Many small- to medium-size business owners have begun to barter, trade and swap goods and services without any cash involved.
Take the city of Portland for example. Unsurprisingly, the culturally tight-knit and self-proclaimed weird city has given rise to a thriving underground bartering network. A recent Rolling Stone article showcased the colorful personalities and supportive business community that is Portland’s bartering economy. Some of them call themselves “swappers,” others simply identify as community-oriented business owners. All of them share a common bond of exchanging goods and services to help each other grow.
The trouble with traditional bartering like this is that it’s incredibly difficult to scale. The idea of a coffee shop exchanging beans for fresh food from a local grower is nice, but any business looking to expand can’t possibly expect that kind of barter to lead to scalable growth.
Most business owners have plenty of great ideas to grow, but lack the capital and cash resources needed for those growth initiatives. Take a restauranteur, for example. Expanding or upgrading the restaurant may be their desired path for generating increased revenue, but the cash required for such an undertaking might not be readily available.
What if that same restaurateur was able to exchange empty seats and excess food for a shared currency that they could then spend at other businesses in the network? While trading one meal with a contractor might not result in enough capital to exchange in return for a major overhaul, many units over time will eventually add up.
That’s precisely why business owners are looking for alternatives to traditional financing and venture capital raising. Those models, though effective, often edge out small- to medium-size businesses in favor of rapid growth SaaS companies or user-heavy business models. As a result, businesses looking at growing should explore growth opportunities that require little to no upfront investment.
The future of B2B commerce
B2B companies often operate at less than their full potential. Bagga pointed out that small businesses in the United States, on average, only run at 80 percent capacity. In many cases, this is simply because connecting with new customers presents a real challenge.
Also, most B2B companies have excess business potential because they offer products or services that could field more customers at a small marginal cost of goods sold. As such, many can afford to accept an alternative form of payment, as long as they can use it for other practical applications.
Cash flow isn’t always confined to exchanged services either. In many cases, these unique partnerships result in cash business resulting from direct referrals from services rendered in exchange for other goods.