Babe Ruth of Barter

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Chris Sweis Ibart CEO interviewed in article for barter industry called the "Babe Ruth of Barter" for his brash style and ability to hit the home run in business.

Babe Ruth of Barter

Written by: Payton Cubby

“Think BIG!” Those are the first words from Chris Sweis’ mouth as he speaks to a new group of Licensed Independent Sales Affiliates who are beginning their training on barter banking. As I here the words being spoken I can imagine back in the days when the great Yankee Clipper Babe Ruth played and would step up to the plate and either hit monstrous home runs or swing and miss so hard the wind in the stadium would swirl throughout the stands and touch each fan.

Today we live in an economic time where business owners and leaders are taking small steps to grow their businesses and making conservative decisions. In a refreshing change of pace I had the chance to interview a person whose sentences include terms like “Think BIG!” and “We are going to change the world”. Yet he is very humble in his success constantly referencing those around him with phrases like “I am just a reflection of the great people who are a part of my life and Ibart”. Like the great Babe Ruth you never know if you are listening to a genius or someone who is a little off but you know one thing, you definitely want to pay attention just in case he hits one out with the bases loaded. I can tell you this, this is not an average person, an average company, and they are definitely not shooting to do anything average.

PC: What is Ibart?

CS: We are a barter banking firm. We make it easy for businesses to process barter dollar transactions.

PC: What are some of the BIG things Ibart has done so far?

CS: Well first of all we are a TINY barter banking firm and just 31 months old kind of like a little child we are coming off getting our milk in a bottle with a nipple and starting to walk around the house at top speed and bumping every now and then into the furniture. With that said we never started this company with the intention of building a small business we could all make a paycheck from. We started in the time of the BIG bang of the dot coms and saw how companies and their valuations could go through the roof. Yet, we never used that as the reason for starting our business. We had BIGGER dreams (PC: His eyes get wide open now and he gets very animated with his hands and voice) like being the VISA of the barter industry. When you look at VISA you see the created business model in the world and the most dominant company on the planet. Our goal is to be like VISA is to CASH processing IBART will be to barter dollar processing. Now that is thinking BIG.

In our 31 months we have achieved some BIG milestones like

1.    The only barter banking firm at Comdex, National Restaurant Association Show, and many other shows that have never had a barter banking firm as an exhibitor.

2.    We have sent our over 3 billion dollars worth of RFP’s to the world from our banking platform and client base.

3.    We won our first software award at Comdex 2002 for being the best business global e-commerce tool which, were very proud of since it was a world class event in the software industry that we won this award at.

4.    I was honored in December 2001 by being awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Mike Ditka and Senator Patrick O’Malley at the BIG Man Dinner Awards. Even though I won this award it was only because of the great people who make me look good at Ibart.

5.    At the NRA & Hotel Show we launched the first ever online travel booking engine that the hotel industry has slowly grown to love because it automates the bartering of empty rooms without affecting CASH sales.

6.    We recently built the first online payment tool called IbartPay that allows anyone with an email address to receive and send barter dollars to anyone with an email address. Like PayPal in nature just using barter dollars. This makes it easy to pay anyone, anywhere, anytime with barter dollars.

7.    I was honored to speak to the barter industry with such great veterans of the industry like Wayne Sharp, my good friend Arthur Wagner, and other on the future of the barter industry in September of 2002. We were lucky as a company to have IRTA let us voice our thoughts on the industry. Sad to say my words were a bit critical as I talked about how a barter dollar needs to be more of a currency versus a coupon. The good news we got great feedback since everyone in the room appreciated the fact that someone finally spoke about the great white elephant that everyone knew existed.

8.    We created a banking platform exclusively for all charities to help them raise more money in the form of barter dollars. We built this for FREE and donate all our fees to the charities that use this tool. In a time that makes it tough for charities to raise money in a tough economy. This was a BIG thing because we are helping those who need our help the most.

Well these are the BIG things we have done so far and in my mind we have still just only hit the tip of the iceberg. Remember, we still know we are a TINY barter banking firm with over 2,800 merchants in our search engine.

PC: When will you not be a TINY company in your mind?

CS: That is easy, when we have 1,000,000 merchants that our clients can search from to send an RFP to. Then we will be a SMALL barter banking firm. (PC: He says this with a smile)

PC: So when will you be a BIG firm? You seem to shoot so high yet you refer to Ibart in such adjectives that make you seem small?

CS: I smile when I say TINY and SMALL because I know that in our industry that makes us BIG yet our industry is not the stick we measure ourselves by. Not that we look down on the barter industry yet the barter industry only represents about 1% of all businesses in the US today and we want to more like VISA, accepted everywhere. When we see 15% of all businesses accepting IBART then we will see something incredible happen. Critical mass will cause explosive growth within IBART and then we will change the world and the way it looks at barter dollars.

PC: What are some of the failures you have experienced at Ibart?

CS: Well our failures are the mother of all teachers and we have learned our lessons well. Recently we realized that sending out 100 RFP’s can be done by one server and yet when you start getting into the thousands and millions your systems need to be stronger. Crashing servers and having to optimize code to store vast amounts of data was a lesson well learned. It nearly killed our business. You know they say that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Well now we are a lot stronger from an IT standpoint. Some of our other failures include hiring the wrong people. When you are small and growing fast managing people becomes a huge issue and we realized we needed to move to a PEO called Tandem to manage our people issues. Great people are hard to find and yet when you find the great ones you want to be able to offer them the best. Early on we lost some great people that we should have kept and attracted some not so great people because we did not have a great benefits program set up and an HR solution in place.

PC: What BIG things do you see IBART doing in the next 12 months?

CS: We will grow our licensing program and create Eco-Systems all over the country using our barter banking platform. (He says this smiling) I smile because when I started using the term Eco-System in reference to Ibart and building communities that use barter to help improve their economic conditions Mike Patterson who is a key person in our management team used to laugh and thought I was referring to Eco-System as in biology class. Now we see many people using the term Eco-system in terms of Economic System and even referencing IBART. You will see pockets of clients banding together using barter as a way to build up bartering communities within their cities, states, and countries. That is a good start to doing something BIG in the barter industry.

PC: Would you say that would be a home run for IBART?

CS: Yes! When you see a city with 100’s of merchants all whom accept barter dollars and you can walk down the street and see store after store proudly accepting IBART then you have done something that will change the world you live in.

PC: In closing what are some of your thoughts on business, IBART, or philosophy?

CS: In life, as my friend Mike Ditka would say, people remember the Joe Montana’s, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa’s, Michael Jordan’s, because they hit the BIG shot when it counts. What people forget is the fact that for every BIG shot Michael Jordan hit to win the game he also missed many shots that never won a game. Each one of these great achievers new that God gave them one life to live, and they wanted dearly to make that life a memorable one, which would leave many positive memories. I know that when my life is done and all of us at IBART look back we will all have done something that will have changed the world we live in for the positive. I guarantee you that we will swing BIG and when we connect that ball will fly high and far…

Well if IBART grows to become like VISA and is accepted in almost every business we know a little bit about Chris Sweis it’s CEO and that even the “Babe” would smile watching this CEO go to bat every day in his office with his phone to his ear.

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Kelly Collins
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