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July 13, 2016

Now you’re talking


Despite much speculation around the recent BREXIT decision to leave the EU and the impact this will have on small to medium-sized businesses, several weeks on and many businesses are still unsure of what the consequences will be.

The implications for some were immediate in terms of currency fluctuations and the impact on contracts – both positive and negative – however, there is still a sense of treading water for the majority.

One important point made by respected industry bodies and the business press is that SME’s don’t fall into one homogenous group. The impact of any major change in the economy or government is of course different for each business dependent on where and how they operate, what their product or service is, who their clients are and what sectors they specialise in. As well as a host of other variables that are unique to each organisation.

However, where there are uncertainties, one area that does unite all businesses is the importance of having strong relationships with key stakeholders. While you might not have all the answers, keeping lines of communication open and honest is essential to maintaining these relationships and keeping everyone on board with your business and the road ahead.

Start by considering these key groups:

• Employees – for SME’s with an international employee base the need to talk with staff about any potential concerns at present may seem obvious. However, even if your employees are not international, it’s still important to keep them up to date about the business and its future plans. Don’t forget they may also have valuable ideas of their own to share which will benefit the business.

• Customers – if you have a good relationship with a key customer and you’ve worked well together so far, chances are they’ll want this to continue whatever potential challenges may lie ahead for both parties. Rather than wait for them to make the first move, arrange a meeting, get together face-to-face and talk about future plans around the table, as partners, rather than customer and supplier.

• Suppliers – don’t forget your own suppliers, it’s important to all businesses that the products and services they buy themselves deliver what they need. Keep suppliers updated of any changes to your business which they need to be aware of and ask them to do the same in return.

• Investors – pick up the phone to investors or other financial stakeholders and talk about your next move. Don’t assume the worst and avoid contact. If an investor has shown an interest in your business previously, chances are they think you have the entrepreneurial skills and resilience to build a successful business, whatever the outlook.

• Press & media – if your business invests in press and media relations and you have relationships with your sector publications don’t be afraid to talk to journalists. If you aren’t sure how changes in the current climate are going to affect your business, be open and honest. If you communicate the fact you are currently in a period of planning to set you in good stead for any challenges ahead, it gives a positive message that you are organised and serious about your business.

Fortunately, small business owners are a pretty resilient breed, after all, many have started something from nothing and are used to dealing with the ups and downs of running a business. This resilience, coupled with strong relationships built on honest, open communication gives small business owners strong foundations on which to stand, whatever’s on the horizon.

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