A staggering 96% of business owners are concerned over business disruption, and only one in twenty (6%) have plans in place to cope with change,  according to a new study by Top 15 UK chartered accountants Haines Watts.

The survey conducted as part of the ‘For Love or Money’ study is based on companies with a turnover between £1 million and £50 million, found that uncertainty over government policy and regulation nears the top of the worry list of North East business owners.

In addition, the survey found that two fifths are not acting proactively – admitting they haven’t thought about disruption or have thought about it but not done anything (41%), instead waiting to see what disruption brings, and then hoping to respond after the event.

One common concern among North East business owners was government-related disruption, including legislation and regulatory changes that will impact the way they do business. More traditional forms of disruption also place highly on the list of concerns, including competition from larger businesses entering the market (42%) and changing customer expectations (48%).

Donna Bulmer, Managing Partner at Haines Watts, said: “Brexit has distracted UK business owners from the very real threat of industry disruption. While fears around regulatory disruption are exceptionally high, business owners may not be concerned enough about the kind of disruption that will threaten their very business model.”

The type of disruption that makes headlines the most – that of radical new business models – featured comparatively low down in North East business owners’ fears, with just a third (31%) citing this as a concern. Fear over new technologies disrupting markets is even lower at 13%.

Bulmer added: “It’s hard to envisage how threats like new technology could unfold when the challenges they pose are only partly visible, but that doesn’t mean that preparation can’t get under way. There are steps every business can and should take to prepare for the changes that will come, such as investing in innovation, providing staff with the right training and ensuring you have a robust business plan in place.

“Although the pace of disruption has picked up, the temptation to bury our heads in the sand and stick to what we’re comfortable with is not new. In 1996 Bill Gates wrote that ‘we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten’. Those timelines are even shorter now and the danger of underestimating disruption is greater than ever.”

While disruption can be intimidating, and the difficulty of preparing concerning, it can also be positive. Over a third (35%) of business owners say that disruption makes them more determined. Disruption could be good for North East business owners, by keeping them on their toes and ensuring they stay ahead of the game. Similarly, 37% say that it makes them more ambitious.