Countdown to Brexit

[This article first appeared in Business Link Magazine in November 2018]

With the countdown to Brexit quickly ticking away, Business Link Magazine invites a select number of the region’s business leaders to offer their thoughts. Here, Carl Benfield, Director of Refresh Business, shares his thoughts.

“A vision without a strategy remains an illusion” said Lee Bolman. I think this quote will become the enduring truth about the way we have dealt with Brexit and is also a key lesson for business.

Having now operated in a strategic vacuum for two years, many businesses that I speak to have shortened their planning horizon from three or five years, down to just twelve months. Some are in 100% reactive mode. Whilst this can force businesses to become more agile (a generally good thing), it is of very little help in becoming more innovative or in training our workforce, probably the two most fundamental areas that will need to be good at to secure our future.

Getting clarity on both the broad sweep and the detail execution of strategy is, therefore, something that urgently needs to be a key action for almost all businesses in the region. So much so that we have started preparing a series of events to help businesses understand how to seize the opportunities that national strategic imperatives create, rather than remain supine and reactive to the regulatory and market forces that will ultimately affect them and keep them on the back foot.

At the time of writing (and recognising that the picture changes almost daily), I think businesses are right to be concerned by the way the Brexit negotiations are progressing. Part of strategic planning is also about risk management. When many businesses are not even aware of their obligations under Making Tax Digital (MTD), how many have considered their risks under a no-deal Brexit?

In summary, I think Brexit is indeed an opportunity – either to embrace new markets that may appear on the global stage or to outlive competitors who have failed to prepare.