Thursday 21 June 2018

Support for companies left challenged by Brexit concerns

A survey found 98pc of firms at Enterprise Ireland's Brexit Advisory Clinics plan to undertake new actions to prepare for the risks and opportunities the historic change presents. Stock image
A survey found 98pc of firms at Enterprise Ireland's Brexit Advisory Clinics plan to undertake new actions to prepare for the risks and opportunities the historic change presents. Stock image

Manus Rooney

A survey found 98pc of firms at Enterprise Ireland's Brexit Advisory Clinics plan to undertake new actions to prepare for the risks and opportunities the historic change presents. The insight emerged over the last eight months, as Enterprise Ireland travelled the country, from Letterkenny to Tralee, and from Portlaoise to Claremorris, meeting hundreds of companies to help build and implement Brexit plans.

Our next Brexit Advisory Clinic takes place on June 21 in Dublin's Aviva Stadium, with topics of interest to both product and service companies, including financial and currency management, strategic sourcing and customs, transport and logistics, intellectual property and the movement of people. More information about the event is available at prepareforbrexit.ie.

With June's EU summit fast approaching, uncertainty remains about how SMEs will be impacted and a number of issues have emerged and matured across a range of sectors. In 2017, Enterprise Ireland focused on building awareness. In 2018, we are emphasising action, supporting companies to take practical steps that address the risks and opportunities Brexit presents.

What have we learned from clients and experts attending clinics to date? Formal financial forecasting is crucial to understanding the potential impact of risks, such as tariffs, non-tariff barriers and currency fluctuations. Forecasting, of cash flow and performance, is also essential to determining future funding requirements. Without a forecast that is continually updated and monitored, it is difficult to measure the impact on profitability and viability.

More and more companies understand the value of reviewing all aspects of their supply chain, to help determine where operational efficiencies can have a direct affect on profitability. It can also, however, help to identify which suppliers may have the greatest impact on your business when risks, such as tariffs, and customs administration costs and delays, are factored in. Such information may be particularly useful if contingency plans are implemented in the event of a hard Brexit.

The impact of a potential new customs regime, for both north-south and east-west trade routes, has become a concern. Since Ireland joined the European Single Market in 1993, the language of customs has been largely forgotten for most SMEs. Examining the flow and type of goods imported and exported provides insights into the impact customs could have, allowing it to be treated as just another business process to be managed and resourced.

While the outcome of negotiations remains unclear, it's likely many firms will need extra resources to respond - with people, equipment, materials, or access to increased finance. What then is available to help SMEs prepare for Brexit?

Enterprise Ireland has worked with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on introducing a Brexit Loan Scheme, to provide finance that is easier to access, competitively priced and available at more favourable terms than comparable lending. It is delivered through Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and AIB, in conjunction with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. More info available at: https://sbci.gov.ie/brexit-loan-scheme.

We recently introduced the Brexit: Act On initiative. Delivered by a panel of independent consultants, it offers one-to-one advice over two days on financial and currency management, strategic sourcing, customs, and transport and logistics. Free to clients, it helps build capability and an action plan around Brexit.

The Agile Innovation Fund, launched in 2017, and the Market Discovery Fund, launched in January, help companies use innovation and market diversification strategies to mitigate risks. The Be Prepared Grant, offering up to €5,000 in support, is designed for SMEs who would benefit from further research and external expertise to develop a Brexit action plan. Companies we work with are already seeing that such initiatives increase business resilience and add value, whatever the full impacts of Brexit may be.

Manus Rooney is a senior adviser for Enterprise Ireland's Brexit Unit.

Sunday Indo Business

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