I got a call from a freelance reporter last week. She was assigned to write a positive story about the future of rural. Someone told her she should call me, so she did. It was hard, but I want you to know I showed some restraint, so I only kept her on the line for 30 minutes or so.
I told her the top three reasons rural has a future (food, natural resources, and conservation). We also talked about some things that make living in a rural area great (stars in the night sky, helpful people, and rush moment instead of rush hour). It was good to hear that someone else is thinking about the positive future of rural besides you and me.
Someone else that thinks good things about rural is Clay Forsberg. Clay wrote about the attitudes we need to succeed in small towns in the next decade. (Here’s Clay’s original post.) It struck me as a forward-looking list, one that you’d be interested, too. Here’s a direct quote:
1. Embrace change and be flexible.
Expect your life to be turned upside down tomorrow when you wake up. Strike the word security from your vocabulary. The only security you’ll have today, especially in a small town, is yourself and ability to navigate the inevitable changes that will “slap you in the face” when you least expect it. Don’t be pre-occupied with trying to hang on to “the way things were.” The only constant in life is change … so deal with it!
2. Embrace technology.
Technology and specifically the internet is everywhere, and embedded in everything. Technology will buffer you from the ups and down of a local economy. Become adept at social media – for social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) will widen your reach of contacts and ultimately the support when you need it most. The internet will also enable you to create income being a “location independent” micro-entrepreneur.
3. Embrace your community.
Your community, your neighbors, are your primary safety net and support structure. Don’t be a recluse. Lend a hand whenever you can. Be the “go-to person” in your town. Be the “help” leader that people will follow. Be the one that is the first one to rally the people to make things better for all. A positive, action-oriented attitude is contagious.
4. Embrace the youth.
Make your town the one that welcomes young people. For it’s the young people who will create the new opportunities, the opportunities that will keep your town’s death at bay. Don’t be part of a town that only tries to “hang to yesterday,” and tries to prevent any intrusion into this allegedly idyllic time … the time that is no longer and never will be. Business owners need to part of the solution also. Mentoring and internship programs do wonders keeping your young talent at home, rather than having them leave town for better opportunities.
5. Focus on businesses that serve out-of-town customers.
If you’re an entrepreneur, stay away from ventures that serve only your fellow community members, especially if the services you offer already exist locally. Don’t depend on revenue only generated from your community. Be responsible for bringing needed money into the community rather than cannibalize the existing businesses of your neighbors.
That’s Clay’s list. I think he drew a pretty good bead on the target.
What can you do with this list? I mean, I know you want to beat a few people over the head with some of it, but that won’t actually do any good. Instead, how about sharing it around your community, trying to get some discussion going? Let me know what you think of Clay’s list, or if you have a good way to get your community talking about attitudes.
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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 have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.