The lost art of bartering: how businesses can grow together
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The lost art of bartering: how businesses can grow together

Bartering dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and other early civilisations, where communities would trade “services or goods with another person when there is no money involved”.

Many of us assume bartering means beating someone down on price, but barter systems are primarily based on exchange. Roman soldiers, Europeans in the Middle Ages, and even those living during the Great Depression in the 1930s, have developed their own barter systems when physical money is scarce, impractical, or low in value.

Your business doesn’t necessarily need to be low on cash flow to make bartering a good idea, it’s still a brilliant way to trade services, pass on business, and receive referrals too.

Work with businesses you’re familiar with

Effective bartering is based on trust, so you need to choose the businesses you work with carefully. The best businesses to work with are those you have an existing connection with and have worked with in the past. Former colleagues, suppliers you’ve got a good relationship with, and even B2B customers can be a good bet.

Offer something proportional

The product or service you’re providing needs to be equal in value to what you’re receiving. Otherwise, you could end up spending more time and resources than you’ll receive back. Limit the value of services/products you’re willing to barter, you don’t want to be out of pocket for something you don’t need quite as much.

Have clear expectations

Swapping services should be done when you have the luxury of time, not when you need something right now or it’s an emergency. Choose a business you know and would like to work with, open up a dialogue, and make sure both parties know exactly what they’re delivering and what they’re getting in return.

Put it in writing

It’s up to you whether you make it a formal arrangement in writing or not, but some written communication confirming what’s to be done and when is essential. Trust is important but can unfortunately be broken, so you need a bit of insurance in case things go wrong. Make sure all the conditions and terms are written out and you’ve both agreed to them before any work or trading starts.

If bartering won’t quite meet all your needs, Capify can provide between £3,500 and £500,000 in flexible funding for your small business. The merchant cash advance is perfect for businesses that accept credit and debit card payments.

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