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July 17, 2017

Does Brexit mean Brexit? How to mitigate the challenges of cross-border operations

Paul Clarke from 3CX looks at the challenges market instability, such as Brexit, can cause for businesses and how they can overcome these challenges.

By Ellie Burns

For many businesses, operating cross-border can be a worthwhile challenge – a business running smoothly in multiple locations can spread risk and increase its opportunities. However, moving abroad isn’t always a first choice. Changes to the local economic or political situation sometimes force businesses’ hands if they want to continue to operate effectively. In these circumstances, effective relocation can be a matter of urgency.

For instance, with the UK and Europe currently in the grip of Brexit – businesses may find that circumstances require the development of regional, European, or even worldwide bases to minimise any disruption to their services, and ultimately to their customers.

 

The challenges:

From natural business expansion, to operational needs and market circumstances, organisations will need to consider how to successfully overcome the challenges relocation can bring. For many businesses, relocation can seem like too costly a process to undertake. For others, there will be serious consideration of the sums involved versus the potential losses. For example, EasyJet’s estimated £3million in Brexit relocation costs would be an unrealistic investment for many, but EasyJet’s size makes it a necessity.

For many organisations, however, it is not just about money. They also have to face the issue of existing employees who don’t want to transfer to a new location for any number of reasons, yet who retain vital knowledge for the business. Moreover, when staff are working across multiple locations, it can be difficult to ensure workers are aware of what is happening across the organisation and foster a positive business environment. Maintaining a positive, well-informed workforce needs to be a priority for any businesses undergoing relocation.

Speed is also a consideration, with sudden changes in market conditions or regulatory changes requiring a rapid response. For the majority of businesses, Brexit will be an uncertainty until the UK and EU have signed on the dotted line – leaving regulatory changes in limbo. It can therefore be difficult for organisations to set up in new markets quickly and effectively, or to make immediate changes to ongoing plans. While businesses can allow for expected changes, they will need to be able to update plans rapidly.

Brexit choke hold

How to do it:

In the wake of Brexit, many UK-based organisations are already beginning to look at how they can operate cross-border without a drastic impact to services. In fact, research in 2017 revealed one in three firms are considering a partial relocation to beat the uncertainty. But for small and mid-sized organisations, the process of setting up in a new location is more complex than simply deciding they need to operate elsewhere.

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One of the key issues holding many organisations back from relocating is overcoming the upheaval for staff undergoing the process. For staff that are reluctant to relocate, allowing remote working from their home location can prove a worthy compromise. By using communications technology to provide constant access to colleagues via phone, email, instant message or video calls, businesses can maintain the collaborative office environment, regardless of workers’ actual, physical location.

Relocation can also require a significant investment of money and time to find a new location and set-up. However, undertaking this process can open up opportunities for future expansion, and offer greater security against market turmoil. Technology is critical to ensuring businesses can relocate quickly and effectively without having to meet a hefty price tag every time. This is even true when investigating potential locations. Businesses can use technology to send out an ‘advanced party’ before even booking flights, contacting local experts and beginning to build relationships necessary for businesses to flourish. For instance, the business can deal with new clients, suppliers and partners, even before a local office is fully functioning. Similarly, communications technology can make it easier to hire and integrate local staff in a new region – as they can begin building relationships with their more experienced colleagues before they ever meet in person.

 

Get it done:

Businesses regularly face challenges; from market conditions, to regulatory changes or even wholesale political shifts. It is vital to have the technology in place to make a relocation easier when times get tough, or an expansion possible when businesses do particularly well.

With Brexit looming over the United Kingdom and the European Union, businesses should seriously start considering the strategies needed to overcome changes to border and trade agreements. Whether they have customers abroad already, or are looking to guard against potential difficulties and market turmoil during negotiations, organisations should look to relocation to mitigate against potential issues. But this method will only work if organisations are able to replicate their existing models abroad, and support a relocation which will rely as heavily on successful communication as the Brexit negotiations.

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