Bartering, once a practice reserved for third-graders at lunch and coiffed publicists swapping press releases for blowouts, has, thanks to our crapilicious, layoff-prolific economy, been making a business-to-business under-the-table comeback. Show me a downsized Center City attorney who’s opened a boutique firm in Conshohocken and a South Jersey laid-off-accountant-turned-one-woman-tax-preparer, and I’ll show you a lawyer who gave a CPA a watertight business plan in exchange for a QuickBooks setup.
“Bartering has worked for me in so many ways,” says Main Line branding expert Leslie Padilla, who trades marketing services for financial advice from business coach Donna Saul. “We meet in person once a month, and e-mail a couple times a week,” says Padilla. Both women bill at similar rates; each supports the other’s growing business. The barter “is valuable beyond the dollar amount and the expertise. It gives you the sense of a staff and a business environment,” she adds.
Barterers agree exchanges work best when they’re based on professional services, as opposed to more tangible goods. Most essential to any swap: Each side absolutely must want what the other side’s got. PR consultant Jeff Jubelirer turned down a prominent surgeon’s offer of free Lasik (“I like my glasses,” he explains), but is willing to trade his favorite personal trainer business consults for workout sessions. Trading may have grown up, but cafeteria rules still apply: You’ll never score a Chocolate Junior if all you packed is a Capri Sun and a carrot snack-pack.