From the archives: Six ways to diversify your rural business

rural-small-businessIt’s a new year, and you’re likely reviewing your small business’ goals for 2014 and the future. If you run a rural business, you might have wondered how you can diversify in order to give yourself extra income streams in case the going gets tough. It can help you grow your business in unique ways while ensuring your risk stays as low as possible.

So, how do you diversify? It’s not as hard as you may be thinking! In 2012, we wrote a blog post about how to diversify your rural business, and gave six tips to get started. Check out our post on diversifying rural small businesses and get a head-start on managing your business’ risk.

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Six ways to diversify your rural business

According to Statistics Canada, 28% of Canada’s 1.4 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are rural-based. Running a small business can be challenging at the best of times, but rural entrepreneurs and  communities face a number of additional hurdles: Outdated industries, technology replacing human labour, and a steady trend of out-migration by youth. Rural-based entrepreneurs, particularly those in remote areas, can be challenged even more by access to education and training, increased distance to markets and business services. You may also be be affected more by the level of taxation, insurance rates, low profitability and government regulations than urban-based businesses.

Diversifying your rural business can help. Reducing your business’ dependence on one industry or income stream can help you weather the storm if things get rough. Here are six ways to help you diversify your rural business.

  1. Engage existing customers. Know what they are buying from you and what they’re not.  Keep track of the products and services you sell every day.  Find out what customers love about your products and services, and what they wished you would offer.  According to MIT professor Eric Von Hippel, seventy percent of new product ideas come from customers.  If you don’t ask, how will you know what your customers want?
  2. Engage new customers. Take a close look at your product or service offerings.  Are there customer segments who are not currently buying your products that could with a little product tweaking?  EZGO did just that.  They modified their successful golf cart product line and started selling them to shopping malls and airports and have recently launched their first street legal vehicle.
  3. Take stock of your company’s strengths or core competencies.  Can those strengths be leveraged into a new product and new market combination?  Caterpillar leveraged their brand awareness as a global leader in the heavy equipment industry with the launch of Caterpillar Apparel.
  4. Challenge your competitors.  Conduct a competitive benchmark – that’s a fancy term for snooping your competition.  Visit your competitors if you can – become a customer. This works best for retailers businesses obviously but your goal is to find out what they are offering, how and how well.  Can you do better?
  5. Think ahead. Where is your market going?  What are they doing?  What are their likes and dislikes?  Conduct an environmental analysis of trends that may impact you, your business or your customers in the future and position your business accordingly.  Look for emerging trends in society, technology, the economy and in politics.
  6. Investigate partnerships. Is there a business in your area that isn’t direct competition and could work well with your business? For example, a carpenter could partner with a local craftmaker and double their selling power at markets. A group of such businesses working together could mean a boost in local tourism, as well.

Diversification can reduce your business risk and maximize your opportunities to grow business operations while leveraging your company’s resources, materials, talent and success so far. You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!” That’s the best reason of all to pursue a diversified strategy.

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The “non-formal education sector” is taking hold with entrepreneurs

Technology – and the ease of access to technology – is changing the way people approach small business training.

We’re entrepreneurs too, so we know all the hurdles small business owners are up against: Lack of time; need for income; friends and family; and the little thing called being a small business owner. We’ve spent a long time and surveyed a lot of small business owners to develop our unique and comprehensive small business training program. Entrepreneurs told us they wanted small business education that was fast, comprehensive and affordable. To us, online learning ticks all those boxes.

Online learning is fast

Our online small business training courses are delivered via streaming HD web video – in just 10 hours total. This means entrepreneurs can study at their own pace, around work and business issues. Because the internet is fluid, online learning modules can be updated more frequently than traditional paper- or classroom-based models. It also responds quickly to the needs and feedback of the community it serves.

Online learning is comprehensive

We teach GoForth’s 100 Essential Small Business Skills™ – yes, all of them – in our 10 hours of web video small business courses. Students can also download supplementary materials, email instructors and watch each module more than once. How does this relate to your last experience of classroom training?

Online learning is affordable

To give you an idea, GoForth Institute’s small business online learning program is just $295, way more than the traditional classroom-based model. Not bad when you consider the convenience aspect is also higher than classroom training – and convenience is something people often pay a premium for.

As you can see, online learning is an educational model that holds many important advantages over classroom training – advantages that entrepreneurs have told us they want. However, some still equate education with the traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom training or with universities and colleges. We feel this is becoming an outdated way of thinking. Online learning is no longer the venue for fly-by-night, get-rich-quick schemes. The new “non-formal education” sector is incorporating new technologies and adapting quickly to make education more accessible to more people.

Further Reading:

Can entrepreneurs benefit from online learning?

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Can entrepreneurs benefit from online learning?

web video small business trainingWhen it comes to getting well-rounded small business training, what best fits your lifestyle – business courses delivered in a classroom or via online video modules? Entrepreneurs lead busy lives, no matter what stage of entrepreneurship they’re in. Canadian small business courses have traditionally been taught in classrooms, but online learning is becoming more attractive each year.

Is online learning right for you?

A certain blog post by Clive Shepherd has been giving us food for thought lately. The post is titled Online learning is more efficient than face-to-face training – discuss. In it, Shepherd outlines the ways in which he feels online learning is more efficient: it uses fewer resources than face-to-face training, is more conducive to learning at one’s own pace and students don’t waste time or money traveling to a classroom.

At GoForth Institute, we’d heard similar feedback from entrepreneurs themselves. They told us their time and money were valuable to them. They wanted convenience and affordability without sacrificing quality. That’s why GoForth Institute offers online learning for entrepreneurs that can be accessed from any computer – anytime, anywhere. It’s engaging, comprehensive small business education that’s designed for the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Online learning integrates technology with great education

Personally, we love the thought that something as convenient and inexpensive as online learning exists to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier. We know some people still prefer classroom learning, but for entrepreneurs who are starting a home-based business, live in rural areas or simply don’t want to change out of their pyjamas – we support you!

What do you think – do you prefer web-based training over classroom environments? Do you feel online learning is more efficient? As an entrepreneur, what specific things do you value in online learning? Tell us about your experiences!

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