End of transition: how to ensure your small business is prepared

The UK has left the EU and the transition period comes to an end this year. These small businesses are prepared – but is yours? Be inspired by them, check the new rules from January 2021 on the UK Government website, and take action now

Thursday 01 October 2020 14:52

In preparation for the end of transition there are a host of steps company leaders should take in order to prepare for January 1, 2021. 

Small businesses, which make up 99.9 per cent of the UK’s business population, can put themselves in the best-possible position to take advantage of impending change – especially if they do business in the EU. 

Be inspired by these two UK businesses and take action now…

The restaurateur

Restaurateur Sam Harrison opened his Hammersmith restaurant Sam’s Riverside late in 2019, well aware of the upcoming UK transition period ending.  

Sam’s Riverside has 20 staff front of house, 14 of whom are from Europe, and 18 in the kitchen, of whom 12 are from Europe. 

“I have a fantastic team and it’s vital to me to protect their jobs,"  Harrison says. "As a small business, we don’t have HR staff, so it’s up to me and the team to guide our staff through this process.”

Restaurateur Sam Harrison, Sam’s Riverside

In terms of ingredients, Sam’s Riverside have prepared for the January and have become a British ingredient-led business, sourcing locally anywhere possible, from Isle of Wight tomatoes to fresh fish from British waters. 

Very locally, Phoenix Farm, just up the road in White City, supplies the restaurant with quality produce grown with the help of the local community and schools. 

The menu at Sam’s Riverside is dictated by seasonality, so very little is now sourced in Europe. “Relationships with our suppliers and community are more important than ever," Harrison says.

The challenge comes in the form of wine where prices from France and other European winemakers might change, but Sam’s Riverside is finding that there is better value to be had in New World wine. “We are thinking creatively about wine lists to be more flexible and more adaptable,” Harrison says.    

Looking to 2021, the focus is on day-to-day survival and continuing to come up with new ideas. The transition period has taught Sam Harrison to keep playing to the strengths of British ingredients. For example, a retail space called Sam’s Larder, showcasing the finest British produce, has been created and has proved popular with locals, enabling him to create more jobs too.  

The online entrepreneur

There are some countries that understand the worth of silk, and Germany is one of them, says Sonal Keay, a former barrister who launched online retailer This Is Silk (thisissilk.com) four years ago. “People there revere and understand the benefits of natural fabrics," she says.  

Since 2017, her silk pillowcases, masks and more made from Chinese silk have found a market at home and abroad, and she’s busy planning for 2021. After the  transition period, she believes her business at home and on the continent will continue relatively seamlessly.

Keay’s currently eyeing Japan as a market ripe for expansion. “I don’t want all my eggs in one basket," she explains. "I was in Scotland before the pandemic and saw how much appetite there is among Japanese tourists for British quality products. It has an amazing cachet abroad. If there’s a market, you have to jump.”  

This Is Silk founder, Sonal Keay

She knows how daunting the idea of doing business internationally can be: “There’s a massive fear of working with people you’ve never met.”  

Keay put in the legwork researching business partners in Germany and found people keen to continue to work with her – in retrospect, it’s been “crazy easy”, she says. “If you find the right person, they have first-hand knowledge of local markets when it comes to compliance and regulations.” 

Keay has checked the UK Government website to clarify what paperwork she needs to continue to trade abroad beyond the the end of the year, and what criteria her goods need to meet. 

 “If you break it down into easy steps, it’s less daunting ,” she says. "There is plenty of information online. I want my pillow cases to land at my customers’ doors in a smooth transaction.”  

Keay’s also made sure to hold a little more stock in case of any delays: orders from China now land in Germany so she avoids paying duties twice.  

“It doesn’t feel scary any more," she adds. "There’s no point worrying – you just have to get on with it.”

Transition checklist

Here’s a checklist of actions you may need to take to be ready to do business with the EU from January 1, 2021, when there will be changes to processes and licensing:

If you make use of personal data from the EU for business, you may need to take action on data protection

Make sure certain exports such as wine, meat, fruit and veg meet requirements for exporting to the EU after the transition period

Check your staff have the correct UK licences to practise in the UK beyond 2020

Check new tariffs that will apply to goods you might import into the UK from 2021 

Check how customs rules and duties will change if you export goods from the UK 

Make sure you have the correct documents to drive in the EU

Check if you need a permit or visa if you are travelling on business to the EU

Check the rules on your EC type approvals

Find out about changes to business procedures such as procurement agreements and the trade remedies process

Be ready to demonstrate that imports from the EU and European Economic Area have been legally harvested by completing a due diligence checklist

The UK Government website outlines simple, step-by-step procedures to clarify actions importers and exporters need to take before the UK leaves the single market and customs union.

See here for more details of how to prepare your business

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