What the Alaskan Bush People taught me about business


I am a sucker for a good Discovery Channel TV series. For about the last 18 months I’ve been hooked on all things ‘Alaska’, and have recently got into a new show airing in Australia called Alaskan Bush People.

It’s the story of a family who live off the land in the remote wilderness of Alaska.

What does this have to do with anything you might ask? Well, nothing, I thought. Until this week’s episode got me thinking.

Without money and in need a of an electric generator, the featured family set out to ‘barter or trade’ what they had to offer in order to get what they needed.

What they had to offer was time, skills and man-power. A series of ongoing trades that included labour, fish, DVDs and wood, eventually saw them get their generator and live to fight another day.

They needed something, but didn’t have money to pay for it. But they still received it in the end, because they were willing to offer something else of value.

It got me thinking, if the Alaskan Bush People can trade time, skill and labour for valuable items, we all can. I know I have in life, perhaps without even realising.

In business, thinking back, I definitely have. In starting Hook Media without funding, we needed to be flexible enough to ‘barter’ and ‘trade’ our skills, time and labour for necessities.

A perfect example is our office rent. We exchanged guidance and help with social media strategy to a business in exchange for rent. We have exchanged work for references, as well as other benefits such as networking and information gathering.

Coincidently,  that final point, trading time and labour for the ability to gather insights and information came up in a recent podcast I listened to with Australian entrepreneur Ludwina Dautovic.

She mentioned that she will often offer 30 minutes of one-on-one consulting with people, just for the exchange or ‘trade’ of having them complete a 10 minute long ‘information gathering’ survey. No money is exchanged, but both parties are providing valuable commodities for each other.

In fact we ended up having a twitter exchange (above) about the topic, which was great, when I reached out to Ludwina on Twitter to say that I enjoyed hearing about her journey, and that the concept of offering time for information had resonated with me.

So what is the major takeaway from all of this? I guess, it’s the fact that there is always more than one way to get something. Can’t afford something for your business or life? What can you exchange, barter or trade for it…

Students should take special note of this. As I’ve said before, the ability to use your often abundant free-time to improve yourself is a major advantage over others. What could you be learning and achieving, simply by offering something of worth back to another party?

Follow me on Twitter at @RyanMobilia here or connect with me on LinkedIn here.

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