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Barter for a Better Bottom Line

Professional barter exchanges help businesses attract new customers and boost sales.

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This story appears in the December 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Paul Fitzsimmons has a leaky roof or a problem with plumbing, he doesn't pay for the repairs with cold, hard cash. He pays with business cards, T-shirts and signs from his Pensacola, Florida, printing company, Print Now Inc. Fitzsimmons, 37, uses printed goods as currency in the Gulf Coast Trade Exchange, which allows him to conserve cash by spending barter dollars earned from "selling" products and services to other member companies.

When he bought Print Now in 2003, the company was already a member of the barter exchange. Though new to bartering, Fitzsimmons recognized the benefits immediately. Not only has the barter exchange helped offset operating expenses, but along with roofers and plumbers, he also uses it to obtain cleaning and electrical services for his approximately $1 million business. It has also been a steady, reliable source of new business. "Not only does it bring in trade dollars, it also brings in cash," says Fitzsimmons, who estimates his business has grown 6 percent as a result of the barter exchange. "It's a definite networking tool. I probably would never have had [these additional sales] if they hadn't known about me through the exchange."

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