After 2020, I think it’s fair to say many people had high hopes for 2021 as a year of improvement. However, if you judge by the news headlines the world still has some way to go before things settle down to something most of us could consider ‘normal’.
Whilst the COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out with the aim of ultimately reducing restrictions and social distancing, in the UK people and businesses have also been wrestling with the realities of a Post-Brexit environment and more specifically the new requirements for exporting. What has become abundantly clear is that many businesses simply weren’t prepared for the new rules once the UK had left the EU – something which I am pleased to say TDSi has mitigated with careful planning.
Whilst the UK technically left the EU on 1st January 2020, the transition period kept the majority of rules and regulations in place until the beginning of 2021. However, the need to adapt to Post-Brexit rules has been apparent for some time and for TDSi our journey towards this started back in July 2019 once it became clear that Boris Johnson’s new UK Government would be completing Brexit as soon as possible.
As a UK manufacturer of security products, TDSi has always been aware that we need to ensure a steady supply of products is always available to our customers in Europe and internationally. We have particularly strong markets in the Middle East and Asia (especially in China), where British security systems are very well revered. It was simply not an option for our business to fail on exports.
Once our management team were on the case, we quickly ensured all the paperwork required to trade as a UK outside the EU was prepared. There were a few components we weren’t sure about until the formal Brexit agreement was published (such as the Rules of Origin requirements), but it was very clear that laying the foundations for the process early would make a considerable difference to the way TDSi would cope with Brexit changes.
Once the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement was published just after Christmas, I made sure I analysed all 1246 pages of it in order to thoroughly read, absorb and comprehend the sections relevant to us and our sector. I won’t pretend this wasn’t a considerable task, but when you consider how important it is to be prepared and to continue to provide exemplary service to our customers, it seemed very reasonable to do so. I get the impression that many people affected by the changes have struggled to do the same, which will have added further complications to businesses now struggling to address the new requirements.
Equally important, has been the need to ensure logistic lines are in place and ready to cope with the changes – any export company can only be successful if it has the right logistics partners. At TDSi we made sure that we spoke to our provider (UPS) in good time early in 2020 to ensure everything was in place to facilitate a smooth transition, and that supplies would be able to flow freely to our partners and customers outside the UK.
Naturally, there are inevitably teething problems with anything new – we experienced some minor delays shipping products to Australia and within the EU at the beginning of 2021 for example. But being prepared for these hiccups should be an integral part of any business continuity planning.
Both Brexit and the global pandemic have been prime examples of the need to have and review a Business Risk register to keep your business and its operations flexible and well planned. Whilst one is political and the other is natural in origin, both these occurrences have shown that what we consider ‘normal’ can very quickly change and mitigations need to be in place via a meaningful Risk Management Strategy.
I do, however, have a lot of sympathy for UK and International businesses which have been adversely affected by the pandemic and Brexit. Keeping a healthy export business going during one or the other is a challenge but having both together is potentially very tough – particularly if you are underprepared for it.
Arguably the interactions of the global economy and trading have never been more critical. Brexit and COVID-19 have both shown how it is vital to have a backup plan (or several!) just in case events conspire to ‘move the goalposts’ for your business. There are inevitably opportunities to be found when things change, but it is very important to protect your existing business too.
John Davies, Managing Director of TDSi