Running a small-town business is a unique lifestyle, a combination of the bustle of commerce and the intimacy the comes with serving a small community. And there are two types of businessperson likely to do it. One is the local entrepreneur, who sets up a truly homegrown business, or in certain cases inheriting it, whose intimate knowledge of the ways and customs of the small town makes for a local business that is truly local, becoming part of the scenery. The other is the outside entrepreneur, perhaps a businessperson with experience in the field and bringing something new to a community, filling a niche and contributing to the continued commercial life of the town.
Each type brings something different to the enterprise, a different attitude and perhaps even something the town has never seen before, but in one regard they are the same – they both serve the local community, the small group of customers, or the passing trade the town brings in.
The Attraction of a Small Town
In the modern day, it must be said that the latter of these two types of business is probably the more common. In a world of increased mobility and, sadly, the disappearance of family-run businesses, it is a wise entrepreneur who spies a niche and fills it. However, this is in most cases a good thing; small towns without large stable populations to keep them ticking over can suffer decline at the hands of the various pull factors which draw more and more people towards large cities – and that is one trend that is only going one way.
It’s heartening then to think that a small town can have its own unique attraction factors that can actually pull entrepreneurs away from big cities, inspiring them to set up shop away from the frantic bustle of city commerce. Among businesspeople moving away from large cities and “downsizing” towards smaller business ventures in smaller towns, one of the things they all share is a desire to escape the stressful and often cut-throat world of city business.
Don’t Take Success for Granted
Yet this is not for a second to say that running a business in a small town is a cakewalk. Far from it. Local business needs to specialize in what they provide and tailor their services to a very specific customer base, many of whom will visit the business several times with the same demands. And the anonymity of city commerce disappears in small communities. If your business is not up to scratch, word will spread and one thing an entrepreneur certainly doesn’t want is a reputation about the town for a shoddy business. This is something from which they might never recover. Local businesses are also far from quaint little shacks. In the modern world, business regulations apply everywhere, and a local business is still a modern business complete with employee security, contracts, cleaning obligations (especially where food is served), and workplace safety supplies. Business is business.
So, assuming you are one of these jaded city entrepreneurs looking to ply your trade somewhere more local. How do you go about it? Perhaps you would like to move somewhere quieter, more relaxed, but aren’t ready to stop working yet? It is a common enough situation, and there is a wealth of advice and tips on how to do it properly. Read on then for some of the most important.
Be Aware of the Fundamental Advantages and Disadvantages
When starting a business in a small town, it is important to know what you are getting into. Across the board, it’s generally accepted that while you will enjoy lower costs and less competition in small towns (especially if you are bringing something which the town doesn’t already have), you will run into challenges when it comes to courting a sizeable customer base and workforce. Awareness of this state of affairs is probably the most important thing to bear in mind when embarking on such a venture. It is also important to know how to make it work in your favour. For example, there are fewer people to potentially work for you, but then you will not require as many people; there are fewer people likely to use your business, but then any loss of profit from this can be offset by the lower costs of actually running your business. Thus, a healthy balance can certainly be struck, but not always – you could well find yourself providing something the local population simply doesn’t need. Above all, be careful.
Choose the Right Town
Small towns are not some uniform bloc. In fact, they can be very different depending on where you are in the country and what type of small town it is. Cities generally follow one pattern – or at least there will be some customer base for whatever type of business – but this is not so with small towns. Small towns can be market towns, commuter towns, tethered to one local employer, made up of primarily a certain age group; they can be the type of town that attracts tourists or one that never does; they can be rich or poor. Luckily, research has been done in this area, and you can check indexes of the best small towns for businesses and make an informed choice. And of course, the town also needs to be somewhere that you want to move to.
Consider How Close the Town is to Larger Cities and Transport Hubs
There are some small villages where you could conceivably find success setting up a grocery shop. However, in modern Britain, there aren’t many settlements of any size that don’t have a large supermarket within driving distance. The fact that the largest supermarkets typically set up on the outskirts of cities means that most of the population has access to them, regardless of where they live. Whatever type of business you plan to set up, it is vital to consider what is outside the town as well as within. However, if locals can get what you are selling by taking a half hour drive, then you can still offer the convenience of being located right in the town – but never assume you don’t have any competition.
Ultimately, there are as many reasons to set up in a small town as there are businesses that could potentially set up, and what the matters most is what you want from the enterprise. As a final rule of thumb, remember to always get the lay of the land before embarking – and never take success for granted.