If you consider that the Internet started showing its anywhere access, innovative business models, and infrastructure potential in the year 2000 or so, then why did we need a pandemic to fuel a remote work trend? Entrepreneurs for years have been building cloud-based technologies and services which allowed for anywhere, anytime access. So why is remote work becoming such a hot topic today with employers saying to come back to work and employees indicating they want to work remotely? This combination of technology and the desire for a better lifestyle will drive the increase of entrepreneurship in small towns. Why? It’s a combination of generational changes, lifestyle, and angst.
One of the biggest generational changes affecting both the Millennials and Gen Z populations is the technology and social media and the impact on their communication skills. According to an insightful article on communication by Flexjobs, the way these two generations communicate is completely different than say Gen X or Baby Boomers. Over time, they have transitioned from in-person communications from previous generations to email, text, 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 affected company culture, and loyalty and fueled additional angst. Throw in an appreciation for living and traveling well and you can see why these two generations are both beautifully disruptive. And they are moving.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2010-2019, small towns in the West saw a bigger 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 saw population growth during this time, but small towns grew at a slightly slower pace, 6.7%, than big cities, which grew by 11.8%. The Census defines small towns as incorporated areas with 5,000 residents or fewer, and big cities as having populations of 50,000 or more. Midsize cities, which the Census defines as between 5,000-10,000 people, also grew from 2010-2019 in every region except the Northeast. A Gallup poll conducted near the end of 2020 found that nearly half of the respondents would prefer to live in a small town or rural area, representing a nine percent jump in this preference compared to 2018. Trend research is supporting the move to small towns.
According to the publication Small Biz Survival, several trends are rising in 2022 that make moving to a small town and growing a business a great opportunity. Let’s review some of the key benefits of launching a small business in a small town.
Small-town lifestyle. Who does not want to walk their dog in a beautiful small town, say hello to people you know, and have a healthy drink at the local cafe? And with the potential of remote or hybrid work, all the better.
Build your local brand faster. To be a slightly bigger fish in a small pond can be a good thing. If you bring your entrepreneurial, branding, or marketing skill to a smaller marketplace, you might have an advantage in knowledge, experience, and confidence.
Small towns want growth. Smaller cities and towns are feeling pressure based on population growth to provide more of everything. So, as long as you are not completely disruptive, learn how to blend in with the locals, and provide jobs, they will welcome you.
Local customer base. When launching a new company, sometimes it's hard to get to customers. Not in a small town. It’s much easier to identify a missing need and reach local customers, mostly with word-of-mouth marketing.
Build local network faster. Even though it's smaller, you can quickly build your network in a smaller town. Just find the local business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs and strategize how to work them into your network. They all know each other, so you just need to build your initial 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 company to fulfill that need, you might be the only game in town. Identify what’s missing in a target town and see if that’s something that can be a business and thrive. Or, serve your clients nationally via remote technologies.
Local employees are loyal. If you build a good company with small-town values and culture, you can cultivate locals to join the company and if treated right, they will be loyal and can grow with the company. With fewer companies in small towns, the opportunity to craft a loyal employee base is high. Then, if you need it, you can recruit outside talent to this amazing company in a small town from your old network as they might just be looking for the same thing that attracted you to a small town.