When you consider that around the year 2000 the internet really started to show everywhere access, innovative business models and infrastructure potential, why did we need a pandemic to fuel a trend of remote working? Entrepreneurs have been building cloud-based technologies and services for years that enable anytime, anywhere access. So why is remote working becoming such a hot topic these days, with employers saying they need to go back to work and employees saying they want to work remotely? This combination of technology and desire for a better lifestyle will fuel the growth of small town entrepreneurship. Why? It is a combination of generational changes, lifestyle and fear.
One of the biggest generational changes affecting both the Millennials and Gen Z populations is technology and social media and its impact on their communication skills. According to an enlightening article on communication by flexible jobs, the way these two generations communicate is completely different from, say, Gen X or Baby Boomers. Over time, they have moved from face-to-face communication of previous generations to email, SMS, and emojis. And with that transition comes a difference in how the generations communicate at work. The lack of face-to-face communication skills has eroded company culture and loyalty and fueled additional fear. Add an appreciation for good living and travel and you understand why these two generations are both beautifully disruptive. And they are moving.
According to the United States Census Bureau, from 2010-2019, small cities in the west saw greater population growth than large western cities, with 13.3% population growth in small towns compared to 9.1% for large cities in the region. The South also experienced population growth during this period, but small towns grew slightly more slowly, at 6.7%, than large cities, which grew at 11.8%. The Census defines small towns as incorporated areas with populations of 5,000 or less, and large cities with populations of 50,000 or more. Medium-sized cities, which the Census defines as between 5,000 and 10,000 people, also grew from 2010-2019 in every region except the Northeast. A opinion poll A survey conducted in late 2020 found that nearly half of respondents would prefer to live in a small town or rural area, representing a nine percent increase in this preference from 2018. Trend research supports the move to small towns .
According to the publication Survive in small business, there are several trends in 2022 that make moving to a small town and growing a business a great opportunity. Let’s look at some of the main benefits of starting a small business in a small town.
Lifestyle in a small town. Who wouldn’t want to walk their dog in a beautiful small town, say hello to acquaintances and have a healthy drink in the local cafe. And with the potential of remote or hybrid working, so much the better.
Build your local brand faster. Being a slightly larger fish in a small pond can be a good thing. Bringing your entrepreneurial, branding or marketing skills to a smaller market may give you an advantage in terms of knowledge, experience and confidence.
Small towns want growth. Smaller cities and towns are feeling pressure based on population growth to offer more of everything. So, as long as you’re not totally disruptive, learn to blend in with the locals and provide jobs, they’ll welcome you.
Local customer base. When starting a new business, it is sometimes difficult to reach customers. Not in a small town. It’s much easier to identify a missing need and reach local customers, usually through word of mouth.
Build a local network faster. Even though it’s smaller, you can quickly build your network in a smaller city. Just find the local business leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and come up with a strategy to integrate them into your network. They all know each other, so you just need to build your first connections with one or two leaders and you will grow in the group.
Less competition. If you correctly identify a pressing need in the local town and you create a new business to fill that need, you may be the only game in town. Identify what is missing in a targeted city and see if that is something a business can be and thrive on. Or serve your customers nationwide via remote technologies.
Local employees are loyal. If you build a good business with small town values and culture, you can cultivate the locals to join the business and if they are treated well, they will be loyal and grow with the business. With fewer businesses in small towns, chances are good to build a loyal workforce. Then, if you need it, you can recruit outside talent for this great small-town company from your old network, because they might just be looking for the same thing that drew you to a small town.