James Pinchbeck, Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, looks beyond Brexit to the wider issues and opportunities that will impact our businesses in the coming years.
The year is 2192, the British Prime Minster visits Brussels to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline. No one is sure when this tradition or ritual originated but it attracts many tourists from all over the world.
Whilst this prophecy may at least be amusing it surely is highly unlikely. However, this year did start with the premise, even promise, that the UK would leave the EU at the end of March – we all know that didn’t happen. We were then supposed to leave at the end of October – again this didn’t happen.
Perhaps the end of January 2020, the new Brexit deadline, might see a different outcome. Only time and a general election will tell. In terms of business, Brexit, not least in the early years following the referendum, has given rise to concerns about its impact, markets served and business operations.
As time has passed this has become less of an issue for some. The pre-occupation with its impact seemingly has moved the mood towards more of a sense of malaise or a little black rain cloud. With a new year just around the corner, perhaps it is time for us to focus less on Brexit and perhaps more on some of the other opportunities and threats that may impact business.
Perhaps one or more of the following creates resonance with you: The environment – the impact of climate change has engendered unprecedented engagement, concern and lobbying worldwide. Sustainability, the impact organisations have on the environment, and their very operations are increasing concerns for customers, consumers, the workforce and all of those in the supply chain.
Technology, particularly digital – To quote Justin Trudeau: “The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.” This is a scenario perhaps most familiar to us in terms of changes and advances in business and consumer use of technology and especially digital applications and processes. How we utilise the same for a competitive advantage, improved productivity or to exploit opportunities continues to be a challenge or more positively an exciting opportunity.
Wellbeing in the workforce – the last twelve months has seen both an increased awareness and reports on the number of people affected by mental health issues in the workplace. This is a situation which has and continues to occupy concerns of employers and HR professionals alike. The need to recognise, understand such matters is one which has and continues to concern those charged with workforce management.
Cash is sovereign – This year has seen some high-profile corporate failures highlighting issues around financial reporting irregularities or failures where the impression given is that a business is financially in a better place than it really is. No doubt this will give rise to a review of financial reporting and the need perhaps for greater rigour. This aside, the year has seen greater pressure on cash and financial liquidity. Lines of credit seem to have shortened, with available technology making it much easier to make or receive payment.
The new norm is to pay when payment is due. The impact is that more and more businesses have to focus on cash management and ensuring there is sufficient cash to fund the business day to day, as well as for longer periods too.
In conclusion, whilst Brexit is very likely to be on our minds in 2020, perhaps we all need to look at the wider issues and opportunities that will impact strategically and fundamentally on our businesses in the coming years.