5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Brexit Vote
"Brexit" was the nickname given to Great Britain’s recent decision to exit the European Union (EU) -- ending with a referendum in which 51.9 percent of voters cast "yes" ballots." The result has been a shaken EU, as well as the disruption of markets, on a worldwide scale.
Yet, even as many have expressed fears for the economic future, entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the way the campaign played out.
Here are some of the key lessons smart and successful entrepreneurs should take away from the Brexit vote.
1. Stop making simple decisions complicated.
Just because a decision on its face seems complex, seeming to involve multiple factors, doesn’t mean that the decision itself is all that complicated. Both sides in the EU referendum turned the central question into a complicated one -- leaving many British citizens overwhelmed and unable to make up their minds.
Additionally, many people, in the aftermath of the "leave" vote actually regretted their decision. Both campaigns were disjointed and confused. At no time did anyone lay out the facts squarely for everyone to see.
Your business can learn a lot from the Brexit campaign: State the facts. Weigh the pros and cons, fairly. Make your decision.
2. Decisions need not be binary.
The EU referendum was simple: "remain" or "leave." Accept all aspects of EU membership -- or none of them. This black-and-white-type referendum might work for a democracy making a big decision. But just the opposite often holds true for entrepreneurs: They need to recognize that such a blunt instrument isn’t good for business.
It’s unlikely that a successful company will ever make a decision based on the views of the entire company, but one thing that businesspeople can take away is that most decisions are rarely binary. You can, instead, get the best of both worlds, if you’re smart about it.
Take the best from both sides and combine them into a third option. The third way will usually yield the best possible outcome.
3. Emotions have to be taken into account.
Ideally, the leader of a company should make detached, objective decisions, and with a clear head. The problem is that this scenario doesn’t always apply. Sometimes, leaders have to tap people's emotions.
What the Remain campaign leading up to the Brexit vote failed to do is understand the anger that people had over immigrantion, EU laws and the nation's elites, in general. By contrast, the Leave campaign did tap into these emotions. It demonstrated a clear understanding of people’s concerns, and prevailed, as a result.
As a business, you should do the same: Take into account the emotional impact that your content can have on people. Think about how you’re going to change perceptions and how people are going to react. Most people make purchases according to their emotions.
4. Don’t become a duality.
If there’s anything a business can take away from the Brexit vote, it’s the sharp division between the two camps that arose: You had people actively fighting against one other, and that fight became nasty. If you let the same happen to your business, the worst possible outcome will be that you become a kind of duality.
Instead, you should be able to create unity, even if people don’t agree with your decisions.
So, what should you do if you notice that people splitting into camps? Compromise on everything. Talk to people about why they disagree, and ask them what can be done to move to some form of agreement. Just because you think something is right doesn’t mean that you should demonize everyone else because of it.
For example, the Remain campaign commonly used the tactic of demonizing the Leave voters by calling them racists. This is not the way to create unity. It only leads to future resentment. Although we have yet to see the ultimate consequences of this disunity in the U.K., it has already exposed deep divisions within the country, particularly between Scotland and England.
5. Don’t rule by fear.
"Project Fear" was the name opponents gave to the Remain campaign and its supporters' dire warnings. But both sides used fear to scare people into voting a certain way. At one point, the vote even seemed to turn into a choice between fomenting World War III and the genocide of the British people, if you believed what the politicians said.
Within your company, don’t try to scare people into agreeing with a decision. Work with them and allow them to voice their opinions. Be sober with your presentation of the facts; and if you do realize that there are better decisions available, be flexible.
What can your business take away from the referendum?