It has been six months since Britain voted to leave the European Union. In this period little has become clear except that the journey towards an exit is likely to be a long one.
But while the Brexit negotiations rumble on, UK entrepreneurs and British businesses will need to power through this uncertainty for their own prosperity. Much has been said about the challenges that Brexit will bring, but while no one really knows what the future will hold – we must all be assured that ‘Britain is still open for business’.
The economic outlook is cast by many is a gloomy one, with a weakening pound and an imminent rise in prices. As with any period of uncertainty, succeeding requires playing our own strengths to take full advantage of the assets we do have, rather than focusing on those which are now less certain. To play to these strengths, we must understand how our peers across the world perceive us.
To help UK entrepreneurs ride this wave of ambiguity, we spoke to just under 1,400 global business leaders about their perceptions of British entrepreneurs. The findings are fascinating, encouraging and shed a light on what we as business leaders can do to succeed in a post-Brexit environment.
While some have said Brexit negotiations are putting British business on hold – our findings display the contrary. A staggering 78% of overseas business leaders think the UK is a good place to start and grow a business, despite the Brexit vote. And in fact, over two thirds (61%) of those leaders we spoke to said Brexit will not have any impact on the way they do business with UK entrepreneurs.
Does this come as a surprise? For us, it does not. As a nation we have worked tirelessly to foster an environment that champions and supports high-growth, fast-moving businesses looking to scale up. We should be proud that our peers across the world see the UK as a recognised global business hub supporting start-ups and scale-ups throughout their lifetime. To build on this esteemed position through today’s challenging environment, we must play to our strengths.
Global business leaders say UK entrepreneurs provide a quality of service (90%), they’re professional (90%), punctual (87%) and efficient (86%). All of these attributes make doing business with the UK an attractive proposition for our peers across the world. UK business owners are also recognised for being well-educated (51%) and committed to driving high quality (44%). These behaviours are instilled in our highly successful business community and we must continue to build on them to ensure our future success.
The attributes highlighted by our findings provide a great foundation on which to build the UK’s high growth entrepreneurial success stories. But it is important that we don’t get complacent. As Brexit comes ever closer, the UK must do everything possible to sustain and grow Britain’s position as an important global hub for businesses, start-ups and scale-ups alike.
To continue to successfully compete on the world stage, almost half (47%) of the leaders we spoke to suggested British businesses need to show greater differentiation and innovation in products and services. The need to improve the UK’s digital skills was also highlighted (45%).
With these insights, it’s clear that the world wants to do business with the UK and we should continue to foster an environment that creates world beating businesses, whether they’re home-grown or founded by the best global entrepreneurial talent basing themselves here. Whilst Brexit will undoubtedly bring challenges, like any change in circumstance – there will opportunities too.
The majority of Brazilian (79%), American (69%) and Chinese (65%) business leaders we spoke to said Brexit will actually improve their business dealings with the UK. By looking beyond the challenges, playing to our strengths and identifying new opportunities British business will continue to thrive for years to come. As ever, we’ll be there to support entrepreneurs whether they’re starting or scaling up their businesses.
By Richard Heggie, head of high growth and entrepreneurs, Barclays