Running a business from a rural area certainly poses plenty of unique challenges, that our city-based counterparts probably don’t have to deal with quite so much. Clearly, if you’re in a larger regional town, it may not be so tricky. Yet, if you’re really out in the country, the bush or the outback, being in ‘the middle of nowhere’ can certainly have an impact on how easy it is for you to run and grow your business.
Let’s look at a few of the top challenges you’ll no doubt encounter as a rurally-operated business.
Terrible mobile phone reception
When you live and work in the country – mobile reception is really pretty ordinary.
I have to literally stand on my tippy toes in our kitchen window to get enough reception on my phone to speak with clients – and sometimes not even that works. A bit of wind can be enough to interfere with our precious one or two bars of signal.
So, when the kitchen window doesn’t cut it – it’s out on the back deck for me, which sure gets a little interesting in our wild Winters(!).
Plus – only Telstra works in our area. Any other network won’t get one single bit of reception, no matter how hard you try – much to the disappointment of visiting friends and family at times.
I’m forever having to apologise to clients though for missing their calls (because my phone doesn’t even ring!) or for calls dropping out mid-sentence due to the reception. It gets pretty frustrating, real fast.
This is one of my biggest ‘bug-bears’ and chances are, it will be yours too.
First up – the only internet we get where we are is Skymuster Satellite. It works quite well, most of the time – except for when we have a storm or high-winds or even a few too many clouds in the sky, and then it cuts out.
The problem with NBN Satellite – is it’s expensive. This might be a first-world issue, but we can’t afford to get enough data, to run Netflix! Oh, the horror! Seriously though, it doesn’t make internet access easy, as by the time you conduct your daily internet tasks, then watch a few Facebook videos or online training (as that’s the only way you can up-skill your business knowledge from the bush!), and with the kids using the tablet for ABC Kids iView (to allow you a little peace and quiet to work!) – it runs out pretty quickly.
Luckily, that’s streets ahead of where we started though. When we first moved in 9 years ago, we had to rely on a wireless ‘dongle’ that was attached to a pretty serious aerial. It was slow and it constantly dropped out. So, I guess, we have some progress to be grateful for(!).
Further away from clients and customers
When you run a business in a rural area, chances are your clients are not going to be close to you. In fact, they could well be 100km+ or even 500km+ away, rather than just around the corner or ‘across town’.
This may not be an issue if you run a business that’s purely online – you can simply use your internet (when it works) to keep in touch and do everything remotely. That’s one great thing about running a purely online business – you can do it from just about anywhere.
If, however, you’re a tradie – or anyone else who needs to travel to clients, it will take more time to travel there, and cost you a lot more fuel, than if you were based in a city area. Everyone is much more spread out. This can be tricky to keep your jobs profitable – and you may not be able to fit in as many jobs, as you’ll spend half your day travelling.
Likewise, if you run a retail store or some type of physical premises in a rural town, it can also limit how many people actually get to you, on any given day. Your market essentially is that little bit more limited, with much less passing traffic – so you’ll need to work that bit harder to succeed.
Lack of ‘in person’ assistance and networking opportunities
If you’re in a major city, or even one of the bigger regional towns, such as Ballarat or Geelong, you’ll probably be able to find a fair few opportunities to network with other business owners, and access in-person mentors and support.
Out ‘in the sticks’ though, and that tends to be a whole lot harder.
While we are around 40 minutes from Ballarat, and an hour or so from Geelong, it’s still a bit of a marathon to get to breakfast networking events at 7am (particularly when you have young kids to deal with that aren’t a fan of sleeping the night before AND if you have to get them somewhere, like school or kinder, before you can go!).
If you’re even more remote than me – it’s pretty impossible, without it being a 5-day event (for a whole 2 hours of networking!).
This can lead to a pretty massive feeling of utter isolation. Yes, you can (hopefully) find online networking communities and support networks to be apart of, but it still doesn’t quite make up for the lack of direct in-person connection.
It’s not all bad though…
Running a business’ out in the sticks’ may come with its challenges, but it also does have a fair few advantages.
For instance, you don’t have to deal with horrible, crazy-busy city traffic. Driving on country roads is so much more pleasant – providing you can avoid the kangaroos.
If you can conduct the majority of your business online, you can do what I do and work from home, from the couch or on a hammock in the back garden, overlooking your beautiful open paddocks.
You’ll possibly be far less stressed, as you enjoy your rural working surroundings, and be far more productive in the blissful peace and silence.
And if you’re running a business around young kids, they’ll most likely have more room to run around and entertain themselves in a quieter, safer neighbourhood (or in a larger backyard), as you work from a laptop and watch on.
I for one, would choose rural-living and working any day of the week, regardless of the challenges.