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It’s 10 years since ‘disruption’ entered our lexicon, yet SMEs still struggle to plan for this risk to their business.

Business disruption comes in many guises, from government and regulatory change to the emergence of fast-growing, ground-breaking brands like Uber.

The problem, it seems, is not lack of awareness. In fact, recent Haines Watts research has found that disruption is a concern for 96% of the 500 UK SME owners it surveyed. Worryingly, it revealed that just one in 10 owners is addressing these concerns and has a plan in place to tackle disruption if it happens.

Quality not quantity

Unexpected disruption can rapidly impact your bottom line, wiping value from your business and reducing your pool of prospective buyers. So, planning for this risk is vital. While almost half (46%) of businesses cited legislative and regulatory disruption as a concern, it’s the fast-moving threats involving new technologies and business models that are more likely to catch SMEs unaware.

Yet our study showed that these generated much less concern (22% and 25% respectively) than longer-term risks relating to Brexit, governmental U-turns and the General Election result. Other factors, such as new business models, adapting to meet customer expectations, and competition from larger organisations diversifying, also feature prominently on the list of disruptive influences business leaders are worried about.

See the potential

Being proactive about disruption is not simply about avoiding being caught out but unlocking the brainpower and problem-solving potential within your company so you can quickly navigate unknowns. I often see owners resign themselves to uncertainty and deal with disruption when it arrives. But, in reality, planning isn’t a forecast. Instead, it’s about stress testing your business against different eventualities.

Some business owners do thrive on disruption, the survey found. A third (35%) reported that disruptive challenges make them more determined; more than a quarter (28%) also felt that it made them more ambitious. Continuous innovation and questioning the status quo are great ways to get to grips with disruption, and ensure that a business is on the front foot.

It’s time to harness that drive for the benefit of your business.

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About the author

Darren Holdway

Darren has worked with owner managed businesses for over 20 years. Darren’s clients include a diverse range of businesses enabling him to consult not only on financial issues but on strategic, management and business issues.
As well as being a Chartered Accountant, he is also a member of the Institute of Taxation and has completed a ‘practical’ MBA at Cranfield Business School.

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