I’m not official. I’m not sanctioned by any organization. I don’t hold any economic development credentials or chamber certification.
I’m not an academic, and I haven’t authored any scholarly papers. I have not conducted any scientific research.
My businesses are nothing special. I don’t hold a seat on any local boards or commissions. I’m barely involved in my own local town.
So who the heck am I to talk about rural? Where do I get off acting like some kind of expert on small towns?
I’m one person who cares. That’s enough.
I didn’t ask anyone’s permission, I didn’t wait until someone else saw me as an expert. I started writing Small Biz Survival in 2006, and I just kept at it.
In the process of writing and thinking and researching, I’ve become smarter on the subject of rural and small town business. I’ve traveled and met people, spoken and listened. That’s made me smarter, too.
You know who else is one person who cares? You. And that’s enough.
You can do little things that matter. You can forward an article. You can donate $10. You can share one asset you have with another budding business. You can take a new friend to lunch and talk crazy about the future of your community.
Organizations, chambers and economic development groups and boards and commissions let us come together and accomplish things we can’t do alone. But they all have baggage, rules, regulations, traditions, constituents, donors, and oversight. It’s harder for them to say and do the things you can do on your own.
If you’re part of one of these organizations, you have my permission to stop doing some things.
You can stop stopping others. Stop telling people, “we are the ones who handle that.” Let others try things even if it overlaps what you do. The results might be better from a fresh approach.
Stop making decisions without running tests. Before you vote on the new streetscape and sidewalk design, set up a test on the actual street. [Like these small town students or Better Block.] Then decide.
Stop acting alone. Start considering the impact of every decision on the community as a whole, and on the region as a whole. Know where you fit into the common purpose. Get together and share calendars. Share goals.
Don’t wait for permission. Do give yourself credit for exactly who you are.