25 Aug

Being fair to your Barter Exchange

Posted in Ethics by

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Barter exchanges help you by acting as a broker hooking you up with potential barter partners.  They make their living by charging a commission on each transaction (usually around 5-6% per transaction).  Because there is a transaction when you earn barter credits and a second transaction when you spend them, you end up paying a total commission of 10%-12% in cash on your barter.  If you trade a lot (like I do) then your monthly bills from your exchange can be substantial.  That being said, I do not begrudge them their fees.  They earned them.  Honestly I look at my exchange like an outside salesman.  I will happily pay a salesman a 15% commission on any business that they bring to me so really my barter fees are a deal to me.

That being said, I have found that there are many barter members who REALLY don’t like paying their transaction fees.  Because of this they often look for ways to rationalize why it’s OK to cut out their exchange from transactions and steal their fees.  The most common excuse I hear is that members feel it’s fair to pay their exchange on an initial transaction when they first introduce a new barter partner, but if they continue to trade on an ongoing basis, they don’t feel that it’s fair for the exchange to earn fees for doing “nothing.”  I understand this point of view, but if you want to conduct business in an honest and moral way the decision is quite simple:  What does your agreement with your exchange say?  If it says that you are not to barter directly with members that were introduced to you through the exchange, then you should not.  If your agreement with your exchange does not include that stipulation then you are free to trade direct.  If you have an agreement that you do not like, then certainly feel free to renegotiate or cancel the contract you have with your exchange.

Bottom line:  Your barter exchange is a great asset to your barter business.  Treat them well and pay their bills happily.  Cutting corners to short their fees is the same thing as shorting your employees part of their wages.

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30 Jul

Calculating the “real” percentage of business you conduct in barter

Posted in Training by

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Honestly I think this is probably the most important article I’ve written to date.  Please check it out and post questions/comments below.

When you are conducting business, it’s important to know how your money comes and goes.  One of the things I keep my eye on is what percentage of my total business I do in barter.  Exactly what the ideal percentage is will vary and could be a good topic for another article.  What I want to concentrate on right now is how to put together an accurate calculation.  What really matters is your percentage of profit that is cash vs. barter, not what your percentage of sales is.

Unfortunately I’ve been operating on incorrect figures in this area for years.  In order to figure out how much cash profit and how much barter profit I made, I looked at the percentage of sales in the two areas first.  For the purposes of this article let’s say I did 90% of my sales in cash and 10% in barter.  I would then take my total profit and apply those same percentages to see how much cash profit I made and how much barter profit I made.  There are two things that are very wrong with that calculation:

  1. Your profit margin for cash and barter may be different.  Even when you are charging your clients the same either way (which is what you SHOULD ALWAYS DO) your margin could be different because (for example) it may be that you sell different products/services that have different profit margins to your cash and barter clients.
  2. As a general rule your expenses for both cash and barter sales are in cash.  If you spent 100% barter to earn barter then your barter sales would not effect your cash profits, BUT BECAUSE YOU SPEND CASH to earn barter, for an accurate calculation of your cash and barter profits you need to adjust your cash profits down and your barter profits up.

That second item on my list here was difficult for me to wrap my brain around.  Here are some numbers to help take this concept from abstract to concrete:

Cash sales = $900,000
Barter sales = $100,000
Total sales = $1,000,000

Just to keep this simple I’m going to keep the profit margin the same for cash and barter.

Total profit = $200,000
Profit margin (cash and barter) = $200,000/$1,000,000 = 20%

Unadjusted cash profit = $900,000 x 20% = $180,000
Unadjusted barter profit = $100,000 x 20% = $20,000

Again, just to keep things simple, let’s say that all expenses for cash and barter sales were paid in cash.

Cash expense for barter sales = $100,000 x 80% = $80,000

Next you adjust your cash and barter profit based on your freshly calculated cash expenses

Adjusted cash profit = $180,000 – $80,000 (cash expense for barter sales) = $100,000
Adjusted barter profit = $20,000 + $80,000 (cash expense for barter sales) = $100,000

Here’s the IMPORTANT PART…. although your sales were 90% cash and 10% barter your profits were 50% cash and 50% barter.

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24 Jul

It takes time to barter

Posted in Training by

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An important cost of barter that many people (including myself) forget to factor in is the time that I spend on it.  It takes a lot of time to put a deal together.  If you are like me, you’ve usually got 20 deals going at the same time so it really ads up.  Some of the things that I spend time on include:

  • Staying on top of what is available in my barter exchanges
  • Calling on folks in my barter network to put together deals
  • Posting to craigslist and following up on responses
  • Work to recruit new members into my barter exchanges
  • Work recruiting new direct barter partners
  • Time spent looking for good ways for my barter partners to spend credit they have with me
  • Extra book-keeping to keep the records straight
  • Ongoing help/training I give to everyone I ever talk to about barter

When recruiting a new barter partner I think it’s a good move to point out to the prospect that you are talking to that barter is not as simple as cash transactions.  They need to know that they will need to invest some time into barter in order to reap the rewards.  All of that being said, it truly is a labor of love for me.  <grin>  I’m a barter addict and it rare for me to resent the time I spend on it.

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