Rural Businesses to the Rescue
In times like this we need an economic hero; Rural Businesses to the Rescue!
In the past five years, we have all witnessed the demise of some of this country’s retail giants; Comet came crashing down, Habitat took a hammering and Woolworths was simply wiped out. With economic ‘goliaths’ such as these disappearing from our high street, it is no wonder that business owners are in a state of panic. But which proprietors face the greatest risk? Surely the smaller the company the bigger the threat, but actually this could not be further from the truth.
Small, rural businesses, which contribute a fifth of the UK’s economy, are propping the rest of the country up. Us Rutlanders always knew we were a special breed, so I am sure that this statement will not come as a huge surprise! We should all be proud of this fact; our ‘micro-economy’ is laying the foundations for Britain’s financial recovery. So how have we achieved this and how can we continue to see success?
There is no magic formula when it comes to business. What works for one, may be a complete disaster for another. However, I believe that the success of small, rural businesses is down to five factors which most of our county’s companies have utilised. I also feel that if our local businesses follow these maxims, our county will continue to flourish. So let us have a look at these key ingredients:
- 1. Understand the Market. Market research is most certainly not a new concept in business; having a firm grasp of the desires of your consumer is a vital part of your company’s success. This could not be truer in rural areas. People who live in the countryside have different needs to people who live in the city, so require different products and services. Understanding the needs of the rural market is the first step to success for any rural business.
- 2. Find a Niche. Once you understand what the rural consumer needs, you need to identify what is missing in the market. As I mentioned above, rural residents have different needs to those living in urban areas. Try to find a product or service which uniquely benefits them or is hard to obtain in the countryside, and most importantly, is not currently available.
- 3. Sort Your Finances. It all comes down to money, as ever! But having your finances in order is a vital part of running a successful business. In short, protect your assets, maximise your returns and minimise your risks. You also need to keep an eye on your overhead costs. Being based in the countryside may initially seem like an expensive location, but actually there are lots of discounts available to you. If you are a rural business, which benefits the local community and promotes the sustainability of rural economy, you may be entitled to a grant. There are also some flexible rental agreements available at certain business centres, like The Rural Business Community, which help to bring down your costs. Other factors, such as parking charges, can also be lower in rural areas.
- 4. Flexibility and Diversification. I believe that the core reason that rural businesses have thrived, boils down to one factor- they are willing to change. When farming started to become less profitable, we saw a surge of farm shops opening their doors. The produce on offer is fresh and appealing to the local market and it also helped to boost the farmer’s income. Win, win. Being able to quickly react to changes in the market, whilst bearing in mind the needs of the consumer, will help you to keep your head above water. Do not be afraid to change the direction of your business. Modern working culture is like a chameleon, so be prepared to go with the flow.
- 5. Network. Sharing business ideas, collaborating on projects or simply talking to other company owners will help you to succeed. Gone are the days when business ideas were top secret (unless you are the designer for a certain fruit-themed electronics brand)! Success in today’s market is about whom you know and how you can help each other. This is an incredibly valuable tool for rural business owners. Not only can it help you to reduce costs, networking can also help to widen your own knowledge and give you the skills to provide additional services to your customers. There are many networking groups in the local area, so get out there and try it for yourself!
Whilst the true success of a company boils down to the business acumen of the owner, these five factors really can be ‘make or break’. At The Rural Business Community, we have fully embraced these ideas for several years. Back in 2009, the director, Charlie Reading, was running his Independent Financial Planning company, Efficient Portfolio, from his home. This company was rapidly expanding and becoming more and more desperate to be located in a professional office with meeting room facilities. In Rutland, the search for a fully serviced office that provided the essential meeting rooms that he needed for his clients, provided to be impossible. Charlie soon realised that there was a distinctive gap in the Rutland market for a rural based, serviced office facility that allowed small businesses to operate in a professional environment. Further to this, Charlie felt that the offices in the local area lacked a complete package, which should include vital IT services, reception facilities, meeting rooms and virtual office solutions. All of these can certainly be found in a city environment, but for those who wish to work in the peaceful setting of Rutland, no such facilities were available.
Charlie’s family farm the land in Seaton and Deene, and due to their land ownership, Charlie was presented with an ideal opportunity. In part of the land in Seaton sat a derelict, stone barn, which had become disused and neglected. Charlie’s idea was to convert this once beautiful building into an equally attractive professional, office facility. A business plan was carefully drawn up, alongside a grant application for an eco friendly, business centre. In August 2011, after more than 2 years of planning, reconstruction and hard work, The Rural Business Community opened its doors.
Charlie and the team at The Rural Business Community understand their market, fill a niche and carefully plan their finances (well, you would hope so with an Independent Financial Planner at the helm!). More than that, we keep our ears to the ground and endeavour to provide services and solutions to our local community; whether it is a private office to play home to an existing company, a virtual secretary service to a start-up business or a meeting venue for a local training firm. We also offer free networking events and seminars, as we believe that collaboration and education are the factors that will help the UK rise out of recession. On the whole, Rutland is economically sound. Of course companies have closed their doors, but we are a strong county with a good basis for business. The Rural Business Community strives to help all local firms when and where we can. If you feel that we could help to support you business, come and see us today.