Building Resilience in SMEs: The Power of Adaptability, Sustainability, Technology and Risk Management

Article Date | 24 September, 2023
Image: LSST Marketing/Adobe Firefly with prompts for medium business, growth and resilience.

By Kirill Koniayev, Lecturer in Business, LSST Aston

In an ever-evolving landscape, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face continuous challenges that can threaten their sustainability (Office for National Statistics, 2023; Rawindaran et al., 2023; Rizzi et al., 2014).  To thrive in such an environment, SMEs must embrace resilience strategies that enable them to withstand adversity and adapt to new circumstances (Wishart, 2018).  This blog will explore some of the aspects of building resilience in SMEs:


1. Adaptability

Adaptability is a cornerstone of SME resilience (Wishart, 2018). The ability to pivot and make quick decisions in response to changing circumstances can mean the difference between survival and failure.  No matter their size, SMEs should nurture a culture of adaptability within their organisations (Saputra et al., 2022).  This involves fostering an environment where employees are encouraged to think creatively, propose innovative solutions, and embrace change (Rich and Shararah, 2020).

One of the effective ways to enable adaptability is through scenario planning (Vargo and Seville, 2011).  By developing contingency plans for various scenarios, SMEs can prepare for economic downturns, natural disasters, or unexpected events (North-Samardzic and Gregson, 2011; Thiede et al., 2013).  These plans serve as roadmaps for how the business should respond when faced with adversity.  Having a well-thought-out plan in place allows SMEs to act swiftly and decisively, minimising the impact of disruptions.


 2. Sustainability

Sustainability is not just a buzzword – it’s a powerful strategy for SME resilience (Ford et al., 2021).  Sustainable business practices not only benefit the environment but also contribute to long-term financial stability. By reducing waste, conserving resources, and adopting eco-friendly initiatives, SMEs can lower operating costs (Rich and Shararah, 2020) and enhance their reputation among environmentally conscious consumers (Bhattacharyya et al., 2021).

Sustainable practices can take various forms, such as energy-efficient operations, waste reduction, and responsible sourcing (Rich and Shararah, 2020).  For instance, implementing energy-efficient technologies can lead to cost savings while reducing the business’s carbon footprint (Schulze et al., 2016; Seryak and Kissock, 2005; Smith, et al., 2021; Thiede et al., 2013; Walpole and Renfrew, 2018). Moreover, consumers increasingly favour businesses that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, making it a valuable marketing tool (Bhattacharyya et al., 2021).


3. Technology Adoption

With the wider acceptance of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), technological adaption is essential for SME resilience. Embracing technology can enhance efficiency, productivity, and adaptability (Kanagachidambaresan et al., 2020).  These are some of the following ways SMEs can leverage technology to bolster their resilience:

  • Digital Marketing: By investing in digital marketing strategies to expand the online presence in order to reach a broader audience, and drive sales. Social Media Advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and Email Marketing are powerful tools for SMEs (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2019).
  • E-commerce: By establishing an online storefront or expanding already existing e-commerce capabilities, e-commerce allows SMEs to diversify their revenue streams, reach a global customer base, and remain operational during disruptions (Chaffey and Ellis-Chadwick, 2019).
  • Cloud-Based Tools: By implementing Cloud-Based Software and services for e-commerce, remote work, data storage, and collaboration, Cloud-Based Technologies support and enable SMEs to maintain business continuity (Sandu and Gide, 2018), even when employees need to work from home or consumers who may not be able to interact with the business.
Image: LSST Marketing/Adobe Firefly with prompts for medium business, growth and resilience.

4. Risk Management

Effective risk management is vital for SME resilience.  SMEs must identify potential risks to their business and develop strategies to mitigate them (Falkner and Hiebl, 2015).  Here are some of the risks that SMEs face and potential ways that they can mitigate them:

  • Risk Assessment: By conducting a comprehensive risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats and consider both internal and external factors that could impact the business (Aven, 2016).
  • Insurance and Risk Transfer: It is important to review the insurance coverage to ensure it adequately protects the business from potential risks and disasters; and, in some cases, transferring certain risks through insurance (Falkner and Hiebl, 2015) may be a prudent strategy.
  • Contingency Planning: It is paramount that a business has contingency plans for various scenarios, such as supply chain disruptions, economic downturns (Hong, Huang and Li, 2012), or cybersecurity breaches (Rawindaran et al., 2023). When creating these plans, businesses should outline how they will respond to mitigate the impact of these risks.
  • Regular Review: All businesses should continuously monitor and reassess your risk management strategies; as the business evolves and market conditions change, the risk profile may also shift, necessitating adjustments to the risk management approach (Hopkin and Thompson, 2022).

In conclusion, building resilience in SMEs requires a multifaceted approach that incorporates adaptability, sustainability, technology adoption, and risk management.  SMEs that prioritise these strategies are better equipped to navigate the challenges of today’s business environment, ensuring their long-term success and growth. By embracing change, embracing sustainability, leveraging technology, and effectively managing risks, SMEs can thrive even in the face of adversity.

We hope you enjoyed our blog. Join our vibrant academic community and explore endless opportunities for growth and learning at or via Discover your path at LSST and embark on a transformative educational journey today. 




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