For every problem, task, directive, and necessity at your business, there’s dozens of ways to approach and address them. Well maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always tended to side with the Occam’s Razor approach: the simpler the solution, the better.
The simple wisdom I want to share with you today comes from Amy Bingham, managing partner of Bingham Consulting Professionals. She shared this particular advice during Executive Forum at a breakout session titled “15 Creative Tips That Will Increase Your Bottom Line,” and she later wrote about it.
Ready for the wisdom? Here it is: Barter.
One of the simplest strategies to manage your expense budget is to exchange goods/services with your clients. “For small firms in particular with strong local ties, it makes sense to leverage relationships with suppliers whose products they need – many of whom they’re targeting for business anyway – in exchange for providing a temp for a few hours, a day, or even a week or more,” Amy says.
The idea behind this strategy is not only to drive down the expense budget, but can also be an easy entry point for new business. Maybe that client doesn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on staffing, or maybe they’re not terribly confident about it. But if you barter (thereby eliminating some risk) to give them a taste of what you do, they’re more likely to come back for more.
“One of my clients supplies temporary help for a candy manufacturer. Every holiday season, the candy company supplies him with catering and holiday gifts for his other clients in exchange for a small staffing rebate,” says Amy. “Another has a freelance web designer update his website regularly in exchange for providing the freelancer with administrative support through his in-house admin.”
The possibilities for trade are practically endless, which is a good thing. That means you can get creative with your potential clients. Can they provide you with office supplies or décor? How about computer hardware/software or IT services? Maybe even consider trade with accountants, insurance agencies, or advertisers.
The woman sitting in front of me at Amy’s session nodded along with this advice, turning to the person beside her to say, “We did this for desk chairs.”
I previously worked for a small start-up, and they learned that bartering could be very beneficial. At first we accepted things like coffee and catering to reward internal employees, but we also realized that we could use bartered goods to give to outsiders as prizes. (You could, for instance, enter people in a drawing in return for giving you candidate referrals.) So we went so far as to accept trade for things like limo rides and event tickets. (It sounds corny, but people always like prizes/rewards.)
Amy suggests that, if you’re thinking about bartering, first talk to your accountant because the IRS has some guidelines to live by. Then look at your expenses, as well as your potential client list and networking groups. Then contact them and make a proposal (and make sure the math makes sense and you don’t make unbalanced trades). And, finally, save money while you make money.