The import and export roundtable discussion held by national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm, Crowe UK, brought together 16 owner-managed businesses from across the region, based in various sectors including transport, food, manufacturing and life sciences to discuss their concerns for the future.
The participants cited difficulty developing new and existing products (44%) and accessing new markets (38%) as the biggest issues facing their businesses in the long term (3-5 years). Presenting less of a concern to local businesses are the issues of declining markets (6%), succession planning (6%) and formulating and maintaining a clear long term business plan (6%).
These concerns follow the short-term issue of the uncertainty caused by Brexit which unsurprisingly stands as the leading issue for local businesses over the next 12 months (69%).
With the current economic uncertainty named as the biggest barrier to growth (63%), businesses may be lacking confidence in expanding their operations in a climate where much is undecided about the way the UK will trade and the regulations that will take hold.
Despite this, businesses in Kent remain optimistic that they will not be battling declining markets in a post-Brexit world, and instead are focused on the future expansion of their business.
For those businesses in Kent, the risk of delays due to border processes in the aftermath of Brexit pose a concern, with the majority citing this as the area in which they would like clarification (56%). With a large proportion of the local businesses exporting to Europe (87%), delays at the Port of Dover in the immediate aftermath of Brexit could prove damaging to business productivity and operations both in and outside of the UK in the short term.
Darren Rigden, Partner at Crowe UK, said:
“The concerns surrounding long-term business growth are at the forefront of owner and manager thinking. Whatever form of Brexit is eventually agreed upon, local businesses appear to be anticipating difficulties tapping into new markets and developing their product offering in a post-Brexit world.
“Despite this apprehension, it is very encouraging to see local businesses thinking long-term about their business operations, and planning ahead for the possible issues they may face, without letting Brexit overshadow their planning.
“That said, businesses in Kent clearly have concerns over what a post-Brexit world will mean for them. It is important that they take contingency steps to help prepare for all possible outcomes. This could prove particularly advantageous in anticipation of delays at Port of Dover causing disruption to local business operations as well as to trade.”