This article develops the conceptualisation of regulation as a dynamic force, enabling and motivating actions that contribute to small company performance as well as being a burden, cost or constraint. Using interview and survey data from a study of preparers and users of small company abbreviated accounts, the article argues that regulation generates contradictory consequences as both confidentiality and disclosure potentially serve their interests. It presents an analytical framework specifying the mechanisms through which regulation influences performance directly and indirectly. Regulation affects small companies directly by requiring the disclosure of financial information but also, indirectly by influencing important stakeholders – for example, banks, suppliers, customers and others – to provide vital resources such as credit, and market opportunities. Indirect regulatory influences might be only partly visible yet exert a powerful effect on performance.