7 Strengths of Small Town Businesses #6: Innovative

7 best strengths of small town stores

7 Biggest Strengths of Local Shops

And how you can build on them.

Remember the 7 Weaknesses of Local Shops? They were crazy popular because they touched a nerve. I acknowledged that some of our local businesses really need to step up to earn business today. This series is the flip side of that idea. Small town stores have strengths, too. Our best local shops know a lot about customer service and community, and every business would be wise to learn from our strengths.

  1. Get to know you
  2. Make customers feel loved
  3. Fewer layers
  4. More flexible
  5. More knowledgeable
  6. Innovative
  7. Benefiting the local community

Strength 6: Innovative.

The stereotype of sleepy small towns stuck in the past hides a simple fact: Innovation happens in small towns.

“Small towns are still the place where creative ideas are being generated every day,” Tripp Muldrow said, at the Oklahoma Main Street Small Towns conference.

Small town businesses are innovative because we have to be.

We have more limits.
We do without a lot of things big city businesses take for granted. There aren’t hundreds of local banks to choose from. We don’t have millions of potential customers in a 30 mile radius. The services from our city government are limited.

So we just work around these things. We don’t borrow money; we bootstrap. We don’t burn customers and wait for others to take their place. We find ways to do without what we can’t have.

We have to prepare for every possible situation.
Serving our local market means we have to be able to do a lot broader range of things. We can’t rely on just doing on single specialized task, expecting other specialists to come in and do the rest of the work. It’s a small town! We come prepared to handle anything.

We have a limited workforce.
The people available may be younger than we want, may not have any previous experience in our field, may have drug convictions or may be much older than the typical big-city worker. So we get creative. In Elliot Lake, Ontario, there are a lot of retired people, compared to the total population. Jessie, owner of Jessie’s Towing, has to get creative to make the equipment work for older workers. He modifies equipment and tools to take less brute strength. He stays flexible and provides shorter working hours for his semi-retired helpers.

Limits breed creativity. 
Jonathan Fields says he’s found this to be true in every creative endeavor, and that abundance can kill creativity.
I believe it, because I see it in so many small town businesses. The limits of doing business in a small town make us more innovative.

Next up: Strength 7: Benefiting the local community

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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