There is an amusing phenomenon that takes place in business publications and on television shows. A captain of industry, a financial whiz or distinguished economist will spout off about the latest numbers with brilliant equivocations and icy analyses. Then, a few minutes or pages later, comes the opinion of a small businessperson. The analysis is not quite as cool, the numbers very often more than a little fuzzy, but the optimism is unmistakable. Survey after survey shows small businesspeople to be much more optimistic than their corporate counterparts.
I possess no hostility toward industrialists or economists. Sometimes their predictions are right on the money, and sometimes they miss by a country mile. At the end of the day, there's no sense keeping score. They are, after all, dealing with the hideously complex system that is the economy. Even the smartest of the smart are often wrong. And economics isn't called the "dismal science" for nothing. It is also tempting to fall back on the old adage that the differing opinions represent the much-discussed disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. That also misses the point. Wall Street is now a global 24/7 enterprise featuring giant piles of digital money zipping around the world at the speed of light, forming itself into pie charts and columns of numbers on computer screens.
However, there is still something truly exciting about the sturdy optimism of small businesspeople. And yes, that includes bulk vending operators and the owners of the mom-and-pop locations they often serve. Their optimism isn't based on numbers or charts, or complex analyses of thousands of variables. It derives from laboring on the front lines of business day in and day out. And no place is this truer than for bulk vending operators. Being on the frontline in bulk vending means coins-in-the-cashbox capitalism. If nothing else, bulk vending is a business with heft.
So what's the source of the optimism? It's certainly not the business pages. Neither is it the round-the-clock news cycle. I believe it's very closely related to that most American of concepts: self-reliance. At the bottom line small businesspeople possess that most hopeful of beliefs that they have what it takes to weather any storm through hard work, ingenuity and just plain good luck. They believe in themselves and their own hard-earned skill sets.
Some scientists believe that we pay more attention to bad news than good news as part of our survival mechanism. After all, it was to primitive man's advantage to believe there was a carnivorous animal hiding in the bush and be proved wrong, than to shrug off the possibility of a lurking predator and be proved wrong. The opposite is true of small businesspeople. In order to survive, they need to believe there's the opportunity to not only stay alive, but to prosper.
However, not all bulk operators have what it takes to endure economic times. Poor choices and bad luck have already claimed a number of operators and suppliers over the past few years. Industry pundits have been predicting the demise of the small to midsize operator for years, yet they continue, some prospering, against the odds. At times you get the feeling the whole world can devolve into a Mad Max post-apocalyptic wasteland and they'll still be out making a service call or selling a new account.