People Manangement

Building effective leadership and management capability within Irish companies has never been more important given the likely challenges arising from Brexit


One of the areas the leadership team has to assess in light of Brexit is whether the company has the right mix of talent and skills to support future growth. Some restructuring might be necessary, for example, creating new senior roles such as heads of innovation or marketing.

Companies will need to look at the locations where staff are currently based and decide if any changes need to be made. If a market diversification strategy is being pursued in response to Brexit, for example, they may have to appoint people on the ground in new markets or set up new offices.

A flexible and adaptable workforce will be increasingly important and people will need to be prepared to travel more often to meet customers and upskill to keep pace with technological advances and market developments.


Potential Challenges


Movement of people

The various EU Treaties which provide for the free movement of EU nationals between the Member States will cease to apply to the UK once they leave the EU. After that time Irish businesses could be looking at, firstly, restrictions on temporary transfer of non-EU staff to the UK (and Northern Ireland) to deliver services and, secondly, restrictions on the employment of current and new non-UK staff in the UK.

The war for talent

There are already skills shortages in a number of areas in Ireland such as ICT and advanced manufacturing. Irish companies will need to place even greater emphasis on attracting top talent because of Brexit. It has brought about an increased need for differentiation, strategic thinking and enhanced competitiveness, which can only be delivered by having the best people in place.

In addition, Brexit may result in Irish companies facing difficulties in terms of recruiting new staff in the UK. It is advisable to be proactive in recruiting from the UK now if you have open positions.

Employment contracts

Legislation emanating from the EU has strongly influenced UK employee protection legislation over the past 20 years or so. But this may change somewhat if the UK Government decides to do away with laws which are viewed as unnecessary red tape. Brexit may result in complications in employment contracts for people working in the UK.

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John Power and Barry Doyle, Directors of Strategic Growth Leaders finance consultancy

How to manage financial risk through Brexit uncertainty


Barry Doyle and John Power, Directors of Strategic Growth Leaders (SGL) finance consultancy, outline the key considerations Irish SMEs should consider to respond to the challenges posed by Brexit.

The uncertainty generated by Brexit has highlighted important finance considerations for Irish businesses. Issues that impact SMEs in areas including managing multi-currency budgets, cash flow and projection, cash, currency and treasury management, optimising their capital structure and ensuring that appropriate types of funding are utilised, are heightened by the present and potential impacts of Brexit.

Too often, the finance function has been regarded as a cost, focused on historical reporting and compliance, rather than acting as a strategic, commercially-minded arm of the business. Brexit has created an impetus for companies to better structure and integrate their finance function, so that it acts as a strategic member of the management team, rather than a back office operation.

From the work SGL has done with Enterprise Ireland clients concerned about Brexit, it is clear that those who combine finance capability, resources, and a financial model that quantifies exposure, with a documented policy that explicitly states how each is to be managed, are better prepared to address any challenges that may arise. Enterprise Ireland’s Be Prepared grant can be used to access financial and currency expertise and is a great resource for Irish SMEs eager to limit Brexit exposure. 


To help your business minimise the financial risks posed by Brexit take these six practical steps:

Quantify exposure to currency volatility

Although volatility is one of the most immediate concerns raised by Brexit, currency fluctuation is not new. Before Brexit, the narrow trading band of EUR/GBP was manageable. But volatility in exchange rates is now such that Irish businesses are experiencing significant margin erosion. With volatility expected to continue, the realisation has emerged that Irish companies must measure and manage exposure, establishing protective mechanisms to minimise uncertainty.

Analysing and quantifying exposure should be a prerequisite for every company, to enable a clear understanding of critical factors including cost base, market/product breakdown and margin, pricing strategy, cash to cash cycles, and currency breakeven FX rates. When a business can accurately quantify the financial risks of trading in foreign markets, risks that might relate to cost, currency or working capital, they can mitigate against them, over a duration that enables them to stay competitive.


Implement a treasury policy

Every company, from micro companies to large corporates, should design a currency and cash management policy, also known as a treasury policy. Essentially, that means documenting how your company manages finance. The document does not need to be complicated but should detail how the company manages all monies and transactions, including currency risk. The policy should also describe the relationships the finance function must have with other internal departments, as well as with external providers, such as banks. The policy should ideally be approved by the company’s Board of Directors and clearly identify the person(s) responsible for implementing and managing its component elements.


Use multi-currency cash flow forecasts

Determining your company’s foreign currency exchange risk can only be done by determining net receipts and payments of each currency in which it does business. Recognising that “Cash is King” for every business, cash flow forecasting is critical to ensuring active management of funds flow. It is particularly important for identifying net currency exposures. Forecasting monthly surpluses or foreign currency required, is the starting point for mitigating the impact of foreign currency fluctuations on business margin. Identifying receipts and payments that can be converted to domestic currency through negotiation with customers and suppliers to create a natural hedge position, is a crucial first step. Depending on the outcome of this exercise, it may be advisable to enter into FX contracts with a financial institution to buy or sell exposed amounts. Ultimately, it is important to bring certainty to the value or cost of your foreign currency exposure and avoid ‘playing’ the exchange rate market.


Conduct break-even analysis

Break-even (B/E) measures the level of sales required to cover fixed costs. In its basic form, it is defined as the point at which your income equals your costs, and profit is zero.  As foreign exchange movements can directly impact on each component of sales receipts, cost of sales (including things like materials and tariffs) and overheads denominated in foreign currencies, modelling future B/E sales levels at different exchange rates provides management with essential information for deciding if and when price increases may be required to protect margin and ensure profitability. B/E analysis of different business units or sales territories provides management with a simple but effective comparison measure.


Understand cash cycle

Determining the working capital for each territory or market your business operates in is critical to ensuring effective cash management. Tracking timelines involved in your business of payments for overheads (labour or indirect costs), supply of materials, and conversion of sales to cash, is critical to understanding the additional permanent working capital needed as your business grows. Brexit may add significant requirements for investment in stockholding, new costs such as tariffs, reintroduction of VAT at point of entry, delayed payment terms with UK customers due to banking arrangements, and accelerated payment terms for suppliers. Understanding current cash cycles and modelling potential, or likely future cycle, will help identify the level of funding needed to maintain or grow your business in the UK. Businesses can fund additional investment required by lengthening the cash cycle through a combination of methods:

  • Renegotiate terms at both ends of the cash cycle, with suppliers and customers
  • Review in-house procedures for managing debtor collections and supplier payments
  • Use alternative financing methods such as supplier finance or invoice discounting
  • Scaling businesses should consider it as part of fund raising
  • Loan finance from traditional lenders and new entrants

More and more options are available to help businesses to reduce cash cycle timelines or fund additional requirements through a funding mechanism.

While the uncertainties generated by Brexit will only become clear in time, companies can create a solid business and financial plan to mitigate against known, and as yet unknown, risks. There is no doubt that Brexit is real and can create challenges for businesses buying or selling in the UK. But Brexit is not a strategic problem.

Continue to drive your strategic plan and determine the modifications needed to stay on track. Also consider:

  • Accelerating a diversification plan
  • Implementing a strategic procurement approach to protecting critical supply and protecting margin
  • Prioritising resources to a digital channel.

Once you’ve established a strategic plan, establish and measure the critical success factors and key performance indicators that will ensure you stay you on a strategic path.

A version of this article was originally published on Silicon Republic.


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Investment in the development of innovative and value-added products and improved services and processes is a key measure Irish companies can take to overcome the potential challenges of Brexit.

On the new product development side, it means your business should be able to demand premium prices; this will help to cope with fluctuations in currency and the cost of border controls that may come into force in the event of a no deal Brexit.

An increased focus on research and development (R&D) will give Irish companies a competitive edge in the UK and elsewhere. Developing offerings with worldwide appeal will be critical in creating sustainable businesses which don’t need to rely as much on our closest neighbour.

Regarding internal processes, finding more efficient ways of working, such as lean practices, will help to make Irish companies more competitive in their chosen markets.


Potential Challenges


Unique selling points

Competing in the post-Brexit era is creating much less of a level playing field. Selling ‘me too’ products and services based on price is no longer a viable strategy. Irish products and services will have to have clear unique selling points for buyers in the UK and other markets to be interested.

To address this issue you should examine your product or service portfolio and determine what your unique selling points are in all of your target markets. In tandem with this, consider what tweaks to existing products or new iterations will help you to stand out from the crowd.


Competition from bigger players

Irish companies are faced with the reality that they must hold their own in the post-Brexit trading landscape against much larger players with more resources to invest in innovation.

Adopting a niche approach in your given sector in terms of product or service innovation will help you to counteract this challenge. You could also explore the option of collaborating with a third party to develop a product or service.


Prepare for Brexit


Your business can start to prepare for Brexit by using the dedicated Brexit SME Scorecard, a free tool available from Enterprise Ireland. The tool looks at a company’s business operations across six areas – Business Strategy, Operations, Sales and Marketing, Finance, Innovation and People Management. You can start the short questionnaire and come back to it at any time. Your results report will show the priority areas that your business should consider addressing and serve as a useful kick-off point to start preparing for Brexit with your business team.



Other Supports

Agile Innovation Fund supports companies in sectors with rapid design cycles to maintain their technology position.  The benefits of this grant are that it allows for a very simple application process and delivers a very fast response from application to approval. For more information, go to Agile Innovation Fund.


Get tailored advice from a consultant with the Post-Brexit Advisory Support


Customs & Trade

Identifying the implications of an increase in tariffs is important in preparing for Brexit and the challenges it may pose to your products. The UK has announced its new tariff system which will apply at the end of the transition period to all countries, including Ireland, with which it has no free trade agreement. Known as the UK Global Tariff, it will be applicable from Jan 1st 2021. If a trade deal between the UK and EU is reached before this date the aim would be to avoid the imposition of all or most of the tariffs.

To see the import duty that applies to goods imported into the UK, enter your commodity codeinto the Tariffs Tracker tool on the UK government website.


The potential impact of Brexit across the business will see increased pressure on margins. Companies can look to innovate, increase effectiveness and cuts costs out of their production process as a means to maintain or even increase profitability. This is one of the measures a business can take to plan against the negative impacts of Brexit but makes perfect business sense irrespective of Brexit.


Our current trading relationships with the UK has been governed by a vast number of contacts negotiated with suppliers, local employees, agents and customers. Any change in the trading arrangement could have an associated impact on the contracts that underpin it. Companies with UK contractual arrangements can start to manage their risks by reviewing their existing contracts and start to consider future contracts in light of what legal changes Brexit may bring.

Strategic Sourcing

The UK remains one of our largest trading partners. For years, Ireland has been both exporting and importing products and services from and to the UK and our supply chains have been built up around this trading history. The impact of Brexit has the potential of adding substantial disruptions to supply routes through tariffs, non-tariff barriers, custom delays and the additional costs of customs procedures. Companies can respond by analysing their suppliers to understand each supplier’s relative importance, how these products arrive into Ireland, where they come from and what borders they cross. Learn more.

Get tailored advice from a consultant with the Post-Brexit Advisory Support

Business Strategy

What Brexit will mean for Irish companies


While a lot of uncertainty exists around exactly what Brexit will mean for the European trading landscape, Irish companies need to examine their business strategy now and decide where adjustment, if any, is needed. This is crucial if companies are to be in the strongest position possible in terms of managing the range of challenges expected as well as taking advantage of new opportunities.

One way or another, Irish businesses will have to deal with a new set of circumstances in the years ahead in relation to the UK. This means they need to take stock of their current position, consider the implications of Brexit and plan for every scenario in order to meet growth targets. An adjustment in business strategy could mean anything from deciding to take a different approach to the supply chain in the UK, to diversifying into new markets altogether or placing an increased emphasis on innovation to improve competitive advantage.


Possible Challenges


Over-dependency on the UK

This is an issue as there is a chance the UK economy could decline as a result of Brexit, which in turn means less demand for Irish companies’ goods and services. In addition, Brexit could mean less inclination to buy Irish products and services due to campaigns promoting British-made goods, such as the Red Tractor initiative for food and a possible drive towards a general ‘Buy British’ movement. From a strategic point of view, if you feel as a company that you are over-reliant on the UK you can act now by working on a plan to protect your existing business there while also exploring which other markets you could diversify into.


Uncertainty about sterling

The euro-sterling exchange rate has been one of the most obvious effects of Brexit so far. A lower sterling value directly impacts Irish exporters’ bottom line. You can pre-empt difficulties around the value of sterling by establishing what your break-even exchange rate is and considering financial instruments to provide a degree of certainty. Currency volatility may dictate the sourcing of inputs from new suppliers and/or importing through EU countries instead of the UK.


Increased competition

Brexit could mean increased and new competition from the UK and other international markets. To tackle this challenge, you can identify areas now where you can reduce costs and improve efficiencies. It is also important to gain a greater understanding of your current competition and develop differentiated offers.


Strategic Sourcing

For companies that source products from the UK, Brexit may present significant challenges.  Potential delays at border crossings and costs associated with increased administration from customs and tariffs may have significant adverse effects on your business. Clearly understanding your supply chain from a Brexit perspective will help you understand which suppliers could have the greatest impact on your business. Once that is known, it becomes much easier to put contingency plans in place in the event of a hard Brexit.



People are often the key assets of a business. This is especially true for businesses that have a strong service element necessitating frequent employee travel. With Brexit meaning the potential change to the mobility and employment rights of staff, it is important as an employer to understand what steps can be taken now to provide advice to employees but also how this may impact a business’s ability to deliver to its customers.

Customs Capability

When the UK leaves the EU it will be treated from a customs perspective as a Third Country. Customs declarations will be necessary for imports and exports and will add an increased administrative burden on the business. A customs capability will need to be built and the process managed accordingly to ensure the business meets its customs obligations. It is important to understand the impact that customs may have on your business by analysing the flows of imports and exports into your business. To support businesses dealing with customs for the first time, Enterprise Ireland’s has developed the Online Customs Insights course outlining the key customs concepts and processes for businesses exporting to, from or through the UK.

Continue your Brexit Learning with EILearn

Learn about the full range of Brexit supports from Enterprise Ireland to help your business maintain its competitiveness once the transition period is complete.