As the questions, bickering and random referendum recount demands continue, Fiona Allman-Treen asks; is hidden progress being made – and will local businesses even notice?
I remember years ago reading something which explained how glaciers are constantly moving – grinding away in secret with no obvious signs of movement on the surface, or none visible to the human eye at any rate.
Some move inches or even feet – forgive me; I count in old money – over the course of a day while others a mere millimetre – there you go Millennials – in a week, but they’re always moving, whether we can see it or not.
Now I think back to that morning in June 2016 when Britain awoke to the startling news that Brexit was no longer a faceless threat, or dream, depending on your point of view, but very much a reality – something I’m not sure anyone failed to be surprised by, regardless of which way they voted – somehow nobody was quite prepared to see it actually happen. Least of all businesses.
Oh I’m sure some of the huge corporations with teams of highly paid ‘what if’ departments who had a contingency plan: not-yet-activated-but-freshly-opened branches in Europe, money under the bed in an old sock maybe – but not so the small to medium enterprises or SMEs as we’re known. To many of my fellow business owners , suppliers and clients I think it all seemed a bit of a shock, followed by concern as to what was going to happen; what was the plan, we wondered?
So we waited! We waited while governments floundered. Parties and politicians pulled chunks from each other or ran for the hills. We stood at the foot of the giant glacier named Brexit which had suddenly appeared in our midst and wondered what we were meant to do with it? It seemed monumentally huge, rather intrusive and gave off quite a chill…
Some chose to wait it out – it may just melt rapidly into nothing they hoped. Others tried to furiously chip away at it with demands for a recount, a new referendum, a general election – which eventually came and served only to pour cold water onto it and made the ruddy thing grow into something more ominous! Whoever desperately tried to step up and lead the expedition to overcome the thing was, without doubt, as doomed as Shackleton en route to the South Pole but was expected to keep going nonetheless.
I personally saw some businesses crushed by it while others stepped to one side and expected it to make its way past them, hoping it wouldn’t gouge too much from the foundations of the company they’d spent years or even generations building, as it moved onwards, silent and unstoppable.
2018 has, in my experience (or IMHO for anyone under 30 still reading), seen a slight thaw – but is this down to global warming (i.e. careful negotiation and a hopeful resolution to the bickering); the passage of time (read: running out of people still crying ‘best of three’); or learning to make igloos? And by the latter I mean, JUST GET ON WITH IT!
I attended a recent business meeting on the topic of Brexit where the word most used by all sides was ‘uncertainty’. Businesses of all sizes, from one-man-bands to corporate scale employers will, without exception, will cite ‘uncertainty’ as the killer of commerce.
But I’ve seen a real and clear change over the last 12 months from ‘we’ll wait and see’ to the more decisive ‘we’re not waiting any longer, let’s just get on with it’ – and things are moving apace as a result. We’re seeing new business start-ups again; companies are recruiting again; colleges are reporting larger intakes this year. There is hope. There is movement.
We’re nowhere clear of the glacier yet. Some still insist it’s melting, others say nothing has changed, but I see change in our local economy and in the business community I’m proud to belong to.
We are making progress in our businesses because we’re not waiting around any longer. We’re not prepared to keep our heads down and hope for the best – we’re going to get out there and get moving and that’s okay, as long as we keep moving too. I’m a firm believer that what you focus on, you move towards – and the positive impact that can have on a company looking forwards rather than over their shoulder is surely no surprise to anyone.
The local businesses, groups and charitable organisations I meet every day have had enough of waiting to see which path the glacier takes. They’re focussed on building their future and the path they want to follow and I’m certain that none of those adopting this stance will be slowly crushed – but instead forge their own way and evolve into something even greater. Perhaps we won’t even notice the alterations created by the Brexit glacier until it passes altogether and we’re left with scars or fresh growth where it once was, but one of these days those of us looking forward will turn around and see nothing but a puddle – then we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Fiona Allman-Treen founded Hastings-based web agency FAT promotions Ltd in 2001, creating effective websites and online software solutions for a portfolio of international and blue chip clients.
She also loves classic cars, red wine and plays the ukulele.