Amidst uncertainty, Enterprise Ireland urges Irish SMEs to start their Brexit plans

29 Jun 2017

The Enterprise Ireland Brexit Roadshow event at The Helix, Dublin. Image: Connor McKenna

Brexit is a certainty, though what exactly that will entail is not. But that’s no excuse for Irish businesses not to be prepared.

This week, the Enterprise Ireland Brexit Roadshow rolled up to the sixth and final stop on its current tour, with a breakfast session in The Helix, Dublin.

The series of events was devised by the State support agency to make sure that Irish SMEs are informed about the implications of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union and its international market structures, and prepared for the repercussions.

“The situation is different for every single company, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all,” said Anne Lanigan, who leads Enterprise Ireland’s specially formed Brexit unit.

She advised SMEs coming to grips with Brexit to assess their business using the Brexit SME Scorecard. This self-assessment tool can help organisations to explore the impact Brexit will have on their particular situation and offer helpful prompts for what plans they need to make, Lanigan explained.

‘Initially, people thought this was going to go away. Now people realise we have to make plans’

Enterprise Ireland is also encouraging business leaders to talk with one another, share their concerns and their plans to counter them, and help to guide each other on best practice. At the event, Lanigan and other Enterprise Ireland representatives were joined on stage by company leaders to discuss their guide for the unmapped road ahead.

“It is down to uncertainty, that is what’s certain,” said Michael Fitzgerald, founder and director of Cork-based outsourcing firm Abtran. His strategy, though, is to be prepared and ready to adapt as new developments come. “I think it is a case of we need to continue to our plan and focus on that, but be flexible and adaptable enough to change where we need to,” he said.

As well as uncertainty in the marketplace, Intact Software CEO Justin Lawless cited currency and inflation in the UK among his worries. “I think the biggest concern is that a lot of our business is in the UK and we’re very concerned that, effectively, the economy goes into free fall and people stop buying, and that the uncertainty brings different challenges and people just stop doing business,” he said.

Indeed, with Brexit negotiations ongoing, neither Enterprise Ireland nor the companies it supports can be sure what will happen next, and that uncertainty in itself is troubling. “Any kind of uncertainty for Irish companies, in terms of trading, increases the risk and isn’t good,” said Leo McAdams, manager of international sales and partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

“Any outcome of Brexit negotiations that takes all of the uncertainty off the table and lets Irish companies enjoy what they have today – which is free movement of labour, of goods, of capital, etc – would be the perfect outcome,” he said.

But, as we await those crucial details on how Brexit will impact Irish businesses, there’s still time to start planning and putting supports in place. One thing is for certain: Brexit will change the circumstances of Irish SMEs, and the better informed they are of the oncoming shifts, the better prepared they can be.

“I think Irish SMEs need to do more to prepare themselves for Brexit,” said Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon.

“Initially, people thought this is going to go away; it’s a problem and it wasn’t of our making and it will disappear. Now people realise we have to make plans. There’s lots of supports in place to help companies on that journey and, really, what we’re saying to people is: get a plan, look at the issues and prepare for it.”

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.