Sydney, Australia (PressExposure) March 03, 2011 -- On February 8th 1991, three Gold Coast business partners launched an audacious concept when they created a central exchange for bartering.
They called it Bartercard.
Although barter is the oldest form of commerce, in a sophisticated economy it is unrealistic to expect a café owner to directly barter with a plumber, or an accountant to swap goods and services with a book retailer.
The invention of Bartercard 20 years ago resolved that problem by establishing an electronic clearing house for members and creating 'Trade Dollars' as the currency for barter inside the system. So member businesses could 'sell' their own goods and services into the system, and convert them to trade dollars, with which they could 'buy' goods and services from another member business.
This eased cash flow difficulties for thousands of small businesses.
The fact that Bartercard now boasts approximately 20,000 businesses as members in Australia alone and operates around Australia and the world, is evidence that what to some looked like a novelty has now become an alternative finance system for small business owners, including EFTPOS cards and lines of credit. Bartercard accounted for more than $25 billion in barter transactions over the past two decades.
Bartercard International's executive chairman and co-founder Wayne Sharpe is convinced that it's the company's unique business approach that has been responsible for defying the odds and being able to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year.
"The Bartercard difference includes a credit card type account system, an extensive member directory, web-based eCommerce solutions and Bartercard's members-only inventory auctions which allow one business to offer up its excess stock for bids.
"We implemented some of these things very early in Bartercard's life, when our critics didn't see how it could be done. For instance, we launched Bartercard with a plastic member'stransaction card when the US based industry was using vouchers.
We developed the functionality of that card and eventually became the first non-bank company to have financial transactions over the EFTPOS system. Some of the banks were hesitant, but we got it up".
"So we always saw this not just as a barter network, but as an alternative finance system for small businesses," says Sharpe, now 53.
He says having extensive training programs and developing a direct customer relationship with trade coordinators has been another feature of Bartercard's success - a success measured against the fact that in its early years of operation, the Southport-based company competed with up to 26 other barter systems and exchanges.
Bartercard is easily the largest of a small list of 3 now. Success didn't happen by accident - over the past 20 years Bartercard has invested $50 million in technological development and more than $150 million in sponsorship and branding, on top of many $ millions and thousands of man-hours on training.