Sunday, 25 February 2007 12:41

Deal or No Deal

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When Sarah Hughes skated off with the gold medal, she pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. Her surprisingly simple secret? “I didn’t skate for a gold medal. I went out and had a great time.”

Athletes say it all the time: “I just went out there and had fun.” And, admittedly, they do look like they’re having a great time.

Fortunately, fun isn’t the sole province of superstar athletes. It can work for the rest of us in the skin care industry, too. The link between having fun and business success has been proven in countless studies. When we’re having fun on the job, we are more creative and more productive.


It’s certainly true in the world of barter, a cashless system of trading goods or services. The most successful people in barter are also having a blast with it. Typically, they are creative, energetic entrepreneurs and business owners. They thrive on playing with ideas and working new angles. Barter is their playground.

“You’re always thinking of deals,” chuckled the owner of a successful company. “The more deals you can turn, the more excited you get.” For him, dreaming up barter trades that will help his skin care business grow is as fun as actually acquiring the merchandise or service.

“The best way to describe barter,” he continued, “is to say it’s like going to a garage sale and finding that item you wanted, and it’s brand new and at an unbelievable price.”

Nearly everyone has bartered, whether it was trading for that Twinkie in second grade or swapping babysitting with the neighbor. Businesses often do it through a professional barter exchange, where members pay a start-up fee and commission on goods or services traded. Here’s how it works: A skin care business lists a good or service for trade through the exchange. In return, the business receives a trade credit based on the dollar value of the good or service offered – often the full retail value. The business can then use its trade credits to “purchase” goods or services offered by other members. The result is that the business is hooked up with a network of actively bartering businesses.

Bartering conserves cash, helps attract new customers, and enables businesses to trade excess time or skin care inventory for the products or services they need. But it’s also a fun way for businessmen and women to exercise their ingenuity.

Bartering is a treat, a break from the business-as-usual workday. “My business is the cake,” said one barter client, smiling as he added, “But, barter is the frosting.” Purity Day Spa has two Chicago locations specializing in skin care. Owner Michele Woodard calls barter dollars her “play money.” Although she sometimes uses it for the business, she often uses it for fun things. “I took a day yacht cruise last summer and treated my employees to gifts for their good work,” she remarks. Others get a big kick out of bartering for fun perks, like weekend trips to New York or an outing to another city. They enjoy discovering a great restaurant or exploring the sandy beaches of Cancun and being able to say, “I did this all through barter.”

Jennifer Wise is the president of Fusion Medical Spa in Naperville, Ill. She uses her “problem solving” skin care services almost exclusively on advertising. Her full service medical spa does microdermabrasion, Miso sessions, and facial treatments on trade.

Mary Quinn is the Executive Director of The Heartland Spa, a private health and fitness retreat nestled in a stress-free, tranquil country setting 90 miles south of Chicago.

This spacious 32 acre estate rests on a secluded lake and is surrounded by peaceful timber, and miles of gently rolling countryside. Being outside of the metro Chicago area means that some customers prefer not to travel that far during the winter months. So, for 15 years, mainly to compensate for that short downtime, Mary has turned to barter to fill up her rooms and advertise her facility.

Bartering allows Heartland to acquire advertising space in top Chicago publications in order to keep its name before the public year-round. In addition, they also use trade credits for repairs around the spa and for carpeting. Mary remarks, “It peaks my interest to locate vendors who will share their expertise on trade. It pleases me to attain my goals without spending cash.”

As you can see, the possibilities are endless if you can look beyond the obvious and see new ways of doing things. Some people use their trade credits to help a charity, close sales, or pay bills.

One devotee compared bartering to deep-sea diving. Plunge in and you never know what you might uncover. “People have said to me, ‘But what can you get on barter?’” said one barter client. “I tell them, ‘What can’t you get?’ You need a computer? You want a new mirror? Tell me anything you can think of, and you can get it on barter.”

Trade credits don’t have to be used on a single purchase or to buy from the same company to whom you sold something. And they can be used for business or pleasure. Think of it as shopping at a marketplace. One barter client used her credits for a $12,000 phone system for her company and a trip for her family.

Today, bartering has reached maturity. Some 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies use barter. But small, at-home or single-person businesses can barter, too, and it may even be essential to their growth. Small business owners often can’t afford to pour cash into growing or promoting their company. But, through barter, they can hold on to the cash and find everything from an office copier to legal or marketing assistance.

Bartering is not complicated or time-consuming, but it does require flexibility, patience and creativity. It may mean switching vendors and changing engrained purchasing habits. You may have to wait a little longer than you would in a cash deal. Conversely, though, you also have to jump fast when a hot commodity you want is put up for trade. But that’s what makes barter exciting.

Those who embrace barter typically bring the same energy and vision to other aspects of their business. Barter helps pop the lid off their imagination, and then anything is possible. “In this economy, you always need to think creatively and make things happen for your business,” said one barter client.

Although a skin care business can arrange their own trades, many prefer joining a large professional barter association or exchange. The local or state exchange often can connect members with national barter exchanges, increasing opportunities for trade. The exchange keeps track of transactions for members. Goods and services sold through barter must be reported to the IRS. Members are assigned a broker who will work with the client to find what they need and ensure maximum trade opportunities and exposure.

Many businesses could not afford the kind of widespread advertising they get through barter. If you sell skin care products online, you can get your name out there to potential clients across the U.S. by placing ads in many top publications. What’s that worth? Trading brings not only barter customers, but also the cash-paying customers they refer.

Before joining a barter association or network, make sure it’s been around for awhile and has a good reputation. Most important, make sure the association or network has what you need. Draw up a list of the goods and/or services you want to sell and what you think they are worth. Then go through your business and personal checkbooks and see how you’re spending cash. Could you get the same items and more through barter?

But remember, acquiring goods and services is only part of the adventure. Are you ready to grow your business and have fun doing it? Barter may be your golden opportunity.


Don Mardak is CEO of International Monetary Systems (OTCBB: INLM), one of the largest barter organizations in the U.S. For more information, please contact him at 800-559-8515,

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