The Economic Domino Effect

Most of my life I have been involved in some sort of small business.  Even during my stretch in technology I worked for a small company that sold specialized services to large corporations. That felt like corporate life, but it really didn’t qualify. I did however have a window of observation into what that culture was like during that period of my professional life. My customers were generally high level managers at large companies, and when they purchased the services my company offered, these managers were not spending their own money. The money came from their budget and somebody else in the organization paid the bill. As the salesperson, I didn’t feel like I was asking my customer for their money any more than they felt like they were spending their own money. There was a certain detachment on both sides.

I have experienced an entirely new view of small business after starting the dive business.  Not only do I have personal contact with each customer genuinely parting with their hard earned money to buy my services, but I operate in a small community where I know my vendors very well. Most I would call friends. They are fuel dock operators, diesel mechanics, other dive shops, boat yard owners, and hardware stores. They are the local restaurants and hotels where my customers frequent.  I often joke that no one in Carteret County really makes any real money; we just pass it around between us.  It is very personal. That is the way the free market works, everyone adds their specific value to the economy and everyone benefits as goods and services are distributed.

No one in our stalled economy understands the impact more than small businesses operating in small communities. When the money flow starts to slow, the economy starts to get stagnant.  In economics class that made sense to me in theory, except when the professor started writing a bunch of formulas on the black board that included letters and numbers. He sort of lost me there. Theory aside, witnessing the practical nature of small business people trying to survive in these bleak economic times puts a real prospective on the situation.

When money is slow to move, people are slow to pay their bills. I can’t pay my bills if people are not paying my invoices. When I can’t pay my bills, the people I owe can’t pay theirs and so on and so on.  Never has that been so real to me being a member of a small business community. Somehow it is so much more real when you know all the members. When someone doesn’t pay their phone bill, the company cuts off the service. It is just numbers to them, it is not personal.  They only pretend it is personal when you try to cancel an account in good standing, then they do everything they can to keep the account active. But is difficult when it is your friend you owe money that you can’t pay, and even harder when it is a friend that owes you.

It is a domino effect and it is real, and personal. I am not going to elaborate on my political views, but I get really frustrated when the people in government and large businesses detach themselves from the fact that this “super recession” is having a dramatic impact on the lives of real people in real communities.  I do know the recovery will be from the bottom up, as the people who have suffered the most will pull themselves back up and dust off and continue on. But mark my words: someone from high above on the hill will take credit for it.

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