We all know what rural towns need, right? They need jobs, and to recruit some manufacturing, and they have a huge poverty problem. Right? Well, no. At least that’s not what rural people told me.
Earlier this year, I ran a survey of subscribers and visitors here on SmallBizSurvival.com. Over 200 people who identified themselves as rural shared with me what challenges their small towns were facing that they wanted help with and what challenges their rural businesses were facing.
The challenges they picked were not the usual suspects.
When describing their community’s challenges, people selected a set of inter-related challenges, of bringing life and activity to their towns, so their businesses will prosper and young people will choose to stay and other people will want to visit. That’s a much more nuanced view of community development than we usually give rural people credit for understanding.
Most of the people surveyed also owned businesses. Adapting to being open later hours was their most-selected challenge. Marketing was the second most-commonly-chosen challenge. And in the open-ended answers, marketing got mentioned over and over. Clearly, getting the word out about your business is still a big issue, even in small towns.
There were a few surprises. Not many mentions of jobs or poverty, which are the stereotype of rural challenges. Very few people mentioned a business gap in their community. We hear a lot about filling gaps, so that surprised me. More business people cited a lack of usable buildings in their town than a lack of a business loan, which runs contrary to the usual stories.
I was struck by how often the lack of cooperation came up. We just don’t work together very well, from town leaders to local businesses. That’s something we can all work on.
Business issues seemed to fall into the pattern of the The 7 Most Common Weaknesses of Local Shops, and that’s something else we can work on.
And of course we can work on bringing more life and activity to town.
What to Do Next in Your Town
If you’re ready to work on those three things (cooperation, business weaknesses and more activity), then I have a guide for you. It’s a few pages of Action Steps specifically inspired by these survey results. It’s available only to subscribers of my separate email newsletter Positive View of Rural and Deb Brown’s Building Possibilities. You can become a subscriber right here for no cost:
Trouble with the signup form? Please go to the Survey of Rural Challenges page to sign up.
Survey statistical details
If you’d like an article about these results for your publication, or you’d like to request a presentation of these results, please use this contact form and mention the Survey of Rural Challenges.
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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.