal. Not every industry will see the same impact on sales prices, but those particularly reliant on EU trade could be an ideal target. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to move quickly if the right business looks like it might be changing hands.

All in all, Brexit doesn't need to be as frightening as it may seem. Prepare in advance, expect the worst and keep your funds as stable as possible, and you might just see the year out in comfort.