Episode 8: Small Town Politics
In this episode of Act Natural with John and Courtney, your hosts share stories of their experience being business owners in Martin, Tennessee. They offer words of advice to listeners interested in starting a business in a small town and encourage current business owners to respond instead of reacting to the new kids on the block. Courtney ends the conversation with a message to the citizens, encouraging them to shop locally.
Defining “small town politics”
This can be defined by the behind the scenes “goings on” in small towns, whether it be businesses pitting themselves against new ones or making pacts with the old ones. Courtney thinks these behaviors a reminiscent of middle school class government, not in the way of functioning, but how the people within it behave. Sometimes there’s a lot petty things that go on within small towns like ours. People from smaller towns tend to be wary of newcomers, especially the business owners of those areas. The citizens of the town usually just want more to do, and to have more places to take their families, and they’re happy to see more businesses coming in. It’s the competing businesses that usually give you a hard time, and that can skew one’s view of how their business is actually being perceived by the public.
Nowadays you don’t have to “kiss the ring” of the old businesses before you in order to capture an audience, and that’s been extremely beneficial to modern small businesses. With the help of social media, you’re able to put yourself and your business in front of people and allow them to draw conclusions about your business themselves. The main motive has to be giving value to the people of the town you’re starting your business in. Community-minded people that focus on serving their town’s citizens to the best of their ability will undoubtedly be successful in small towns.
Respond, Don’t React
There are so many businesses coming to our town, and a business owner’s initial reaction would be to worry about how their success could impact their business. The response should be to focus on how to improve your business, and see what you can change to offer the community more, not to undermine the other businesses with pettiness or direct sabotage. Uplifting your community should be the main focus, and doing that will benefit your business. We personally have experienced some resistance from our town, but not much was from citizens.
Don’t Burn Your Bridges
When you’re able to pinpoint those that aren’t rooting for you and are highlighting your shortcomings, you don’t have to burn any bridges. Don’t let those people stop you from focusing on your community, but you can distance yourself a bit from those that wish you ill will. Stand up for yourself, but you don’t have to put up a wall between you and your community because of those few people. There’s going to be those that will try to dull your shine, and this is a battle that you’ll face in most small towns.
The Bigger Picture
Sometimes you can become very overwhelmed by a lack of progress with your original business plan, but you can tweak it to better serve the community while still sticking with your core principles you started with. Be open to changes that will benefit those you serve, evaluate your strengths, and grow with it!