When we imagine big businesses, we tend to imagine tall offices in impressive buildings at the center of some of the world’s most powerful cities: London, New York, Seoul, Sydney, and — if it’s a tech company — San Francisco. The idea is that, in order to thrive, your business needs to be located where other businesses thrive.

It’s a powerful idea; one which continues to push up the prices of homes across San Francisco and other cities like it. However, it’s an idea which has a lot of problems.

Silicon Valley? Why Not Silicon Farm? Or Silicon Forest?

To refer back to the Silicon Valley example again, one of the main reasons businesses stay in San Francisco is just because it’s the done thing. It’s actually very inconvenient to be based there from a logistical standpoint, but it’s where all of the other businesses are.

Silicon Valley companies develop technologies which allow us to connect to each other when we’re millions of miles apart. Ironically, those same companies are hell-bent on remaining physically close together because they believe it’s better for communication. It’s easier to hire locals, easier to collaborate with people, and easier to have meetings with experts somewhere downtown.

If those same tech giants put more faith into the very technologies which they are helping to develop, many of them could move away from the massively expensive Bay Area. What’s more, startups based in Yakima, Washington and on the outskirts of Nottingham, England prove that it’s possible to do so.

Remote Working: It’s Not All About Meetings in Your Pajamas

The idea of remote working is often romanticized. We imagine that — without someone standing over us and telling us exactly what to do — we’d all just laze around in our underwear until 11am.

The reality is quite different. In the UK and the US, more and more businesses are allowing their staff to work from home. This trend wouldn’t be catching on if it wasn’t profitable — and it is profitable. After all, when you remove the cost of transport and the time spent commuting, it’s easy to see how employees might feel more motivated to work.

Of course, remote working isn’t right for every business or every employee; a restaurant or bar, for example, might struggle to serve its customers with telecommuters. Rather, what remote working does is give businesses options beyond renting an expensive office in a big city.

A Big City Office Doesn’t Need to Be the Norm

Technology enables the modern business to be a lot more flexible with their geography. In other words, it’s all about choice and knowing what those choices mean. If you set your business up in a rural area, there are downsides and things to consider.

Your rural office might well be one of the 25% of American buildings or 34% of Irish buildings which are not connected to a main sewage system. If that’s the case, you’ll need a commercial septic tank to deal with the wastewater which your building produces.

The important thing is that you go where your customers are. My business is based on the outskirts of Galway because that’s where my customers are. Remote businesses use work software like Slack and Google Drive to base themselves online. The reason for this is that their customers can be anywhere in the world.

Businesses don’t have to move away from Silicon Valley or London or Seoul or wherever else they are based, and there’s nothing wrong with people founding a new business in one of those cities. However, the point is that they don’t need to. Startups no longer need to imagine moving to a big city as a difficult but necessary part of their growth. Rather, it should be seen as something which they can do if it’s right for them.

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James Clarke
James Clarke is a sustainable business entrepreneur. As the owner and founder of Biocell Water, James provides eco-friendly wastewater treatment solutions and septic tank upgrades for businesses and homes.

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