Here we take a closer look at how SMEs across the UK are preparing for a UK departure from the EU - the real steps they're taking, rather than just the things they "should" be doing. We spoke to Anthony Chadwick, founder and CEO of the Webinar Vet and asked him how he was preparing his business for Brexit.
Hi Anthony, can you tell us about your business?
I set up The Webinar Vet in 2010 to make veterinary education more accessible and affordable. I had been a small-animal vet for more than 20 years and understood how difficult it can be to train while also working long hours. So, The Webinar Vet was born to help vets to complete their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) at a time that fits around busy schedules. Our customers can watch high-quality webinars – filmed in a live-lecture format - from their home. Our team has grown rapidly over the past two years to 16 people, all based at our head office in Liverpool. We now consider ourselves the largest online veterinary community in Europe with about 40,000 members, of whom 4,000 are paying customers. Our reach also includes the Americas, Asia, and beyond.
Has the prospect of Brexit already affected you?
Brexit’s big impact on us – so far – has actually been the devaluation of the pound that has occurred since the vote to Leave in 2016. We are an online business with about 20 per cent of our sales being made outside the U.K., mainly in the other 27 EU member states. The weakening of our currency has meant that our overseas customers are getting better value for money. We have actually installed an e-commerce plugin on our website so our customers overseas can pay in their preferred currency.
How have you sourced your information about Brexit?
I’m a member of groups like the Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors and also, for our profession, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), which has produced a series of reports. Just last month the BVA, for example, called for a "No Deal" Brexit to be taken off the table after analysing Brexit’s potential impact on animal health and welfare.
What Brexit preparedness steps have you and your customers been taking?
Our business’s view is that we have to be pragmatic and get on with whatever happens at the end of October (or whenever). Our biggest focus has been trying to understand how there could be changes to how VAT works for our non-U.K. customers - although most CPD expenses are paid for by people’s companies, it’s not always the case. If Brexit happens, it does seem that we will no longer have to chase VAT numbers from customers in other countries.
We have also been monitoring the Brexit preparedness work the BVA has been doing, including an 18-page Brexit planning document focused on the potential "No Deal" outcome, which takes in issues ranging from animal medicines to animal welfare standards. We are also trying to monitor government guidance through the main U.K. government channels. Looking beyond Brexit, there is a broader aspect to consider, which is that if the economy struggles – as many predict – our online CPD services could become more attractive to people looking to train in a more cost-efficient way.
For more insights on how to prepare your SME for Brexit, check out this article.