Friday, 02 March 2012 15:19

Business Tips from Small-town, USA

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Confession time. I didn’t think there was an awful lot going on in America’s small towns.

With their lower average income levels, limited markets, distance from tech hubs and all the other disadvantages that come with “diseconomies of scale,” I’d assumed most businesses in rural areas must be struggling to survive with the large national economy limping along as it is.

Becky McCray, a small town entrepreneur and author from Avra, OK, says that is not the case at all. On the contrary, it’s actually a pretty good time to be in a rural market, she says, citing strong farm commodity prices, the Shop Local and organic food movements, “ruralsourcing,” spreading broadband, and the popularity of “getting back to basics” and other trends.

Rather than viewing the heartlands as sunset territory, she argues the rest of the country could learn quite a lot from what’s happening there.

In her soon-to-be-released book, Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy (co-written with Barry Moltz), she argues that the dynamics facing big corporations in the modern economy are very similar to those being confronted by businesses in the seemingly sleepiest parts of the country. As she notes:

  • When every one of your customers can talk to everyone else (thanks to social media), it’s like a small town.
  • When it takes multiple jobs to support a family, it’s like a small town.
  • When the human voice is valued over corporate mission statements, it’s like a small town.

As for those seven “rules” that city businesses can learn from rural America, more than a few have been tested by time:

Rule 1. Plan for zero

Rule 2. Spend brainpower before dollars

Rule 3. Multiply lines of income to diversify risk

Rule 4. Work anywhere, anywhen through technology

Rule 5. Treat customers like community

Rule 6. Be proud of being small

Rule 7. Build local connections

All sounds very sensible to us. Got any thoughts on owning a rural business in the year 2012? Let us know.


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