Yep—we’re going there. Today, for the first time ever, I want to share with you exactly what I think about Brexit, how it’s going to affect UK businesses (online and off), and why you should be paying VERY close attention.
(Hint: It’s probably not what you think.)
British entrepreneurs are full of fear and distrust lately. Even as the business community settles into and tries to understand Brexit, we are afraid to act until someone else does first. No one wants to be the first penguin to jump, which means a whole lot of would-be entrepreneurs are just standing on the edge of the iceberg.
We can’t go back, but few feel ready to move forward.
The US election may have made things worse: as of November 8, there are millions of Americans feeling much the same way we felt back in June. And instead of reassuring our fellow entrepreneurs across the pond, too many have chosen to retreat back into fear and inaction.
This kind of climate can stop an entrepreneur before they even get started, and can derail otherwise successful businesses. They’re even saying so themselves:
“This is bad news for the tech industry,” commented Husayn Kassai, CEO and co-founder of the London-based online background checking firm Onfido.
“The outcome is a disaster for this country,” said Angus Dent, chief executive of the UK-based peer-to-peer business lending firm, Archover. “You can expect foreign businesses, institutions, and other investors to start pulling out of the UK.”
The more I read about what Brexit is doing to our vibrant business community here in the UK, the more frustrated I get. Why?
Because Brexit isn’t the problem—fear is the problem!
I don’t say any of this to diminish the realities of the referendum, the US election, or anything else happening in the world right now. Quite the opposite! My life and businesses are in both countries, as are many of my family and friends. I know how many people are feeling conflicted right now.
But seriously, this reactionary panic has got to stop! There will always be things to be afraid of—remember Y2K? Remember 2008? Yes, those examples are different from Brexit for all kinds of reasons, but every example is different from the ones that came before. That’s how history repeats itself without any of us learning from it.
Here, let me prove it.
Here are 8 reasons why Brexit shouldn’t concern British entrepreneurs, along with alternatives that actually will make a difference for your business, your audience, and YES, even your country—my country.
8 Reasons Brexit Doesn’t Matter for British Entrepreneurs
1. Online business is global. The people you want to serve aren’t limited to one geographical space. That hasn’t been true for decades. In fact, if you’re globally focused, it’s never been true. This blog, for example, reaches an average of 130,000 unique readers every month. Only 10% of you are from the UK! Need another example? In an email to his staff after Brexit, Martin Mills, founder and chairman of the 43-year-old record company Beggars Group, said, “While we digest the consequences, we’d just like to reassure you all that the Beggars family is, always has been, and always will be, international, with no frontiers.” (Sounds a lot more success-minded, doesn’t it?)
2. You can’t change change. My dad used to say there are only three things you can count on: death, taxes, and change. It’s true, and it means there’s no excuse to ignore or stall on your business just because something has changed again. Things will keep changing, and those changes will always scare off the people who weren’t meant to be here in the first place. Will you be among them, or will you step up? If you choose the latter, you’ll be in good company. “We are where we are,” said Debbie Wosskow, CEO and cofounder of Love Home Swap and founding chair of Sharing Economy UK. “And now entrepreneurs need to draw on their ability to embrace change and deal with adversity by tackling these challenges and carving out a new way forward.”
3. Success demands risk. Some of the UK’s most successful businesses were started in times of uncertainty, including the £5-billion Virgin Group. And if we end up in another recession, there’s some proof out there that the business you start in a slump has a greater chance of being profitable. It is an entrepreneur’s #1 job see the same situations that others see and react differently. We don’t run for safety; we advance into uncertainty. And then we win. Like Bronek Masojada, CEO of Hiscox, said, “The dogged entrepreneurs are more likely to say that the economic environment has made them more likely to succeed. This is true grit.”
4. Your only boss is YOU. Government drama doesn’t dictate my success or lack thereof, and the same is true for you. Brexit doesn’t sign your paychecks, refer you for promotion, or sign off on your expenses. Why would you give it, or any random entity, that much power over your business? Who’s the CEO here, anyway?!
5. The stats are irrelevant. 80% of UK startups fail within 5 years. Early on, Brexit had a 72% chance of failing. Until election night, Hillary Clinton had a 99% chance of winning the presidency. What do all those stats have in common? They don’t matter. They make for great headlines the morning after, but all they’re going to do for entrepreneurs is scare you into thinking everyone else knows more than you do. They don’t. But as we learned above, the only one who makes that final decision is you. Especially now, when the pollsters are nearly guaranteed to be wrong.
6. Constraints make you more creative. If few are investing in business because they don’t want to put money out in an uncertain economy, you’ve just learned something very important about them: they’re operating on fear. You can choose to mirror and join in their fear, OR you can see this as an opportunity to either find funding elsewhere, or try to make things happen without outside funding. Constraints require you to think of things in a new way, and make no mistake: the ability to produce with constraints is an essential skill for any entrepreneur to have. The sooner you learn it, the better.
7. Entrepreneur is a verb. (It’s not, really, but stick with me here!) You don’t get to be an entrepreneur if you’re not going to act like one, and it is exactly NOW, when everyone else is too afraid to act, that your bravery and expertise is needed more than ever.
8. This is what we’re here for. If you’re REALLY an entrepreneur, it’s time to prove it—real entrepreneurs live for this stuff. Maybe not Brexit specifically, but what I hope you understand by now is that Brexit was never the thing that mattered, anyway. It doesn’t matter what your personal or political feelings are about it—it’s the climate of fear that Brexit has created that is a problem. Acting in spite of fear is what all the speakers, bloggers, and fellow entrepreneurs you follow have been talking about for ages. It’s what everyone else talks about when they talk about us. And now it’s your turn to live a story worth telling, and build a business worth talking about.
Who’s Really Affected by Brexit?
If you’re afraid to start, scale, or act in your business since Brexit, it’s not you who’s most affected, though it can certainly feel that way.
It’s the people you serve, or want to serve.
The community you’ve been thinking about, gathering, and maybe even inspiring until now is still out there. And now more than ever, they’re counting on you to stay focused and keep sharing what you know. If you, as their leader, are acting from and projecting fear, you’re going to create more of that in your community.
If, however, you commit to action, forward momentum, and the “keep calm, carry on” mindset… well, then you’re really made of the good stuff.
British entrepreneurs have what it takes to get through this, and to inspire the rest of the world in the process.
Your ‘Beat Brexit’ Challenge
Brexit doesn’t determine your success (or the lack thereof), but your reaction to it will have a lasting effect on the community that needs you. This post has given you insight from a number of successful UK business owners, and I hope those insights have helped.
But there’s only so much you can do while reading a blog post. Your audience is still waiting for you to speak up, take action, and lead them to achieve their dreams.
This week, I challenge you to be the first penguin to jump. Despite fear, uncertainty, Brexit, buzzwords, blah blah blah. Jump.