Broadband Gives "Small Town Rules" A Big City Perspective
Becky McCray – author, speaker and rural entrepreneur - took a time out after the release of her new book Small Town Rules, co-authored by Barry Moltz, to answer a few questions from Broadband for America on the importance of broadband in small businesses. McCray’s responses further emphasize the importance of continued investment in and expansion of high-speed broadband Internet for growing small businesses and propelling the economy forward.
1. What changes in technology in the last 10 years have been the most beneficial to small businesses?
In the past 10 years, we've seen a major shift in the form, scale and cost of technology that has benefited small business. In 2002, the market was still dominated by desktop and laptop computers. Smartphones and tiny palm-top computers played a correspondingly tiny role in small business. Software was still sold in packages on CDs and was hundreds of dollars, and very few services were delivered online as "software as a service." Basics like word processing and spreadsheets were the most used applications for small business, and those were dominated by a couple of large and expensive software vendors.
Today, desktops and laptops are giving way to tablets and smartphones everywhere. Instead of hundreds of dollars for a single software package, free services can handle almost all of the basics. Specialized apps and cloud computing do a much larger share of the work, compared to basic "office" software. Many of the essential software services have moved online, under the label of cloud computing. For small businesses, technology is smaller, more mobile, less expensive and more capable than just 10 years ago.
2. How are small businesses taking advantage of broadband and cloud computing?
Small businesses are using broadband specifically for cloud computing - putting most of the processing load on remote servers and sending the data at high speeds. They are using digital distribution to eliminate the need for shipping on data-based products. Between those two trends, small businesses need more bandwidth than ever before in order to do business. The payoff is in the improved processing and wider, less expensive distribution.
3. How has broadband enabled small businesses to compete in a global marketplace?
From anywhere with a broadband connection, you'll find small businesses doing their business online. Using social tools like blogging, social networks and even email, small businesses can connect with customers worldwide from anywhere. Small businesses are sourcing more of their needs online, building a distributed workforce of people around the globe, and building their own skills through online courses and other learning. All of these put small businesses in a better position to compete globally.
4. What are some examples of small businesses making broadband work for them?
In Clay Center, Kansas, Headway Themes is using broadband as an essential component of their business: creating and selling WordPress themes. They have a global workforce with representatives in Europe and Australia. They reach a global customer base, marketing worldwide. They connect with other businesses and professionals in the WordPress ecosystem to network and learn. All from a town of only four thousand people.
Becky McCray owns a liquor store and a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. She is also a recognized expert in small business and social media. She and Chicago entrepreneur Barry Moltz are the co-authors of the new book Small Town Rules, sharing lessons useful for urban and rural businesses. She publishes the popular website Small Biz Survival on small town business, and she and Sheila Scarborough co-founded Tourism Currents to teach tourism professionals new ways of marketing their destination. Her professional life is clearly an example of Small Town Rule #3: Multiply Your Lines of Income.