SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) are not the only businesses fighting for survival in the countryside—rural areas house businesses big and small. Although there are higher numbers of SMEs in rural areas according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the problems that plague rural businesses plague all rural businesses, not just SMEs.
UK businesses big and small have trouble competing with their rivals in London and other population centres—they face challenges related to insufficient business support, a lack of online engagement and low recruitment numbers. But these challenges do not successfully squash rural businesses. In fact, the number of businesses per head of population is higher in predominantly rural areas than in predominantly urban areas, according to the ONS. Despite the challenges, businesses can thrive in the countryside. Heeding the following guidance can help your business compete with and even overtake your rivals in the big city:
• Search for resources that support businesses large and small. If your business is located in a very rural area, you may not have access to a local Chamber of Commerce or other business networks. Look online to connect with such resources if they are not physically present in your area. Visit these resources for location-specific guidance:
o England (www.gov.uk/browse/business)
o Business Wales (http://business.wales.gov.uk)
o Business Scotland (www.business.scotland.gov.uk)
o Invest Northern Ireland (http://www.investni.com/index.html).
• Rely on online tools to drum up business. The decreased population of rural areas forces business owners to rely on online tools such as social media to spread awareness and drum up business. Draw attention to your business’ activities rather than advertising products or services to cultivate an engaged client base.
• Create ties with local colleges and training centres to overcome recruitment challenges. Fewer people means a smaller talent pool. Foster lasting ties between your business and local colleges and training centres to ensure a steady stream of qualified candidates. Develop a comprehensive training plan aimed at retaining employees in order to minimise training costs—you cannot afford to train several employees until you find the right fit.