THE BLOG
07/04/2011 12:45 pm ET | Updated Sep 03, 2011

Running a Business With Dreams But No Money

My nephew, Nick McNay, started a video and media production company in Cincinnati. All startups are difficult, but much harder in a bad economy.

Nick is lucky to be in a hot field.

Businesses of every kind are discovering how to use video to educate their clients. Industries like real estate, education and financial services have become heavy users.

Marketing is something that many businesses cut in a bad economy. The focus of businesses, especially small business, becomes to survive day-to-day and forget about the long term.

Businesses that don't think long term will eventually die out. There is a balance between focusing on staying alive and being able to achieve long-term dreams.

That is where the concept of a "trade out" comes in. A business, like my nephew's video company, offers their services to someone who has a service they want.

It could be something obvious, like a restaurant or grocer. People always are in the market for food.

It could be that a video company trades with someone less obvious, like an accountant or bookkeeper to help keep the company on strong financial footing, or a law firm to help them with legal matters.

I would love to trade my financial wisdom with someone who is good at technology. Both fields are ever changing and there is a need to stay on the cutting edge.

Most businesses are more eager to pay in services or products than to write a big check.

I worked at a radio station that mastered the art of trading out. They traded advertising for car leases, phone systems, restaurant discounts, (I was once "paid" with 50 breakfasts at Hardee's) and apartments that they used to recruit out-of-town talent. Also, lots of concert tickets.

The station had a full schedule of ads and received goods and services they could use or trade for cash.

I watched a man use trade outs to create a business from scratch.

My father had a friend who owned a printing company. Twenty five years ago, he looked at dad and said, "I'm going to start a high school basketball tournament."

He had no money, just a dream and the ability to hustle and think creatively.

He went to a hotel, which agreed to give him a block of rooms on a weekend when it would normally be empty. He gave them a tournament sponsorship and an advertisement in the tournament brochure.

With the hotel signed up, he lined up a fast food restaurant and an airline on a similar plan.

He then went to some of the top high school teams in the country. He promised to fly them into his city, put them up in a nice hotel and feed them. A number of big-name schools signed up for the free trip and to play against top-notched competition.

He then went to a number of local schools. Offered them the chance to play against big-time competition in the tournament if they purchased a block of tickets in advance.

Once he got money from the blocks of tickets, he used it to rent the arena and print the program. He then sold other ads, sponsorships and tickets.

He made a huge profit. All on his ability to trade services.

Even in an economic crisis, there are opportunities for those who are flexible and willing to "think out the box."

If someone has a service you value, offer your expertise instead of cash. You will be stunned at how often the offer is accepted.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University. McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery. McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

You can read more about Don here.