"The harder I work, the luckier I get," said Samuel Goldwyn of MGM, though the quote is also attributed to at least a half dozen others, including Thomas Jefferson.
Still, it remains one of the best business quotes I can imagine. There really is no substitute for hard work, not even luck or the secrets revealed in the continual stream of bestselling get-rich-quick books. As far as I can tell, the only people who ever got rich from those books are the authors and publishers.
Talk of hard work may sound like a radical idea to some. After all, everyone seems to have "wised up" and become cynical. In my experience, however, those who acquire an appetite for hard work early on tend to be better off for it throughout their lives. They may not succeed beyond their wildest dreams, but at least they gave it their best shot.
Like a lot of other witticisms, Goldwyn's quip tells only part of the story. Yes, hard work is almost always essential to success, but it's not the only component. Success in bulk vending or any other worthwhile endeavor has a lot of moving parts. It's simply not enough to work hard. The most successful bulk-vending operators I know always work smart, too. Over the years, I've met dozens of bulk operators and suppliers who seemed stunned, if not a little confused, at the small amount of progress their genuinely hard work brought them. Hard work may be an essential ingredient to success, but it isn't the only ingredient.
Working smart isn't as foolproof as it used to be. There was a time when keeping a close eye on the books, inventory and equipment were enough to qualify as smart. Today, those business basics are just a small part of a much larger picture. To thrive in the current business environment means an operator is constantly evaluating and reevaluating product offerings, location potential, new equipment and even office technology coming on the market. The necessity of these grows as route sizes and complexities increase.
In many respects, the business of bulk vending makes this kind of smart work especially difficult. Look at a rack of machines at any given location and the business idea looks simple enough. Multiply that location by a hundred or two hundred, etc., and the business becomes more complex. Then factor in the number of new products released each year and you have a business as multifaceted as any other.
A good comparison to the complexity of operating a bulk vending route is the latest crop of smartphones, like the iPhone. What the average user sees is an easy-to-use and intuitive device that he or she can hold in their hand. However, what's going on behind the scenes -- beneath the thin capacitive screen with its familiar icons -- is a different story altogether. It's the end result of tens of thousand of hours of manpower. All that effort -- hard and smart work -- went into making a device as simple to operate as possible.
The goal in bulk vending is similar. Operators have to apply hard, smart work to create the simplest retail purchase possible at any given location. Easy in theory, but difficult in practice. One need only to look at the most successful operators to see the effort that goes into creating route efficiencies, seeking out the best possible product, and servicing locations.