Using a Barter Exchange to Conserve Cash

Photograph by Mikolaj Molenda/Getty Images

For small businesses struggling with low demand and stunted cash flow in the wake of the recession, an old idea could drive new business: barter. The 16,000 members of International Monetary Systems can conserve cash and expand reach by selling their products and services on its exchange for trade dollars accepted by fellow members, says Chief Executive Officer John Strabley. The $14 million company, established in 1985 in New Berlin, Wisc., is the largest independent trade exchange in North America, serving 52 metro markets and facilitating $225 million in business-to-business trades last year. IMS takes a 6 percent cut of each transaction in cash (not trade dollars). I spoke to Strabley recently about how barter works and which companies can reap the most benefit from it; edited excerpts of our conversation follow.

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