Threat orientation in small and medium-sized enterprises: Understanding differences toward acute interruptions




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Peer reviewed



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine whether the experience, impact and likelihood of an acute business interruption, along with the perceived ability to intervene, influences the “threat orientation” of owner-managers in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. The concept of “threat orientation” is introduced in this study as a way to eschew the binary view of whether an organisation does or does not have processes and capabilities to respond to acute interruptions.

Design/methodology/approach – “Threat orientation” is operationalised and survey data are collected from 215 SMEs in the UK. Data from owner-managers are analysed using multiple regression techniques.

Findings – The results of this study provide empirical evidence to highlight the importance of firm age rather than size as a determinant of the propensity to formalise activities to deal with acute interruptions. Recent experience and the ability to intervene were statistically significant predictors of threat orientation but the likelihood and concern about specific types of threat was not found to positively influence threat orientation.

Research limitations/implications – Although the data are self-report in nature, the respondents in the study are the chief decision and policy makers in their organisations and thus it is essential to understand the influences on their threat orientation. Results are generalisable only to UK SMEs.

Originality/value – The findings of the paper contribute to a nascent understanding of planning for acute interruptions in SMEs and (despite the cross-sectional nature of the study), the findings clearly reinforce the need for continuing longitudinal research into how resilience develops in smaller organisations.



UK, SMEs, Risk management, Business continuity, Acute business interruptions, Threat orientation


Herbane, B. (2015) Threat orientation in small and medium-sized enterprises: Understanding differences toward acute interruptions. Disaster Prevention and Management, 24 (5), pp. 583 - 595


Research Institute

Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)