Business leaders attend Titanic event hosted by leading law firm Cleaver Fulton Rankin
Business leaders at an event organised by leading Belfast law firm, Cleaver Fulton Rankin have been encouraged to consider ‘going West’ in a post-Brexit world.
The advice came from Trans-Atlantic business specialist, Ronnie Foreman whose company, Foreman Consultants has in-depth experience of helping local companies expand to the USA and which has also facilitated a number of high profile inward investment deals.
Mr Foreman who was speaking to the topic of Business Growth in a Post Brexit World held at Titanic Belfast referred to what he described as the ‘biggest period of uncertainty in a lifetime’ due to the UK’s impending exit from Europe as well as recent political events at home and abroad.
“The process for leaving, the so-called Brexit, raises more questions than it provides answers. The timescale for leaving, still uncertain, and the great questions of what it will mean to all of us as individuals and to our various business interests, have yet to be clarified.
“Again and again, we see speculation regarding these great unknowns and when you add the other major issues including the changes in Government in USA and the collapse of our own local assembly then we are in a virtual sea of unanswered questions.
“The fact of the matter is that however much we want answers, we need to wait until these matters unfold. Meanwhile we face a future which is largely unknown and uncertain.
“Uncertainty is never a good platform for business growth. Decision makers need to be able to predict some of the factors which lie ahead in order to make investment and growth decisions. Uncertainty discourages action and investment. Lack of action brings decline and stagnation.
Mr Foreman continued: “At all times in business and particularly in times of change, it is important to remember the key ingredients to achieving success.
“As well as carrying out regular health checks and keeping a close eye on underlying profit businesses should also be aiming to add to their product portfolios, growing their market share and expanding into new markets.
“One of the anticipated issues which is likely to come out of Brexit is that of barrier to selling goods and services from Northern Ireland into other parts of Europe when UK leave the EU. The possibility of tariff barriers, special taxes on imports which could be imposed on goods going between UK and EU is very real. The attitude from those in EU might change towards goods and services from UK making it a more difficult place for us to operate.
“Companies from here have had huge focus on markets in Europe despite the obstacles of language, culture and competition. However, if we look West rather than East, we find a huge English speaking market in USA where goods and services from Northern Ireland can in many instances be offered at better prices than can be generated either in Northern Ireland or in European countries.
“The new President of United States, President Donald Trump has stated very recently that he intends to “Fast track a new Trade Deal between USA and UK”. An informed commentator recently described US as becoming UK’s rich uncle in coming days. This must provide an incentive for more of us to look at USA.
“The key to entering America on business is to understand something of USA as a country and a business location. It is huge market and there are many issues to understand. Many Northern Ireland companies have overcome the barriers and are successfully operating in America. You can buy Bushmills Whisky made in Northern Ireland in any establishment in USA and more and more if you land at an airport in USA you will land on a runway surfaced by Lagan Construction from Belfast.
He concluded: “We can view the change in direction as positive and focus more on looking west to USA rather than East and we might just find a niche and a welcome market for our goods and services.”
Karen Blair, Managing Director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin said her firm had received strong enquiry levels from companies seeking advice on what they need to do in order to prepare for the post-BREXIT world.
“Whilst the future remains unclear in terms of many areas of business there are essential steps business owners should be taking to prepare for the new business context. Our teams of expert advisors have strong experience working with companies facing new challenges. Local businesses have proven themselves to be highly resilient over recent years and we are sure they will be able to navigate successfully through the challenges and opportunities awaiting them.”