It is a truth universally acknowledged that the persistent vilification of its allies by another country will play a big role in destroying its reputation amongst its ‘friends’ and ‘allies’. I believe that the tragedy of Brexit does not extend to business. It will make no obvious difference to business, good or bad, and – potentially – no obvious difference to investment opportunities. Large European car manufacturers will still want to sell us their motor cars, and we will still want to buy them.
The sadness will be on a more human and personal level. If we take a pause and look at the thousands of Continentals, from all walks of life who have come to the UK, it is clear that many have not done so in search of a better life. They came because the UK is the perceived beacon of tolerance, a place of support in adversity, and a democracy that looks after the little guy – offering honesty in a world of corruption. Many came because they want to contribute to our economy and to support the very vision that drove them here in the first place.
Unfortunately, through our constant negativity surrounding Brexit, we have created in its place, a feeling of disappointment at the heart of our soul. Many are asking ‘how could they have got it so wrong?’ I hear this daily in conversations with European associates: “Why did you do it? Couldn’t we have worked it out?”
So how can small businesses combat all of this negativity?
Whilst these answers may not be for everybody, if it were me, we would first confirm to our own employees and community, that we value our European neighbours. It will send a marker in the sand that our natural values are still intact – but equally important, it will show that we value the universal “work ethic”. Let’s not forget that it takes less time to get to do a day’s work in Amsterdam, than travel from London to Manchester. Let’s never forget that for most “Europeans” – English is their business language of choice. How difficult can it be for you and I to communicate, in our own language? Let’s reach out to our future employees and our future customers, in a spirit of amicability. Let’s take it step by step, engage on a country by country basis. Let’s never forget that we live in a global world, and we need to seize our little share, each one of us.
But one chunk at a time we must do, and we need to do this quickly. Businesses are made up of people, and human nature is human nature. Reputations take 20 years to create – but can be lost in 20 seconds. Business leaders I meet are already beginning to have second thoughts, and over time this will destroy the one thing that people come here for in the first place.
Richard Bloss is CEO of the CRT Partnership, which brokers alliances between UK and Scandinavian companies.