BUSINESSES operating in the rural economy must take control of their destiny as they head into an uncertain future fuelled by Brexit.
That is the verdict of two experts in law and accountancy who will next week share their expertise at an event aimed at businesses in the farming and agriculture sectors.
The evening of insight and advice is being jointly hosted by Cartmell Shepherd, Armstrong Watson, The Cumberland Building Society and The Farmer Network.
Jonathan Carroll, a director at Cartmells and head of the legal firm’s agriculture department, said: “There is a great deal of uncertainty across businesses in the rural economy, and most of that is fuelled by ongoing debates relating to Brexit and what life will hold post-March 29.
“Of course it is natural to have concerns about the impact such a seismic event will have on farming and agricultural enterprises. Only time will tell what the true effects will be and to a large degree, they are out of our hands. If the current DEFRA plans make it into law, there will be a ‘once in a generation’ chance to focus on restructuring businesses for the future.
“What that means is that we must grasp every opportunity that does exist to positively affect the future and the destiny of businesses operating in the rural economy.”
Jonathan says a key opportunity is to ensure that businesses large and small have sound and properly documented succession plans in place.
While they will not necessarily mitigate whatever the effects of Brexit may be, he says they will set out an agreed future path for the business.
“Succession planning is one of the most important processes a business will go through. It means dealing with the future of the business in the present.
“The reality is that many businesses owners avoid the process and skirt around the issues they perhaps know need to be tackled - because they accept they will become a reality one day.
“In an uncertain climate, taking hold of those things which can be controlled is very important. A succession plan will deal with the what ifs.
“What if, for example, the business is affected by the death or serious illness of the owner or sole director? Who will the business transfer to? In the case of multiple siblings, how will that work?
“There are so many things to consider - but the great news is working on a succession plan is wholly in the gift of business owners.”
The free-to-attend event - called Future Proof Farming: Cultivating Change - will be held at the Shepherd’s Inn at Rosehill in Carlisle on Thursday January 17, with welcome drinks from 5.30pm and presentations from 6.30pm until 8pm.
Adam Day, managing director of The Farmer Network will discuss the power of networking, while Grant Seaton, senior business lending manager at the Cumberland Building Society will lead a session on diversification into the holiday lettings market. Katherine Prestwell-Walker from Cartmells will examine the current Defra plan tied into Brexit and its possible effects.
Also on the agenda, will be a discussion about the requirements - and opportunities - surrounding making tax digital - a new government initiative which affects all companies.
It will be led by Armstrong Watson partner and Head of Agriculture, Andrew Robinson, who said: "Businesses have no choice about making tax digital - it is something they have to engage with, whether they like it or not. "What I would urge all individuals operating in the rural economy to do, is see the challenges surrounding making tax digital as a huge opportunity. "What it will mean is that they have at their disposal figures, financials and statistics about their business which are far more up to date than ever before. "That will allow them to reflect on the position of the business and make informed decisions about budgets, spending and plans for the future. "In some cases, business will choose to appoint an accountant to do the majority of the work for them; in others, they will largely take control with background support. "Whatever the decision is, there is a huge opportunity on the horizon to take control - at a time when uncertainty, from Brexit and whatever else may crop up, is causing unrest."
While the event is free to attend, ticket numbers are limited and interested parties are encouraged to reserve their slot at the earlier opportunity. To book a place, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org