UK businesses have been in survival mode for months. As soon as Britain left the EU and then Covid happened, there’s been uncertainty and disruption for businesses throughout the UK. So let’s look at how conventional companies were slammed by these setbacks and how they can rebound stronger than they’ve ever been.
While Brexit was a long time coming, it was hard to prepare for and shortly after along came the pandemic. It’s fair to say COVID-19 blind-sighted many UK organisations who were probably still grappling with their Brexit business strategy.
The extended lockdowns were a double blow for businesses in industries that were literally shut down – an event never before witnessed by a population too young to experience an event similar, i.e. the last world war.
While many experts predicted a dire future for the UK economy with Brexit and then COVID-19, thankfully its rebounded for most sectors though some like hospitality have their work cut out for them now a huge chunk of their workforce has left the UK.
The UK Hospitality sector has probably, for as long as they’ve been in the EU, relied on migrant low wage workers from EU countries. Some of the types of businesses in this sector include:
- Hotels and accommodation providers
- Restaurants, cafes
- Tour operators
- Sports and Gyms
- Arts and culture
EU Migrant Workers
EU workers fulfilled roles in every department of hospitality and also other sectors like food processing and manufacturing.
The good news is two million EU workers have “settled status”, – which is a requirement under the Brexit agreement.
The bad news is that’s only half the what’s required to keep hospitality, tourism and manufacturing ticking alone. The departure of 1.5 million non-UK workers has left a big gap in the low wage sector. So the reopening of the UK has not been a joyful time for many business owners who are now even more stressed and worried about the survival of their businesses.
Operating with a skeleton of staff is not sustainable. For example, it takes a couple of cooks to call in sick for a restaurant to close. Plus, supply chain woes are also causing concern for eateries. Imagine no McDonalds milkshakes or chickens or bottled drinks!
Recruitment firms have an ever-growing list of job vacancies in the low wage sectors; however, the Brexit immigration rules have been a pain, and their complexity has put off EU workers.
It’s decision time for business owners who instinctively know they need to change how they operate to stay solvent and in business. Businesses in COVID stricken industries needed to adopt change, and ideally, that can occur by taking the business online.
Doing Business Online
Everything now points to doing business online. Even traditional bricks and mortar operators need to keep calm and carry on during unexpected lockdowns. For most businesses, it’s a scary movie as adopting an online business model requires radical change to management processes, plus there’s the need to develop new markets, hire skilled staff and attract customers.
However, going online is the way forward. Fulfilling a sustainable need with a business model that can withstand major disruptions to trading like a pandemic is the answer.
For example fitness personal trainer Krissy Cela launched an app for workouts and nutrition.
Krissy’s clients were used to going to her sessions and working out with other people, many of who may have been friends. However, the move online for a conventional service like personal training was a game-changer. Now Krissy’s clients are from everywhere. She has a global audience and a business that’s both Brexit and pandemic-proof.
Can your business make a move to keep sales happening via eCommerce and staff working albeit remotely?
Remote working means business can carry on when lockdowns happen, and let’s face it, what we now know about viruses and variants, there is another Covid-19 event just around the corner. Therefore if, for example, hospitality is your thing, there are plenty of examples of online businesses selling groceries or artisan products online or meal kits delivered to your door.
Where there is hope and way, there is an opportunity, and while the UK has experienced major upheaval, there has been an upside – one that has also seen a lot of innovation.
James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame says he’s upbeat and delighted the UK is now independent and free to choose its own new trade agreements, and companies can hire staff for anywhere outside of the EU. This glass half full mindset that innovators use to rise to the occasion is contagious.
Dyson will be hiring 200+ more staff and can hire from anywhere using the post-brexit points-based immigration system.
Technology is the driver of change for UK businesses now more than ever before. The good news is the UK economy has performed better than expected in the past 12 months – and it’s needed too as it lost £700 billion the rebound will take it back to the same level it was as of the end of 2019 says The Guardian.
Positive thinking and optimistic leadership will drive technological change and good ole British innovation. Expect to see more online events replacing music festivals, for example.
Did you know 80% or more of the UK economic activity is from services? Mostly it’s from financial services but also in these sectors too:
- Housing and Construction – e.g. architects, engineers, builders
- Professional Services – e.g. lawyers, accountants, insurance and finance brokers
- Technology – e.g. consultants, developers, security experts, SEO analysts, data scientists
Emerging Tech – UK
Using AI, machine learning, blockchain, and smart contracts are just some of the emerging tech revolutionising how we do business now, albeit you may not be aware you’re using it.
For example, have you used a chatbot to ask about a product or service you’re using or keen to purchase?
Chatbots are using AI, and the machine learning part of AI increases its workload the more it learns through answering more customer queries. Fewer calls are escalated to a human so that person can be working on another task like marketing.
Digital Marketing is another area that is being fulfilled with AI-powered algorithms for data capture and analysis. Think Google and all the tools they now have for marketers.
Plus, let’s not forget digital currencies and their role in revolutionising business. The UK Treasury and Bank of England have a joint task force looking into a central bank digital currency.
There’s much hope and excitement for the newly independent UK aiming to live with vaccine-induced herd immunity. The businesses that adapt to change and remain relevant will be the winners from the setbacks of Brexit and Covid.