Chemicals Distribution/Brexit Critical success factors for small UK chemicals

distribution businesses: the Brexit effect Small and medium-sized enterprises have a large presence in chemical distribution, an industry that contributes to the UK’s economy and employment. Brexit, however, presents a few new challenges to these businesses. Among the key factors for the success of smaller chemical distributors, Evripidis (Evri) Lampadarios and Niki Kyriakidou highlight the importance of coping with the changing regulatory landscape.


mall and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to be the focus of political, business and management research, with their benefits firmly embedded in the business literature. SMEs are integral to contemporary economic and social regeneration, essential for the establishment of a solid industrial base, key drivers for innovation and R&D and, above all, significant contributors to employment generation. An industry where small businesses have a particularly strong presence is chemical distribution in the UK, a growing, well- established, significant part of the chemical industry and a significant contributor to the economy and employment. Critical success factors for SMEs are not

only dependent upon the country and industry settings but are also influenced by any radical changes in the wider business environment. Recent events in the European political arena have altered the landscape and increased the level of volatility and uncertainty. The result of the British referendum (June 2016) has triggered an unprecedented set of events, addressed under the ‘Brexit’ umbrella, leading Europe and the UK into unchartered territory alongside with all businesses based on and/or operating in this geographical region. The impact of such radical change on the critical success factors (CSFs) for SMEs in the UK chemical distribution industry, as identified in a previous study by Lampadarios (2016), has been investigated.

Top management opinion

The total number of SMEs in the UK chemical distribution industry satisfying the criteria was 180. No sampling technique was used but instead a census was conducted. Owners and very senior managers (chief executives, managing directors and directors) were the key informants. A total of 126 SMEs responded positively by returning the questionnaire, in a usable and valid form for statistical analysis, generating an overall response rate of 70%; this is against 118 respondents, 65.5% participation, in the pre-Brexit study. Thus, it can be argued


Table 1. Critical success factors for SMEs before and after Brexit.

that the findings of this study offer an accurate representation of SMEs operating in the UK chemical distribution industry. This study established a positive relationship between 11 success factors and SME success in the UK chemical distribution industry: regulatory compliance, human capital, internationalization, financial resources, customer relations management, market and product development, political environment, economic environment, prior work experience and management skills, entrepreneurial orientation, and strategic planning. This further reinforced the previous study by Lampadarios (2016) which identified

eight success factors, namely regulatory compliance, entrepreneurial orientation, customer relations management, market and product development, prior work experience and management skills, human capital, economic environment, and strategic planning (Table 1).

SME success in chemical distribution

Overall, SME success in the UK chemical distribution industry is found to be dependent upon many factors being optimal simultaneously. In fact, it is a combination of factors and not a selected few that leads to business success; satisfying one or two factors does not necessarily

March/April 2021 • Issue 2

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