This can be a big challenge: There are times when your products simply do not move or movement is inadequate, and cash is king.

The small business seldom has the flexibility of the big, established business. There is usually less credit available, and expenses like wages and salaries have to be addressed in a timely manner. Apart from commissions, wages and salaries are coming around in spite of whether or not you sell your products. If you need cash, you have to get creative at times.

What should the small operator do?

If the problem is not a lack of financing but the inability to sell the products, then the movement of the product must be the main focus. If the product is right for the market and the times and sales are still slow, then promotions and advertising are what one should look at first. Let people know what you have and how it can work for them. Then offer incentives for them to buy. Give them reasons to act now and explore the options of suitable packaging, distribution, credit, and discounting that can help to get people buying. Sometimes during a cash crisis, profitability becomes secondary.

What about bartering? Search Google for “modern bartering” to get some ideas pertinent to your business. According to the Colorado Springs Journal in 2004, bartering accounted for over two billion dollars in goods traded among North American companies. Bartering is a business idea. Money is a way to measure value, but it does not have to be exchanged directly for every transaction. Someone has something of value and you have something of value. Relating these things to money sets a benchmark of value and you can exchange knowing that there is some agreement of fairness.

Centuries ago, traders did just that. It was normal to offer, for example, cotton in return for tea and other such commodities. Moving along the trade route, the astute trader knew what was needed where and what was available.

Look at what you sell and who might need it. Then see what these people might have to offer. The deal does not have to involve the exchange of money.

What about reverse buying? This idea has fewer possibilities but is still something to look out for when your hands are tied.

Years ago, we sold a product to a firm, and they had stocks that were not needed because the equipment was not in use anymore. We were able to buy back the remainder of the product at a much-reduced price and sell it to a similar manufacturing firm at near market rate. This was a win-win-win for all concerned. Opportunities like this come from a good understanding of your business and customers—and having a good relationship with them.

Buy items on consignment. Many items can be obtained on consignment, meaning that the seller understands that any stock in good condition that is not sold will be returned. This is used by people who are planning a party and are not sure how much liquor will be consumed. The day after the party, there is a tally and a return of unused items, and everyone is happy.

Cash moves both ways. It goes out when you spend and comes in when you sell Hence, when you have stocks of anything that you do not need it has tied up your cash. So, if you are unsure about how some items might move—whether in your production process or otherwise—you might convince a supplier to get into an arrangement like consignment. If for some reason the seller is more optimistic than you are about the prospect of selling the items, then he or she might quickly agree to such an arrangement with you.

If it is time to get creative, step up to the challenge!

Author's Bio: 

Alrick Robinson is the author of The Small Business Survival Guide: Insights into the First Two Years. I invite you to download a free chapter and introduction to by book at You may also visit my blog at where I share small business resources and survival tips weekly.