How to Crush the Obstacles of Running a Small Business in Rural America

Working from home in rural America is one of my favorite aspects of life. Most days I would say I wouldn’t have it any other way. But there are some obstacles that come with running a small business in a rural town that could make your hair turn gray. From slow internet, to bad cell service, to a lack of in-person support, some days are quite difficult. These are some of the struggles and resolutions I have encountered in three years of running a business out of Three Forks, Montana.

Loneliness

One of the biggest struggles of running a work-from-home business is dealing with the feeling of loneliness. We already, oftentimes, live so far out from a community that when we bring a side hustle into the picture, we create a different lifestyle than some of our friends and that loneliness can set in quickly. It’s very easy with social media to pretend we’re connected and that we have thousands of friends. Social media can be a false sense of community when we’re actually lacking that real community experience.

When you’re running a business, you have to put your nose to the grindstone. You don’t always have time to go out and enjoy the festivities. You might be home on the 4th of July and miss a barbeque. You might miss out on bachelorette (or bachelor) parties because you have to work. When you are growing, developing, and running a business, the first few years are tough. Not many people talk about those first few years because they don’t want to scare people about what business is truly like. People who are just starting their business compare their beginning to someone else’s five or ten years in, and that’s not fair.

When you run a small business in rural America, you struggle with simple things such as reliable phone service and WiFi. You also might struggle finding someone to bounce off ideas. Your neighbor might not have a side hustle. They probably aren’t marketing on Facebook so it’s a tough concept for them to relate to. You can’t just pop over for coffee and ask them what Facebook groups they’re in.

My recommendation to combat loneliness is to find a tribe, a community of people. I drive more than an hour into a Professional Women’s Group once a month, just to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, who are doing great things, who are self employed and know the struggles. Through this group, I’ve found people I can grab coffee with in the middle of the month if I’m struggling with that feeling.

Use social media to be social

It’s really easy to have thousands of followers and get a natural high from getting a Facebook like or comment, a retweet, or a follow on Instagram. Sometimes we forget the purpose of social media is to be social. Take some time out of your day, get on social media and actually be social. Write on someone’s timeline, not because it benefits you, but because you’re thinking about them. Go and congratulate someone in the comments. Go message someone to tell them you’re thinking of them or they came to your heart and you’re praying for them.

Social does not mean the number of likes you’re getting. It means fostering real relationships with people. The thing is, a lot of times those real relationships seen outside of social media can’t be seen on social media. Feel free to move them on social media. Interact with your friends, share photos, post on their walls.

It’s Easy to Jump Ship

There can be a lack of accountability when you are an entrepreneur in a rural environment. It’s easy to chase the next brightest thing. Success is not immediate, it takes a long time. It’s important to have people around us we can share our goals with, talk about our struggles and discuss our progress. If you’re just looking at someone’s highlight reel on social media, it’s easy to consider jumping ship and joining another company to see what they have to offer.

This does absolutely nothing for you. Consistently growing the same business year after year is where the success is really going to come. I think that in rural America, it’s easier to jump ship. Our parents maybe don’t totally understand social media marketing, we don’t have a lot of neighbors who are in on it. It makes it seem really easy to just switch companies or see something a little bit shiny and get distracted.

Persistence and accountability is very powerful. Don’t be afraid to pay for some accountability. Pay someone to check in with you who’s a little bit further ahead in business. Stick to your guns because people who continuously jump ship are never successful. People who join a company or who start a business and stick with it in the long run see success.

Business is a slow start

There is no such thing as overnight success. I hear this often. I actually just got asked the other day how I got successful so quickly. While three years can be considered quickly, it was actually a very slow start for me. It took me several years to get off the ground. I feel like we are really just hitting momentum now and we are three years in. There is a lot of leg work. If you add the five years I was in college, we’re 8 years into what I’m feeling is momentum. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make $1000+ your first month. Business has slow starts, but it’s the little things you do every day that build up to success.

You become the small things you do everyday. While you might not see a reward or a return when you first start to do those little things. You have to get up, hold yourself accountable, and set small goals. You have to accomplish them. You are the difference. Know that overnight success is not a thing. Don’t compare your start to my third year. It’s not worth it I promise you, you’ll get discouraged. I find myself doing it still. I’ll think, why can’t I be where they are at? Well, they’ve been in business for 12 years so no wonder I’m not there. I’m only in my third year, I have a ways to go. Know there are going to be frustrating times.

Find a tribe, find a Facebook community where you can really talk to people, find some people you can reach out to. Get on the phone and find people to do coffee dates. That’s something I’m a big believer in. Get on Zoom, join a book study, do something where you see people and you can be accountable. Tell them your honest goals and have them check in with you. Make sure you realize business is tough. Being self employed is the best decision I’ve ever made, but also the hardest. There are still days where I think I should just throw in the towel. If you’re in your first month, your first six months, first 12 months, you’re going to have rough months, you’re going to have rough days. Expect it, but know you’ve made the best decision. It’s the best time to enter the market.

You have to be productive on your own terms

You have to learn how to be productive. Learn how to set and follow through goals. You’re going to have to learn how to get yourself out of bed early, especially if you’re working from home. Success is not going to come from sleeping in until 10 a.m., not even sleeping in until 8 a.m. Get out of bed, get a schedule, get a habit/routine. Be different. Success comes from being different and being unique. Get up everyday and make your bed. Do those little things. If you live by yourself, no one is paying attention to those things. But that is where success comes from.

If you need help with productivity, check out one of our favorite productivity coaches Emily Maduros. She works for Cambria Surfaces and Mind Tools. We actually hired her and she told us some great things. I’ll tell you one of my tips, we do a 10 second task list, don’t multitask, it’s the worst thing ever and doesn’t work. Make sure that you start one task and finish it. But for example, say you are waiting for something to download (hello rural internet), have a list of something that takes you 10 seconds to a few minutes to complete. Don’t just sit there. Go to that task list, grab a task, finish it, and go back to your project.

One of the best things in my life is living in rural America and running a business, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. If you can live somewhere where you can wake up everyday, not have any neighbors, look at the beautiful mountains and still run a successful business, I think you’re one of the luckiest people in the world. But know, it’s going to be more challenging than when you can go into a co-working space everyday and have other people hold you accountable.

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