Being invited to the former home of Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and William Gladstone, not to mention the current home of Larry the “Chief Mouser”, was a rather delightful surprise. Far better, the reason was an invite to attend a 10 Downing St Roundtable on Rural Business, a topic that, rather handily, we are passionate about.
Rural Business Roundtable: The purpose
Of course, having a rural office, a rural workforce and several acres of rural clients, certainly helps us to understand the rural economy so, when we got our invite from the Rural Business Group, inspired we suspect by our title of Best Rural Creative or Media Business 2016 at the UK-wide, CLA-sponsored Rural Business Awards, we were made up!
The purpose of the Roundtable was for 10 Downing Street to explore what a rural business was and to understand the challenges that we, and other rural businesses are facing. Thinking it a little selfish to limit this opportunity to just our issues, (and that of the other 11 firms attending), we canvassed our rural clients, asked our rural business colleagues and put a call out on social media so that we could raise wide-ranging rural concerns and put forward others’ ideas, alongside our own.
Understanding rural businesses
During the roundtable the debate was intense and unanimous around the challenges of connectivity, transport and crime, however, what we found the most interesting was that the perception of rural businesses seemed a little limited. For example, businesses that were based in the countryside but that didn’t make a traditionally rural product, or weren’t a diversified farm, didn’t seem to be considered a rural business by everyone. By this measure, in our client portfolio alone, the rural economy would have failed to claim hundreds of employees and several hundred million pounds of revenue, just because the businesses involved failed to conform to a traditional stereotype.
Rural business challenges
Yet, all these rurally-based businesses are facing the same operational challenges, investing in their local area and upskilling the rural workforce. In fact, many of these businesses that chose to locate their premises, offices, factories and workshops in our green and pleasant land, are often a significant employer in the local area.
Luckily, these businesses have been able to find space rurally. At Gravity though, we have really struggled. As a professional services business, we need office space to grow; and in rural towns, there isn’t any! Take Bakewell in Derbyshire as an example. For a whole range of reasons, irrelevant to this blog, we wanted to base our rural office in or around Bakewell. We’d love to have bought an office, even rented a large one, however, the available space is all dedicated to either retail, agriculture or co-working spaces for microbusinesses.
There is always the possibility of finding a barn or outbuilding somewhere that we could convert, but then we come full circle as, even if we did that, there’s then no broadband provision or telecommunications signal – both of which are vital for our digital marketing business!
Defining the rural economy
Happily, our quandary was recognised and the Founders of the Rural Business Group, two businesswomen, Anna Price and Jemma Clifford, have been tasked, by Downing Street, with developing a definition of what the rural economy is, the parameters of the businesses it contains and how rural business success can be measured – a big task for the entrepreneurs, but one that will be invaluable to the rural community.
So, we’d like to thank the Rural Business Group for the opportunity to share our thoughts with No.10 and for all the work the Founders are about to do on behalf of the rural economy, thank you, we are thrilled to have been a part of it.