Today is another big day in the UK’s Brexit challenge. The 29th of March inches closer as the country aims to decide it’s future. MPs will vote later today on Theresa May’s Withdraw Bill. And while Westminster aims to garner clarification, the UK business community tries to focus on what their own growth futures may look like. 2 Years of preparation and planning now kick into play as businesses start to place their faith in their growth strategies as they continue to steer their ships through the next few months.

And while Brexit happens, 2019 also brings a host of new legislation and regulatory changes – most of which take place in March / April this year.

But let’s take a step away from Brexit for a moment. Retailers on the high street, and other industry stalwarts, were struck with challenging performances over the Festive Season – many of which are now catching our news headlines. From Build-a-Bear to Debenhams, M&S to Land Rover – all have reported challenging revenue figures – with many reporting prospective job losses and store closures.

Scarily – The spike in festive spending between November and January typically makes up 40% of a retailer’s takings, but unfortunately – the analysts have spoken. “The members of the Bank’s interest-rate setting panel confirmed it was seeing signs of a slowdown in retail sales, and claimed that “Brexit-related uncertainty” was weighing on the economy.” – BBC

And while this picture is bleak. There’s an underbelly bubbling – one that is cautiously optimistic and filled with opportunity and possibility. The SME community of UK businesses who, despite the turmoil in our political and economical headlines, still predict and anticipate growth over the next 2 years.

Following stronger than expected consumer spending, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has raised its GDP forecast for 2018 from 1.1% to 1.4%, and in 2019 from 1.3% to 1.5%. The current UK employment rate has also hit a record high and Britain’s manufacturers are also feeling a sense of buoyancy with new orders at their highest level in a generation.

Critically – 65% of SMEs anticipate achieving growth of up to 40% in the next two years with just 11% of UK SME owners admitting to being ‘concerned’ about the potential impact of Brexit.

And while economic challenges bring the same hurdles and uncertainty, SMEs are actively looking at ways to re-invent, innovate, adapt, and critically, remove dependency on industries and organisations who themselves are standing on unsteady foundations.

Like funding options, for example.

‘SME Heroes or Zeros 2018’ report reveals that 38% of UK SMEs are less likely to seek funding based on their previous experiences of approaching high street lenders. With greater access to funding and lower interest rates, it appears that more SMEs are exploring alternative finance as a growth accelerator and possess a wider understanding of how it can benefit their business.” – Real Business

And their attitude towards the results after 29th May?

A survey, run by Leeds-based accountancy firm Russell Smith Chartered Accountants, asked business owners from around the UK a number of questions about their experiences in the year since the decision was made to leave the European Union. It noted that “80% of those that work with EU partners or suppliers claim that no matter the result, they will look to maintain their relationships. 13% of SMEs trading with EU nations will instead look to domestic partners following Brexit, with only 7% looking to international partners further afield.”

One thing is certain – regardless of the outcome – the UKs SME community will continue to need support to continue doing the crucially important job they currently carry for the entire UK. Investment, support, funding – all of which plays a critical role in them being able to maintain resilience through an economical landscape when many of our large industry stalwarts fall around us.

“These SMEs will be our global exporting pioneers post-Brexit and it is vital that the Government and wider industry does all they can to support them. This could mean anything from facilitating connections between UK small businesses and foreign counterparts, to offering advice and training on how to do business and communicate with international trading partners.”

Jeremy Cook, Chief Economist at WorldFirst