What I called one of the “15 Creative Ways to Increase Profits” on a panel at this year’s Executive Forum, bartering – the exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using money as a medium of exchange – was enthusiastically received.
And it turns out some firms already routinely employ the technique to manage those pesky day to day expenses associated with running a staffing office. 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. And the benefits can have staying power. Once a supplier gets a taste of your firm’s quality service, they’re likely to be back for more and become paying clients themselves or refer others who become paying clients.
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. Another has a freelance web designer update his website regularly in exchange for providing the freelancer with administrative support through his in-house admin.
How do you begin bartering discussions? First talk to your accountant (the IRS has guidelines for bartering you must comply with). Next, think about what you need that you’d otherwise spend money on. Then think about who you know who can provide it. Companies you do business with today. Companies located in your office building. People in your networking groups. Approach them and propose a win-win (note of caution: make sure the math works and you don’t actually end up footing a bigger bill for a temp than the value of the service you need!).
At a loss for what you could barter for? Here are 12 ideas:
- Website facelift
- Office décor
- General office supplies
- Computer hardware
- Job boards
- Coffee supplies
- Employee recognition (ex. gift cards to local businesses)
- Client holiday gifts
- Local advertising
- Accounting / bookkeeping services
It’s getting more expensive to run an office and margins are continually squeezed. Get creative and start saving money today!