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When Brexit means exit: Moving a business abroad

Is Brexit forcing you into moving a business abroad? When you are an individual, migration can present tough challenges but when you are moving an entire business, it’s a whole different level of preparation.
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So, what are the essentials on the checklist before that move to change, not just your business address, but your entire country of residence when moving a business abroad?

Brexit means Brexit – but it also means tariffs on trade with EU countries, and a restriction on free movement.

This could pose a few issues for some businesses. HSBC is getting set to relocate 20 per cent of its London banking operation, that’s 1,000 jobs to Paris, for one example.

Where there are firms with a lot to gain from relocation to Europe, moving a business abroad is an attractive way to solve the new headache. However, there are some boxes to tick off before you get your phrase books out and espadrilles on.

Who’s with me!? Oh…

First issue. Not everyone is coming with you, despite your enthusiasm and incentives, people have lives that may come first, so expect a change of company guard to a certain extent.

Know the people who you really could not do without and talk to them before you assume too much, so that you know who will give it a go and who will not. If there are children in schools, houses that are homes, family that needs to be in reach, then there will be some obstacles to migration that money, promises and business loyalty won’t even dent.

You will need to hire new people and local people so get your recruitment right and find a way to target those critical additions to the company who will help business flow in the new territory.

Pick your new place wisely

Location, location, location. There really is no need to say this three times, but the fact is, business rates and costs, ease of travel to clients, proximity to the airport and of course living standards – they all must meet the needs of the business and those working for you.

Get one aspect of your location wrong and live with it for a painfully long time. If an area’s cheap, check the crime rate there, or just investigate the reason why. Make sure your people can live nearby, without a commuting hell to navigate. 

Take advice from local experts

The people who can really help you are already over there. Consider getting some partnerships going within the local area that you are moving to. Start off some relationships and know which suppliers to your business can be substituted with minimum disruption.

You’ll need to expand your network, get to know who’s who in the area and who can and will help you succeed as a venture in the region.

It may feel like the business is starting from day one again and let’s face it, despite your existing relationships, reputation and trade partners, this is for all intents and purposes just that – starting over.  

Language barrier

Whilst shouting English slowly is considered international diplomacy by many Brits, it really does pay to learn the lingo of the host country – obviously. When you are moving several employees then it might be worth providing a crash course prior to departure.

If the business is trading with Europe or a European country, hence the move, then this may not be a big issue but there is a big difference between doing business with a European country and actually living and working there.

Whilst English is often considered the default universal language of business, it’s not only a bit rude not to try, it could also impact the business when in situ. There are differences too in tolerance and use of English.

The Netherlands for example really does use English as a second language but other countries might not.

Insure the lot of them

Moving a business abroad, along with the workforce, means thinking about insurance. Today the whole workforce can get cover in a policy.

Expacare, who look after International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) for corporate clients, for example, indicate that there are policies that can cover as little as one person to an unlimited maximum amount in the workforce.

Unless the profession is particularly hazardous, there will be no need for each employee to submit medical evidence either, which is one less hassle to worry about.

If you are seriously thinking of relocating to an EU country in light of Brexit and moving a business abroad, you’ll already know that this is potentially the biggest decision for your business you could make.

Plan it well, consult with everyone and make sure you don’t lose too much of your talent on route to the new country. 

Richard Forsyth is a freelance business writer

Image: Shutterstock

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