There’s a big flaw in local business surveys and counts

I thought you’d like this, from a recent local economic development newsletter that I received:

“We just finished our annual business count. We use this comprehensive employment database to drive our economic development, planning and to keep aware of trends….We don’t include home-based or mobile businesses.” 

Anyone else see something wrong with that or is it just me?

  1. Mobile and home-based businesses ARE the trends.
  2. How “comprehensive” can your data be if you admit you’re deliberately skipping businesses? 

“But home-based and mobile are just tiny lifestyle businesses!” I’m sure they’d say something like that. 

Wrong. Those are the seeds, the experiments that lead to bigger businesses. Those are the location-independent businesses that are the biggest business trend. 

This is a natural tendency to focus on the formal businesses when you’re part of a formal economic development structure, but the future is in the informal. The center of power has shifted from the businesses you’re used to, to the individuals

When you focus only on the larger formal businesses, you’re focusing on the past. 

And you’re also forgetting an important history lesson. How many of the businesses you did count actually sprang from nothing, fully formed? None. Maybe it was a long time ago, but how many started as one person in a garage or basement or farm shop? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 

Mobile, home-based, temporary, tiny businesses are today’s garages and basements for business formations. Your future important firms are currently working from home, from a booth at a festival, from a trailer, or from a tiny space inside another business. 

If you want to keep up with the trends in your region, you had better keep a close eye on the tiny, the temporary, the togethers, and the traveling. These Innovative Rural Business Models will tell you more about your region’s future growth than any other data source. 
Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  I have some suggestions for how a municipality can support entrepreneurship here. Of course it follows the Idea Friendly framework of Gather Your Crowd, Build Connections and Take Small Steps. And Idea Friendly Towns are the subject of our next webinar, May 17.