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Why Are Things Different for Rural Businesses?


Running a business in a rural setting is a horse of a different color said a recent article in Dodge City Daily Globe. Rural businesses have different circumstances than in urban areas, said Wendy Veatch, the director of outreach programming at Wichita State University's Center of Entrepreneurship.

Rural business owners have:

  • Fewer customers, requiring greater loyalty to excel
  • "Word of mouth" can be a double-edged sword.
  • How business owners and operators deal with, for example, firing employees, can have a lasting effect on the health of the business in a community where many are interconnected.
  • It can be difficult for rural businesses to compete solely on price as they rely on longer, more expensive supply chains. This can be mitigated through a strong relationship with a community that wants to see the business succeed.

One major error that businesses make, both large and small, is in the pricing of goods and services, Veatch said.
"You don't want to undervalue it; you don't want to overvalue it. You don't want to be investing all your time, energy and effort into a product and you're not pricing it right. That affects everything. Know what you're worth," Veatch said.

"In a rural community I think you have even less room for error."

On top of that, businesses that could have been saved end up failing, said Joann Knight, director of the local business development corporation.

Culturally, rural people "are very independent and we don't like to ask for help. I see businesses fail because they waited too long to ask," she said.

"Or they get into a bad situation and sell it to someone for little or nothing," Veatch added. Contacts, relationships customer lists have value, and when business owners get into a desperate situation and see a buyer with cash, they often let all that go.

A ten-week business development program, through Wichita State University, will be offered in Dodge City, Kansas.  The program is designed to help entrepreneurs address these issues. More information is available by contact the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce.