Enterprise M3 has held the first in its series of Brexit Clinics to reassure businesses that preparing for the UK’s EU withdrawal need not be a daunting operation.
The event at Guildford’s Guildhall on Friday (February 8) was supported by a range of partners including the Enterprise M3 Growth Hub, Guildford Borough Council and Surrey Chambers of Commerce. Sarah Butcher, senior membership manager for Surrey Chambers led the panel discussion. She shared results from a Chambers survey that revealed 63 per cent of businesses have made no preparation for Brexit so far.
To counter this, Enterprise M3’s Growth Hub has organised 14 clinics across the region to support businesses with expert advice in the Brexit run-up and beyond.
Growth Hub Growth Champion, Ian Martin, who was a panel member at the Guildford event, said: “People talk a lot about this period of uncertainty and in the 40 years of my career I have never known a period of certainty. Admittedly some periods have been more or less certain than others but I think there is one raging certainty that we are entering and that is that over the next decade, or three, we are going to need to be more focussed than ever on growth in the UK and that’s what Enterprise M3 are talking about.”
During the event, Ian offered advice about general scenario planning and risk assessment. Stuart Chapman of EU Exit Business Readiness and Intelligence Directorate (BEIS) provided a short update on the information already published by the Government while Danny Langley, also from BEIS, discussed industrial goods regulations and standards. He encouraged businesses to think about whether they might need to change their packaging and reassured them that a no-deal Brexit would not disrupt everything.
Richard Morley from Grant Thornton outlined the four pillars of customs compliance and talked about special procedures to prevent double duty charges post-Brexit. Adam Williams, partner at DMH Stallard talked about HR, immigration and employing EU citizens, in particular, the implications of the £30,000 immigrant salary threshold.
The event also included a Q&A with the audience, one-to-one clinics with panel members and a networking buffet lunch.
Attendees were full of praise for the event.
Dick Wallis, CEO at Position Systems Limited, said: “I think we should remain extremely optimistic about the future and this clinic gets full marks from me.”
Jane Sexton, Financial Director at Figment Productions, found the panel discussion “about post-Brexit HR matters a real wake up call”. “I listened intently to it all,” she added. “It makes me think that businesses should get involved in the consultation period for the White Papers.”
Paul Ashworth, Producer and Director of team360, believes, “there is far too much hype and hysteria around Brexit”. “Due to the nature of our business we aren’t having any Brexit related problems with stocks and supplies,” he said. “Rather, the challenge we are facing is that we are having to hold back on new projects until after March as some businesses are waiting to see what will happen. The clinic has been very useful. I have gained some interesting insights and good contacts who will be able to help if I need any more advice. It’s definitely been a worthwhile experience.”
Linda Bazant, GDPR & Brexit Consultant, stressed the importance of the clinics and for businesses to prepare. “Some people think they have to do things that they don’t need to do to prepare for Brexit and they get so overwhelmed they end up doing nothing,” she said. “It’s important to just prepare in a manageable way, taking things in bitesize chunks. These clinics are really important. So many people and businesses don’t know what to do. Often the advice is simply ‘go to the government website’ but what we really need are panels and speakers to sit in a room and have a discussion, deal or no deal.”
Charities and academic institutions were keen to hear how they could adapt to Brexit changes.
Katherine Smith, Executive Assistant at Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village, said: “Our main concern is how to prepare for Brexit as a charity which is expanding nationally and internationally. I work in the HR department and this clinic has been really useful for gaining knowledge about the information and resources available.”
Representatives from the University of Surrey also praised the event.
Michelle Nsanzumuco, the university’s Executive Education Manager, said: “The talk has been extremely helpful for planning and highlighting potential opportunities in a post-Brexit future.”
And Executive Education Co-ordinator Mark Simmons, added: “It was a well-attended event and the discussion involving the audience members was particularly interesting. The panel didn’t throw their political opinions around they just offered practical advice.”
For details of upcoming Brexit clinics, click here