COLM Gribben of Newry's Viltra Wastewater Technology has encouraged all businesses to prepare for Brexit.
Mr Gribben was commenting after the latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor (Q4 2018) was released.
It states that small-medium size enterprises (SMEs) are starting to feel pressure across a range of fronts.
Chief among the issues that businesses are worried about is Brexit (44%), however a number of other concerns have increased in significance.
Rising costs are a concern for over a third of SMEs (36%) while cash flow is an issue for 32% of firms.
One in five are struggling to recruit people with appropriate skills.
Attracting talent has been a persistent issue for larger companies over the past three quarters (over 10 employees) and has implications for businesses that want to grow.
With Brexit dominating both the political and business landscape, many SMEs are operating in an environment of uncertainty.
This is particularly true for cross-bordertraders and has been put into sharp focus by their performance in Q4.
Only 37% reported growth in the period of October to December 2018, down from 52% a year ago.
Mr Gribben said that following the crash in 2007/2008, it was vital that Viltra Wastewater Technology explored the cross-border market.
“Our business is growing, however, the back-drop of Brexit does make us nervous at the moment,” he continued.
“We have started planning and have identified areas of risk and opportunity.
“I would encourage all businesses to do the same. We are hesitant to take any big decisions until the outcome of Brexit is known.”
Generally, businesses that export tend to be the most resilient and more innovative and adaptable.
The cross-border market is now worth £6bn/€7bn. InterTradeIreland will be monitoring the health of cross-border business closely over the coming months.
While Britain and the EU continue to negotiate the terms of a withdrawal agreement uncertainty is having a dampening effect on business investments.
Only 14% of firms plan to invest in new plant or equipment, while only 4% are considering spending money on R&D or new product development.
This is consistent with businesses holding back until the terms of the new trading relationship with Britain and the EU become clear.
Aidan Gough,InterTradeIreland’s Designated Officer and Director of Strategy and Policy, added: “Business is facing many challenges and a high degree of uncertainty.
“While we recognise this makes planning difficult we encourage businesses, particularly cross-border traders to take a deep dive into their supply chains and logistics operations.
“SMEs need to assess if they are ready to deal with the bureaucracy surrounding customs and tariffs and to be aware of the regulations that govern their market and the impact of any changes.
“A good starting point and support in this exercise is the InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service which offers bespoke help and assistance for SMEs.”