It’s no surprise to anyone that we are going through a bit of an economic downturn. Companies have no choice but to scale back, trim down and get back to basics. One trend I have seen making a comeback is the bartering system. Essentially, the system involves exchanging services or products for other services or products. Bartering, the oldest form of commerce, dates back many centuries before money was created, and seems to return whenever there is a stalling economy.

A Wall Street Journal article dated February 17 says, “As small businesses find it impossible to borrow money and customers are slower to pay bills, the barter economy is becoming a crucial way for many companies to find the cash they need to keep operating.” With credit dried up—for now—this could be the best way to invest in your business when you’re strapped for cash.

This trend seems to have also hit the green industry. Looking for innovative ways to market their business, companies are exchanging lawn care and landscaping services for other services, electronics, equipment, etc., just about anything. Members on have reported exchanging their services for child care, haircuts, golf lessons and more.

And, with the Internet, you’ve got a whole world out there at your disposal. With online classified sites, the most popular being craigslist (, you can post an ad for what you’re looking for and what you have to offer.

There are even specific companies that set up these exchanges for you. Barter companies have a list of member companies that exchange goods and services with each other, and they keep track of “barter” dollars that are used to “buy” goods from other members. Instead of using cash to purchase their products, you buy them with your services. It basically works like this: You get barter credits for doing a landscaping job or for lawn care services you’ve provided for one of the members, and then you can spend those credits with any other member of the exchange—not necessarily the person or company you did the job for. You may be surprised when you find out what kinds of companies belong to these exchanges. There are national hotel chains, restaurants, vacation destinations, lawyers, marketing companies, you name it.

So, if your cash flow is a little tight right now and you want a Web site set up, or you need a new company sign, or you want some direct mailing pieces printed, look into bartering. It may help you get through this downturn and keep your company afloat.

(Keep in mind that even with bartering, you do need to claim goods and services received on your taxes. Be sure to check with your accountant or tax preparer about the specifics.)