As a small business owner there is not too much better than when at the completion of a project my customer is satisfied with the results, and makes that final payment to complete the transaction we both entered into. I’m happy, my customer is happy, we both made a good trade. Goods and services in exchange for monetary compensation is happening everyday all around us; it is the norm of today’s business transactions. A recent pond installation project got me thinking about these everyday transactions a little deeper. At the end of the project, my customer and I were chatting and it came up that my customer had just recently sold off a 1 acre plot of land and a pop-up trailer he kept on it. This land was not river front, but it was an easy walk to the shorelines of the Delaware River up in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. The pop-up trailer had not been used in some time and surely needed a good cleanout, maybe some new tires, but was otherwise in usable condition. I knew where the land is he had owned because it was not too far from some land my family owns in that area and it happens to be a beautiful area with lots of recreational and leisure activity choices. I told him how I spend a fair amount of time in that area and have been going up there since my teenage years. He explained that he used to go there a lot, but had lost the ability and interest in making the trip to that area, so his land and trailer were not being used, he just owned the land for many years not using it, and he had been trying to sell the land for a couple of years without any takers. The week before we began our project for him he had listed the property and trailer on Craigslist for $2500.00 and sold it in less than a day. I really could not believe what I had heard, when he gave the figure of $2500.00 because I too would have snatched a deal like that up in no time flat. Someone out there got an absolutely amazing deal, and my customer seemed satisfied with the trade because he got rid of what he thought to be something no one wanted, and a nuisance property.
So that is what got me thinking about these transactions that I make with customers. Goods and services for monetary compensation; there is nothing wrong with that arrangement but I started reflecting on some barters that I had made for other projects past. Barters are a great form of trade and probably the most ancient form of transaction known to the business world. Barter is great because for a barter to be successful BOTH parties have to be happy with the trade; otherwise it is a swindle which typically is a barter in which one party feels great about the trade and the other party doesn’t. Like the time my older brother traded me a pack of Bubble Yum bubble gum for my bike, it seemed like a great barter at the time. But later as I walked the neighborhood, my bubble gum gone, catching glimpses of my older brother cruising my bike past me while laughing and pointing at me; I had the grim realization that I had gotten swindled (and I still intend to get even)! The good news is you live and learn, and my bartering got better. On several past projects I have been able to do a barter or a combination of the traditional money for goods and services mixed with barter and it is a great way to do business. I have bartered on several projects and walked away with a barely used teak outdoor dining set, a powerful snow thrower, an awesome leaf blower, a ride on tractor, all sorts of other stuff, and of course some beautiful koi. In each of these barters both parties have been very satisfied with the trade that occurred.
I’ve never gone into a project negotiation offering to barter, but imagine if I had with this latest project. I could have bartered for a beautiful mountain property right by where I’ve been going with family and friends for years and years and my customer could have offset his project cost while at the same time getting rid of something he did not want to have. That would have been a good barter! I’m still not sure how well it would go over if I asked for the painting in my customers living room as a deposit, but maybe that little car that has been sitting in the customer’s driveway for several years now would be great for my daughter who needs a car for school, or that old guitar sitting in the attic would be interesting. Many people have things that they may not even think to barter like a weekend at their vacation home or time share property that many a contractor would love to bring his family to for a weekend of fun. Equipment or tools in the garage that homeowners don’t use are often very useful to contractors. How about the swing set jungle gym your kids have not touched in years, or the computer monitor that is sitting on the floor of your home office? Maybe some landscaping plants you are not in love with a contractor could possibly resell. The bartering possibilities are pretty endless when you think about it, and it is usually a win win for both parties; unless of course you are an 8 year old bubble gum addict and your older wiser 11 year old brother wants your bike.
I’d like to try to revive this method of trade! I am not sure of the best approach to up front bartering with customers because as old as the method of trade is, it is still a foreign concept to those who have been trained to only practice goods and services for monetary compensation; and admittedly, my barters have been by chance as well. I think I may leave a barter suggestion card behind on my future consultations to at least get the idea out there because as they say, “hey, you never know”; had I done that previously I might be on my way up to the mountains to hang out at my new weekend retreat. Of if you are the customer, think about what you might have to barter, you probably have a lot more than you think that can offset costs on upgrades to your new pond and waterfall or even pay for it outright! So, let’s make a deal!
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.

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