Purpose: Amidst the current economic climate, which places many constraints on expensive flood defence schemes, the policy makers tend to favour schemes that are sympathetic to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and which promote empowering local communities based on their individual local contexts. Research has shown that although several initiatives are in place to create behavioural change among SMEs in undertaking adaptation approaches against flooding, they often tend to delay their responses by means of a "wait and see" attitude. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: This paper argues that unless there are conscious efforts in the policy-making community to undertake explicit measures to engage with SMEs in a collaborative way, the uptake of adaptation measures will not be achieved as intended. With the use of the "honest broker" approach the paper provides a conceptual way forward of how a sense of collaboration can be instigated in an engagement process between the policy makers and SMEs, so that the scientific knowledge is translated in an appropriately rational way, which best meets the expectations of the SMEs. Findings: The paper proposes a conceptual model for engaging SMEs that will potentially increase the uptake of flood adaptation measures by SMEs. This could be a useful model with which to kick start a collaborative engagement process that could escalate to wider participation in other areas to improve impact of policy initiatives. Originality/value: The paper lays the conceptual foundation for a new theoretical base in the area, which will encourage more empirical investigations that will potentially enhance the practicality of some of the existing policies.