Matt Llewellyn, owner of 23rd Street Brewery, rewards his employees with limousine rides, free nights at a hotel and gift cards to restaurants.
And it doesn’t cost him a dime. Llewellyn does it all on trade.
“I love doing stuff on trade because it creates real partnerships with other businesses,” he said.
Llewellyn barters beer, wings and gift certificates for other services and trade dollars through Tradebank, an international bartering organization with more than 11,000 business members.
Tradebank started in 1987 and came to Kansas about four years ago. About 450 businesses across Kansas participate in Tradebank, but there are fewer than 10 Tradebank members in Lawrence.
Nick Baumgartner, Tradebank regional owner, said members range from plumbers to attorneys.
“Anything that a business would normally be spending money on is found in Tradebank,” he said.
Baumgartner said membership is starting to pick up in Lawrence, and Llewellyn said he’s seen an increase of Tradebank customers in his brewery over the past six months.
Mark Hirschey, the Andrew W. Chandler professor of business at Kansas University, said the trend in businesses trading services is common in economic downturns.
“During times of recession, when business-as-usual doesn’t seem to be working, consumers start looking for nontraditional sources for economic profits,” he said.
But Hirschey said businesses need to be cautious. He said bartering income is hard to track, and tax issues must be carefully monitored.
Todd Gerry, Tradebank vice president of marketing, said the organization acts as a certified third-party record keeper for its members. He said the organization collects records every month and files annual reports for each business to prevent tax problems.
Llewellyn said the only downside he’s seen as a member of Tradebank is that not everyone has signed up.
“I wish more people know how great a thing trade is for everybody’s business,” he said.