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Bob Meyer
 

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A Client's View of Barter

"You've come to this convention with responsibilities that are greater than you imagined. Your clients are going to be watching you.

"We are representative of the business community, but we can't do this by ourselves. You are the larger voice because you are all over the place." -—NATE Keynote Speaker Peter Comrie

A quick compliment for selecting Toronto for your national convention. As you can tell by my Scottish accent I'm also an implant into Toronto, but I find it really a delightful place to live. In my estimation it's the finest city in the world in which to live.

It's a great place—and I welcome you all. It's also a fabulous place to do business as it's an international city where we speak practically every language in the world—English and French (sic!)—and we get business done.

But I want to talk to you this morning about my role, and from a perspective of being a client, in the barter industry. This is my 30th year where some component of my business has been done on a barter basis.

It's been a phenomenally interesting study over the three decades, in a variety of trades. And I've seen people who have developed the business well, and I've seen the other end, too.

This morning I'd like to talk to you about a couple of situations that are developing in the world today, and that reflect that your time is coming.

Since you've been serving your apprenticeship in the barter industry, you're going to find this industry becoming more exciting for you as you approach the 21st century. And there's 1,287 days left in this century. The countdown is on.

The world of electronic commerce will affect you in a profound way.

E-com (electronic commerce) is here and I was happy to hear this morning that you're going to develop your organization (NATE) on the Internet. The Internet and the world of electronic commerce is going to affect you in a profound way.

But before that happens we need to go back to the fundamental part of what makes business work, and that is the business of relationships, and the business of relationship development.

I went on the "net" (Internet) just a while ago to do a little research before this morning's presentation. I found it interesting.

When you punch in "barter" on your search engine, up comes 563 references to that word—all on the net today. Although the net is a confusing place, but it confuses barter beyond count.

The world of electronic commerce will affect you in a profound way.

The first 25 listings that I looked at showed estimates that the barter industry in the U.S. is an $8 billion industry. I went down three more to discover that it was a $20 billion industry. Then I went to the bottom of the list of 25 and I found out that it was a $29 billion industry.

Well, that confusion affects relationships—and it affects your business in an enormous way. I truly and firmly believe that the attitude that comes into the barter industry is going to be what builds your industry in the future.

And the E-com environment, plus the business that you can do within that environment will propel this industry's business to the hundreds of billions of dollars—because that's the future possibility.

The way people shop and the way people do business is changing profoundly. For instance, the retail industry is dying. You don't have to go very far to see this change.

We're changing our habits—the digital world is making us do it. And it's a friendly place to be.

You probably know that we're approaching, within the next eighteen to twenty-four months, the finite point-of-conversion where all of the technologies finally merge and converge and complement.

You've heard that the technology is in place today that can provide each person with one telephone number for life. Just like Canada's Social Insurance number or your Social Security number in the states. Soon, at 18 you'll be given that telephone number, and it'll be with you the rest of your life.

That technology is here right now, it's ready and will happen shortly. The era of the "smart card" is here, too. Where all the information about you (driver's license, health information, credit data) that's needed to transact business will be on one magnetic strip in digital format.
(Editor's Note: see our article on smart cards elsewhere in this issue.)

The business of your usiness (barter) will become easier.

This is an exciting time, it's really unique. And it means that now, regardless of where we are or where we go, people can reach us. Any place we go, we can transact business, instantly, in real time.

What does this mean to you as traders? First, doing the business of your business will become easier. But the thing that all the technology in the world won't do, is to enhance your relationship with your client.

I'm feeling very fortunate in working with BBE (Barter Business Exchange) here in Toronto. I like these guys, they know that. But I'm also the client from hell, because they never know what I'm going to ask for, or know what I'm going to say.

However, I believe in what they do. And I truly believe that trading has a solid place in the commerce that I build today.

I function in three countries—Canada, United States and Mexico—and I trade in all three areas because my cash is finite, as it relates to the business. I know what my cash is going to do, and where it must be.

But to build my business (and we have a good business running) I know that if I can develop relationships with trade exchanges and if they can find for me the partners that I need to do my business, I benefit immeasurably. So I stretch them, and I do so to build relationships and to help build my business.

And I demand of them, and they know I'm pretty demanding. I require of them a way of doing business and an attitude, that I believe the trade business should be in. And that's in a very elegant state.

But frankly, as I do trades around the continent I observe that attitudes are not as elegant as those we are working with here in Toronto.

Now why is that? Why is it so different from region to region, from exchange to exchange, from company to company? It's one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity, when offered, to talk to you this morning.

These conventions are extremely important—it's where your industry could attitudinally and collectively decide to do your business well. Then we, as clients, would benefit by getting a consistency of attitude toward trading and helping our business.

We would get a consistency of practice. And I'm not saying it has to be the same nationwide—I'm not saying that. But if you believe that your barter business has a place in this economy, then it's incumbent upon you to make sure that everybody knows that and everybody is aware of it.

And it's up to you to tell the world your message—barter is an exciting part of commerce. Not just for me, but for many of the companies I deal with. Because we know that there's that component within our business that is much more malleable and pliable when we're trying to cut a deal, if we run into a problem when negotiating on a cash basis.

If you believe that your barter business has a place in this economy, then make sure that everybody is aware of it.

I see it many times, and it hits my desk almost every day, as we get into negotiations. There's always that little box: "what else." What else can we do to cut a better deal, to make sure that we have an absolute win-win situation?

This is the essence of the barter business for me...for my clients...and my partners. Everybody in the trade has to win. Not just one side depending on the exchange, not just the other side depending on the supply. It must be a win-win situation for every member of the process.

And you, as industry representatives, must take responsibility for the success of these transactions. And realize, also, that we as clients will be coming back to you if this is not the case. We'll come back to you for help in making the deal.

I feel fortunate, if I need such help, in having BBE always there for me. They are almost like my banker in that regard, and that's a pretty elegant position to be in.

This isn't just the business, as I hear it called "the oldest profession in the world." Well I'm sorry. That's already been taken. And you surely don't want to be aligned too closely with that profession!

It's a comfort benefit for me as a client, but most importantly the relationship that's developed between the trading organization and the people who take the commission, to know that it's your relationship with us that is absolutely crucial, as we move toward good solid business.

Now just coming back to the E-com environment for a moment. When I can sit at my in-home office (and not even go into any of my other offices), and start to transact and put out onto the network that I need a component within a negotiation to help me win a contract, and I can get a response to my barter request before I leave for the office, believe me, that's an exciting prospect for me. And it'll be an exciting prospect for many, many business people.

I can key into my trade exchange in the morning and leave an e-mail for my trade broker—telling that I need this and to look into another component of the business to help me cut that deal. And he shows up in his office at 7:30 AM, as I know he does, saying, "OK, let me get on my e-mail to see what Peter wants today."

Then he has the ability to quickly inter-link and inter-connect with other exchanges and other people in the barter industry, telling them, "I have a client that needs this, who can help me?" And they can instantly get back and say, "I don't have that, but I do have this. Will it help?" And that information is quickly forwarded to me. Allowing me all the room that I need to maneuver, in order to cut a deal.

We recently opened up a new office in Mexico City and traded $250,000 worth of goods and services. We built out the entire office through barter. It was all done in three months, which was very exciting for us, since we really needed to barter, as we were working with a tight budget.

It was an educational experience, because if you think barter in Canada and the U.S. is interesting—try it in Mexico. They put you guys to shame, and I don't mean that to upset you. What I'm saying, however, is that these people are willing to work in any currency, and I mean any currency. You could learn a lot by observing how they trade in Mexico.

They're like the horse traders of old, and if you're not absolutely on the ball, there will be a piece of your hide missing. These guys are right on the money. But they're interesting and they absolutely love to deal.

Cash is easy, we all know this. It's easy to pull out the wallet and use credit cards to make a deal...and walk away thinking, "I won, I got what I wanted. And they got what they wanted, they got paid."

But in that environment where cash is not, by far, the only currency, they'll work deals and trade with anything. To get furniture we had a 14 component deal (14 different negotiations went on), and it was done in two days.

And I continue to hear from the person who managed that deal every single week. She calls and asks, "Can we do anything else for you, when are you coming back, what do you need? Let us know in advance."

They are on the ball! Can you say the same for your exchange? That's a question you have to ask, because her business relationship with me is incredible...and she's just a little trader.

But she's ended up with vacations, airline tickets, and a trip to Toronto for her and her husband. That's how she got paid. She did so by developing a relationship with me, and my organization, where we absolutely did win...and she won, because she had an attitude to get the business done.

I wish I could bottle her attitude and bring it here to the U.S. and Canada. I know I'd make a fortune with it. And I'm not saying that we're lazy in North America, but I believe we are too complacent.

We're complacent on how we build our attitude toward our clients. I'm as guilty as most, and I have to be reminded frequently that my clients are the most important people that I have in my business. And when I'm reminded of that by business increases, dramatically.

If you have a confusion within your industry in the U.S. that trading volume is somewhere between $8 billion and $29 billion, you know there is work to be done. Because now on the Internet your entire business is going to be under a microscope.

If someone in Tallahassee is saying it's $8 billion and someone in Boulder is saying it's $29 billion, a little lady in Splitlip, Manitoba, can find this out and compare the two. All of a sudden now, you all are on the same playing field.

Suppose at these conventions you recognize the opportunity that's in the palm of your hand, because I'm absolutely convinced that E-com is your time—it's the time where cash is irrelevant.

If you can make that system work for you, the industry of barter will increase dramatically, because technology is your friend. Anyone can do one-to-one trades. You people wouldn't be sitting here if that was your only forte.

It's the ability to make a number of connections to satisfy me, the client, no matter what. So technology is your friend and your link around the universe to help me get my deal done.

If you can make E-com work for you the industry of barter will increae dramatically.

And if you understand this and bring a fabulous attitude—that ability to understand trade and make things happen in our business environment—you'll have a profound affect on the world.

It's a matter of embracing a change that's taking place right now, and making an investment right now. Then announce to your clients that the new electronic information highway is paved by the industry of trading.

I see, and I've had it represented to me, that in the industry of barter there's a reflection of the stock exchange—the running ticker and the frantic atmosphere abound—and this is the trading industry. It is. But it's not that way consistently.

You have an ability and an understanding of trade at its absolute finest point, and it's your responsibility to bring that to me, your client.

We need to know, as clients of the barter industry, that you are out there working hard—to learn and stay on the cutting edge of everything that's new on the information highway and your industry. So you can tell us the most effective ways to trade.

Over the next two years business will be done in a way that you'd never have dreamt possible. And it's absolutely going to happen. Are you ready? Are you building and strengthening your relationships with your clients? So I can rely on you, as an organization, as an international industry.

Because the barriers are down, they're completely erased with the information highway. They mean nothing.

The most important part of business today is my relationship with you. And I must be motivated to continue to press you, to work with me to make my deals work.

Because the environment is changing, and it's changing dramatically. You can feel it in your industry now. I was talking with some of you last night, and it was expressed to me that you're feeling a lull. Well that lull is happening continent-wide in almost every business.

It's almost like the entire nation is holding its breath, waiting for what's going to happen next. Well, don't hold your breath, guys.

Find out what it is, talk to your clients who are dealing on the Internet and in electronic commerce right now. Look to see how you can work with them to help them do their business better. And I don't mean to say that traditional trading will disappear. There will always be commodities to be moved—products must be moved and the logistics still must be done.

But at the front end of the deal it'll be done in an electronic format, there is no question. And if that lady in Splitlip, Manitoba, can get on her keyboard and talk to someone in Tallahassee or San Francisco or Tijuana, she still must have a relationship with a local exchange.

It's still a human experience and depends upon your ability to create a relationship with us—the client or customer. There's always going to be the need for humans to connect with one another. And there's nothing more fun in the entire universe than dealing with other people in business.

So you have to combine the best of both worlds—of the E-com and the human interpersonal relationships, the interaction with your clients. And, frankly, if you want to see an example of this working, talk to these young men here at BBE.

You can have a profound affect on the world because you combine the best of both worlds—E-com and the human interpersonal relationships.

This is my plug for them, because I like them and I realize what they're trying to do. Also, I know the difficulties they are having in trying to do it in these times of rapid change. They're young, they're aggressive, and they want to see it work.

But let's look at the collective energy of the organization that you have here (at the NATE convention) coming together once a year. It's the only time you have to recognize and interact with one another personally.

Of course, you'll be interacting with each other on the internet with the punch of a key everyday when you go back home. What an opportunity...you've got to be there!

You can be years ahead of the banks, because they're an industry that's mired in old technology. They have trouble shifting. Their paradigm shifting is not changing a habit, but changing their philosophy.

And it's changing and understanding your business and business relationships at a philosophical level, that will propel you to the end of the century and beyond. So, if you think your business has been exciting up to now, you just wait!

I want to know as you leave this convention that I, as a client, will get the benefit of the attitude that you bring to the future.

If your industry is, indeed, doing the high number of $29 billion I found on the Internet, who thinks that a huge number? Well, it's not. It's not. To give you some degree of reference, in yesterdays paper The Globe Mail here in Toronto, it was announced that the Canadian government lost $60 billion in corporate and personal income tax avoidance.

So $29 billion isn't a whole lot of business, but it's a good place to start. A good place to launch from, because you should be in the hundreds of billions of dollars since what you do is so valuable.

But it'll only reach these figures if you develop a relationship with me and your other clients, where we absolutely rely on you. Not just as a supplier to some of your other clients, but as a user of the products and services of the entire membership base. And getting that instantly on my computer in the morning is, to me, profound.

Now I'd like to switch years a bit and deal with the attitude that I feel, with all my heart, makes you such a valuable entity in our commerce.

We're so regulated and so jammed in our own boxes that we don't see the potential. I get an opportunity a number of times a year to speak to student groups, because I'm connected to a business-based university.

Over the years I've been able to see why we're not bringing out the leaders that I feel we're capable of.

It's simply a failure in our leadership. We fail to have the attitude that's necessary for young people, and we don't create the opportunities for them.

Because frankly, I look at teenagers today, and my children between 19 and 27 years of age—and I wouldn't want to be in their shoes today. I have to work very hard to give them an attitude that they can look forward to, and build their life upon.

I like your industry, your business, because you are as close to real life as you can possibly get. The industry of trading, while maybe not the oldest profession in the world, is the industry that builds life and builds relationships.

I like your industry, because you are as close to real life as you can possibly get.

And it's something that you can absolutely be completely proud of. You'll get knocked by the banks and the institutions, by big companies. Screw them.

Now that may be a little strong, but the time has come, and is coming, to firmly put your foot down and represent and organize yourself to do business the way business should really be done. And that's in an open and free environment. Because your business doesn't work if it's not open and free.

If I want my children to be in an environment where they can grow and be enriched for their involvement, then I don't want them stuck in a box-such as an organization or an institution that is there not to be their friend.

And as a career opportunity I think sales, the business of selling and the business of trading, is where our kids should belong. Not with MBAs that can't get them jobs. I see kids leaving universities today who will never experience in their life what it is to be wealthy. They'll never see it.

So this is an added responsibility that you have. You must talk about your business and promote your business differently than you're doing today.

You must talk about your business and promote your business differently than you're doing today.

I heard a professor say recently that you go to work for a barter network only when you can't get a real job. Well I was the wrong person to tell that to. I'm an industrial psychologist.

A friend of mine, Chad Helmsteader, published a book in 1985, What You Say When You Talk To Yourself. He did a phenomenal piece of research in that book which states that before the age of 18 a kid will receive a negative response to a request some 140,000 times.

We raise them under this environment and then when they're 18 we say "go forth and be a success!" There's somewhat of a contradiction here. It's no wonder that 95% of the population is dying before they ever realize their own dreams.

We are the freest continent on the globe and we are sentencing our young people to death. They'll never experience their freedom, unless we as organizations, who are in a business which is different, do things differently.

As an organization I don't know of any other business sector, on the continent, that reflects freedom more than your business. There isn't one.

Because for you to survive as an industry you must have freedom of communication, freedom of borders, freedom of business, for you to do what you do well.

Well let me tell you about a great place for our kids to be. What a great opportunity they have if they get attached to an industry that absolutely, for its survival, must be free.

Because for you to survive as an industry you must have freedom of communication, freedom of borders, freedom of business, for you to do what you do well.

So be prideful of what you do in your community, and tell that community and the businesses you deal with (and the client bases that you have) the bigger reason why you're excited about what you do. Because you can add to life at the philosophical level, not just at the habit.

And you'll be richer for it as individuals, and your industry will be richer too, since you'll attract people into your company who understand that the freedom of business is necessary for all of us. Get excited about it—live it, walk the walk every single day.

I urge you to get into your local school, local universites, local business college so they understand that the idea of trading is the most honorable issue on the continent.

If you don't the alternative is too horrifying for words. I don't want to get close to touching what it could look like. It's much too depressing.

So I urge you to get into your local school, your local universities, get into the local business college. And you damn well offer to get presentations done for them, so you can show our kids that barter is real, and alive, and vibrant and now!

If you do that they'll bring a way to trade that you won't even recognize! They'll bring in companies and organizations and trading opportunities beyond your imagination. Because if they can think freely and know that there is a place for them, your reward is that they'll bring an attitude to the business that you can build on.

And it's a formal business. It can be in Mexico or the United States, or it can be in a larger social prison on the continent—and that's Canada. You can imagine that I'm not very popular with politicians, because that's a self-serving institution!

I'm the absolute and eternal optimist, and I truly and firmly believe for us to survive as a continent we must continue to do business. If business isn't being done, we're not talking. And if we're not talking, we're not learning. And if we're not learning, we're exactly where governments would like us to be.

So you've come to this convention with responsibilities that are greater than you probably imagined. And your clients (people like me) are going to be watching you. We are representative of the business community, but we can't do this by ourselves. You are the larger voice because you are all over the place.

You have an ability and will have an even greater ability in the E-com environment, to talk to the whole continent. There are no boundaries for you, no one you can't talk to.

So talk about your business. Get your information out into the community, so they understand that the idea of trading is the most honorable issue on the continent. And it's the business of doing business, and that business provides you with freedom that is profound.

In closing let me share this. I'm not unique in my opinion. I talk to presidents of companies and senior managers every single day. We discuss ways of doing business, ways to do trades, ways to get deals done.

And we are absolutely open to the issues that you develop. But you have to tell us, tell us in ways that we can hear. Speak to the listening-the listening is that if we don't have these added components in our business, we are missing out on opportunities and losing business.

And remember, the disciplines that you develop as an organization are important. As you come together, in this digital environment, communicate with each other—find out what's new and spread it around. Bring that information to us, your clients, and help us do our business better.

EDITOR'S NOTE:
Peter Comrie of Pyman Productions has been an active trader for three decades. His experienced and realistic approach to barter, along with a focus on the future, was shared with attendees at the 13th Annual National Association Of Trade Exchanges Convention in Toronto Canada, June 1996.



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