Business development · 16 May 2017

How rural businesses can compete with the city slickers

Running a rural business has its challenges
Running a rural business has its challenges

Running a business in the countryside might sound idyllic – beautiful surroundings and being your own boss appeals to many. But how do you ensure you can compete on a more level playing field with urban areas?

Running a business is hard work no matter where you live, but there’s no denying that it’s just that bit harder when you live out in the sticks.

“Conventional wisdom has it that the rural economy faces decline due to seismic shifts in the modern economy, and that traditional rural industries are shrinking, or moving abroad. I don’t think it’s as simple as that though,” explained Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon.

Indeed, it is a complex issue, and there are lots of challenges associated with operating a business in rural areas.

First, there is the lack of infrastructure and widespread high-speed broadband. Without proper internet access, businesses are prevented from reaching their full potential. Fast internet makes businesses more efficient, which has real-world, tangible effects.

“I live in a small village in Yorkshire, and back in 2000 I founded Blueheath, an internet grocery business which had its two main operations in Wrexham and Thurrock. None of that would have been possible without the internet,” added Gurr.

For example, the internet enables businesses to engage with its customer-base. This can mean better marketing and better customer service, which can convert into sales at relatively low cost.

Secondly, there is the so called “brain drain”. The ambitious head to the cities where they can best monetise their talents, and so the city-based businesses get stronger while rural businesses miss out.

This is not to say it’s easy to find tech talent in the cities – far from it, and smaller businesses will always struggle more to nab talent than large corporates that can pay more. But it’s certainly easier to recruit these kinds of employees in the city than the countryside. Rural business owners often find they must train up their own staff to be able to take advantage of digital opportunities.

In other words, small businesses that set up in the countryside are missing out on many advantages that those in a bustling city environment would take for granted.

The good news is that, in the face of all these challenges, there are huge digital opportunities available for those with the savvy to take them.

One of these opportunities takes the form of the Amazon Academy – the next free-to-attend event will be held in Edinburgh on 23 May, and aims to teach small businesses how to make the most of its digital and logistics services to get selling online.

Sign up here for your free ticket for the event.

How can using digital technology help?

There are many advantages for a small, rural business embracing digital – although naturally this continues to be dependent on the business’ access to fast internet.

“Online services are already enabling rural businesses to compete with major retailers and to reach an audience of hundreds of millions of customers in the UK, across Europe and around the world, from any corner of Britain,” said Gurr.

Ecommerce allows businesses to sell products and services online to every corner of the globe – exporting has never been easier. It is possible, using a service like Amazon Marketplace, for a small business in the Highlands of Scotland to reach the same audience online as a large corporate business.

“Put simply, digital services democratise the ability to start a business and level the playing field for all types of business. In a digital environment, it doesn’t matter whether you’re big or small, urban or rural, start-up or mature businesses.”

You might even be surprised how easy it is to learn these skills, and get your products online.

At the Amazon Academy on 23rd May in Edinburgh, you can learn how to:
• Get your business online to boost revenue, geographic reach and productivity
• Reach new customers by exporting across the globe
• Scale your digital infrastructure to successfully grow your business.

No matter where you are, you’ve got the tools to make it happen at your disposal – why not learn how to use them, and let the world be your oyster?

Sign up for your free ticket to the Amazon Academy in Edinburgh today.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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