How you can support your Brexit-hit clients
Every client is different and the impact of Brexit on any particular company or individual could be anything from negligible to threatening imminent closure.
For some, it may be the best thing that has happened in years, since rivals could be put out of business or new opportunities arise as a direct consequence of what might be a very abrupt departure from the European Union.
For example, relocation specialists are likely to find business booming as clients move significant parts of their operations from Britain to mainland Europe (or Ireland).
Others may rely on just-in-time importation to make small profits and, if Dover and Calais become lorry parks, that might tip them over the edge.
Most are likely to find themselves somewhere between these two extremes, probably facing additional costs, possibly losing some members of staff and addressing difficulties resulting from clients/customers who have their own operations disrupted.
Wherever they might fit on this scale, it has to be almost certain that your clients will be grateful for any support that their highly valued professional adviser is able to offer. In some cases, this might amount to nothing more than the knowledge that you are on call when required.
Other clients may give you a very large and lucrative project – perhaps in connection with reorganisation or restructuring to take into account new circumstances.
In the longer term, there could be changes to tax laws, with VAT seeming a hot favourite, and auditing and accounting rules may also be subject to review. The negative financial impact of change could also lead to significant tax hikes, which will not be good news for anybody.
This means that you and your staff will need to keep up to speed on change but, as a quid pro quo, you should be able to develop new business from existing clients and possibly create niches to tempt new ones to come on board.
In the short-term, it might well be beneficial to develop a policy where you or colleagues ensure that a call or meeting is arranged in the very near future with a representative of every single corporate client and some of your more influential private clients as well.
This will help your organisation to understand the potential needs that will arise when Britain leaves Europe. Scope out additional projects and, in a worst-case scenario, identify those where it might be a good idea to get your credit controllers on the case before it is too late.
In cases where you believe that clients will face any major change as a result of the decision to leave Europe, there is still no harm in contacting them, although clearly it makes sense to leave such calls until after speaking to those who are going to be at the sharp end.
In terms of the conversations themselves, it may go against the grain but try asking open questions and listening. “What is Brexit going to mean for your business?” might be a good starting point.
You can then talk about any specific issues of which you are aware, for example staffing, financing, regulation and cross-border transactions.
As with everything else in what is becoming an increasingly messy and argumentative time, any clients that have operations on either side of the Irish border will almost certainly need particular help and attention.