Brexit has become front page news again after a brief interlude over the summer, and what a return it has made! But are you any clearer as to how your business is supposed to flourish in this post-Brexit-vote/pre-actual-Brexit world?

It got me thinking…if I could ask Theresa May to do one thing that would help my business in these changeable times, what would it be? My deliberations took me back to a conversation I’d had with a local business owner, Andrew Lee, earlier this summer. The conclusion is removed from policy making and political agreements. Yet it is, I think, one that would produce a positive effect on the majority, if not, all British businesses. By ‘all’, I mean no matter whether one-man bands or massive corporations.

I wrote up our conversation, with Andrew’s consent – read on below. Let me know what you think! 

The one thing this Bridgwater lettings agent needs from Theresa May

Photograph of Andrew Lee, Owner of Andrew Lees Lettings in Bridgwater, who talked to us about Brexit and his small business

Andrew Lee talks to us about Brexit and small business

Andrew Lee of Andrew Lees Lettings in Bridgwater, Somerset, is clear: Theresa May’s government needs to make a statement saying that Eastern Europeans are still welcome in the UK.

One third of the properties his company lets are traditionally taken up by Eastern Europeans working in and around Bridgwater, Somerset. The number of Eastern Europeans wanting to rent is down by half.

Asked why this is, Lee recounts one of the many conversations that he’s had with tenants over the last couple of weeks. The tenant and his family are going to return home as they’re uncertain what’s going to happen to them.  The worry that this uncertainty is causing is reflected in other families that rent their homes from Andrew Lees Lettings.

Going forward, too, Andrew Lee talks of the number of Eastern Europeans who, sending their earnings home to support their families, will be affected by the change in the exchange rates. This may translate into less money available for rent, which may mean families downsize or move into different areas. It also means less money for their families. Lee is visibly worried by the effect Brexit is having on peoples lives.

“My concern is that Eastern Europeans are welcome here. I’ve been running this business for 10 years and I have seen their families growing up, their small children growing up, and I want certainty for them.”

What of tenants of other nationalities? Lee notes, “We have tenants from France, Portugal and Spain too, they are more confident and feel they can stay.”

Lack of concern for people after Brexit vote causes business instability

“Pre-Brexit, I really thought that small business ministers would say more. Did you hear anything about the people?  I felt let down by the government that they didn’t say anything. There were so many headlines. Osborne and Carney made some good statements, but all we heard about is the markets and the value of the pound. I’m fed up of hearing about the markets, and hate crime, but nothing about the people. [People’s feeling of uncertainty and word] is just escalating. The government now should have a really clear message.”

Photograph of Andrew Lees Lettings office in BridgwaterThere is a ripple effect on his business. Lee mentions that Brexit has caused reduced demand for rental accommodation, potential mobility and the effect on household budgets. Brexit is having a huge impact on Andrew Lees Letting’s strategy.

“It’s ridiculous,” says Lee, “smaller businesses are going down. We really need clarification on what is happening.”  Lee thinks that Brexit wasn’t expected, “They had no B plan.”

Business development and growth on hold

So is there opportunity for Andrew Lees Lettings now? Andrew is still thinking positively. His focus is on wanting to see through a planned office move for his Lees and Waters estate agents business. Andrew is also keen to expand into the recruitment and travel sectors.

However, “We need a solid foundation”, says Lee. “We can’t yet invest in the workforce when potentially they might be European workers. If Freedom of Movement is agreed, and if the UK is opened up to the world more, it still gives us the workforce to expand into the recruitment market.”

“It’s scary that there’s no plan for Brexit…there shouldn’t have been a referendum if they had no plan.”

Focus on people not policy, Theresa May, and the UK’s small businesses will thrive

So, Theresa May, still in your early days as Prime Minister, is this a clear enough message for you and your government? Address the concerns and anxieties of the people who live and work in the UK, the people whom small businesses also serve, and the ripple effect will likely come into play again. However, this time it will be the ripples of confidence and certainty that people feel in their future in the UK that flow into our small businesses allowing them to survive, flourish and invest in this new Brexit world.

Interested in Brexit and the opportunities it’s providing for small businesses like yours? Check out our ‘Your business and Brexit’ Flipboard magazine

Leave a Reply