President's Message - January 2019

Posted: 8th January 2019, 10:29am

New Year Challenges


It’s important to have goals in business and the new year is often seen as the perfect time to set some resolutions we’d like to make going forward. Each new year brings a different set of challenges, but of course 2019 has Brexit written all over it – a challenge that no Small-to-Medium Enterprise quite yet knows how to handle. The anxiety and uncertainty over Brexit dragged the economy almost to a standstill at the end of 2018, acting as a drag on business activity and discouraging consumers from spending.


As we enter 2019, we are now only weeks away from formally leaving the EU. As the clock ticks down to 29 March 2019 Parliament remains divided and complex areas of disagreement still need to be resolved. We can’t afford a series of own goals.


All of this leaves SMEs with little time to respond. Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), has made a plea to the UK government: “As Brexit approaches on the 29th March, the Government must give proper help and support on how to comply with whatever will be required. Adapting to whatever the new trading circumstances with the EU are will mean changing business procedures, taking valuable time out from running a business, and for many it will involve paying for external expertise.”


Small businesses account for some 93% of all businesses in our district. With such a vital role to play, our businesses will require even more attention and support in 2019. And there's nothing like talking to other business people for sharing issues and challenges, sparking new ideas, refining old ones, and of course making essential contacts.


In updating business plans, many of us will be looking at ways to minimise costs, tighten up credit control and make the most of technology and social media. Flexibility will also be a key factor: not only the ability to identify and respond quickly to market opportunities but flexibility for our staff: our employees are our most important resource and if they are happy, motivated and productive they will help deliver the business rewards for which we work so hard to achieve.


We have many great businesses locally and a vibrant, collaborative business community. For many businesses, 2019 will be about trying their hardest in everything they do.  Very few people regret what they’ve done but many people regret what they didn’t do. That can simply be a matter of not having tried one’s hardest.


One key characteristic of our most successful firms is a focus on excellence, delivering added value to customers: this is one goal we can all keep at the top of our list in this New Year.  I have heard excellence described as being like magic: you can’t measure it, but you know when you have it and the results are miraculous.


Let’s strive for excellence, support our excellent local firms wherever we can and, together, do all we can to fly the flag for the businesses in our District, whatever challenges and opportunities 2019 presents.

Alastair Woodgate
Chamber President


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