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Blue Skies Ahead for Britain’s Businesses?

2016 brought with it a fair share of doom and gloom in so many areas of our lives. Politically, the year seemed to revolve around the European Referendum at the end of June with the first half of the year stuffed with campaigning politicians and thought leaders trying to persuade us to vote either yea or nay. Then came the vote itself – a barely decisive 52% of voters wanting to leave the European Union which came as a shock to the nation, with some of the “no” voters admitting that they didn’t expect to prevail!

Since then, we’ve had a new Prime Minister following David Campbell’s swift resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote and we still have no clear idea of what the future holds – the process of leaving the EU and what Brexit will bring. Many business and industry leaders have warned that we’re likely to see some unwelcome changes as we prepare to cut our ties with Europe so you may be surprised to learn that nearly one third of SME leaders expect international and exports and opportunities abroad to be a key factor in driving business growth in the capital.

According to the annual SME Hopes and Fears Index compiled by Barclays, SME leaders who took part in the survey also cited access to new technology is another strong positive influence on growth, as does consumer demand. At a time when many business owners are planning ahead for the year, we know we face uncertainty when it comes to Brexit and the UK economy in general.

However, collapsing value of the pound which followed the EU Referendum has serendipitously provided opportunity for some. Opportunity in the export of both goods and services which have become an attractive proposition for our European neighbours. Increasing business in this way is a canny way of avoiding the cash flow problems some businesses are facing right now.

Cash flow challenges remain one of the main factors when it comes to businesses going into debt and facing closure, so turning one’s sights overseas can be a sensible and forward thinking move for SME owners all around the UK, not just in London. This makes it sound as if business in London is booming compared with the rest of Britain but that’s not necessarily so and we wouldn’t want to mislead our readers. In amongst the positive messages and sunny outlooks were some grey clouds that the rest of us in the UK are likely to relate to.

On the downside, half of those surveyed admitted that they believe that the state of the country’s economy is the biggest threat to business growth right now. Furthermore, other issues that are causing major concerns for SME include the rising costs of gas and oil which have led to a sharp increase in energy bills, inflation and the constantly fluctuating exchange rate. These negative factors are faced by all businesses in the UK and if we want to weather the coming storms, we’re going to need to be bold and imaginative. Looking for overseas customers could be a first step in the right direction and make all the difference to the future of your business.