Humans have been trading goods and services since time immemorial. Today, brokers are taking the ancient art of bartering to a new level that's capitalizing on a tight credit market and turning excess inventory or underutilized time into income. It can also be a way to build brand awareness and business connections.
Small companies can do informal bartering on their own—trading menu-printing services for free Chinese take-out, for instance. But barter brokers make the process easier and potentially more profitable.
One such broker, Tradebank International, connects business and service providers so they can trade their wares.
Plumbers, lawyers, accountants, restaurant owners, hotel operators and many other businesses register with the broker and agree to accept Tradebank dollars. Payment goes into a Tradebank account, and the businesses can use that currency to pay for other goods and services within the network.
As with any bank account, business owners can log in, check their balance and save their funds. Then they can check the directory of thousands of other businesses when they're ready to spend it.
"If you’re paying cash for services—for printing, landscaping, signage, payroll services—we can convert that to barter," explains Kyle Walters, a Tradebank regional owner in the metro Atlanta area. "You’ll see an enormous discount for doing that."
From Weddings to Vacations
Bartering is especially useful for small to medium-size businesses as a way to boost income and increase brand awareness. You can also stockpile barter funds for large purchases like weddings, vacations or store-remodeling projects.
Ilene Oxman, owner of Harry’s New York Pizza and Subs in Atlanta and a Tradebank barterer, says that bartering brings a lot of opportunities to us that we wouldn't otherwise have, not to mention the savings.
"It’s a great program," she says. "It’s almost like an automatic savings account. It’s money I probably wouldn’t be saving."
Oxman and her husband paid for their wedding using barter dollars. Their restaurant is being remodeled entirely on trade. Oxman also uses barter dollars for eating out or taking her kids to shows, which she says she probably wouldn't do if it weren't for the barter dollars.
Does your business lend itself to bartering?
Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio. She blogs for Contently.
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