With 32 BBB experience and 22 years as President and CEO of the BBB in Columbus, Ohio, Kip Morse was tapped to lead IABBB in early 2021. Kip is known for his commitment to integrity, and has launched programs such as the BBB Torch Awards for Ethics, the BBB Spark Awards, the Center for Character Ethics, the BBB TrustScore, and other programs that focus on the role of honor and truthfulness in personal behavior and in business performance.
Kip served on the boards of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, as well as a number of other committees and leadership roles within the organization.
Connect with Kip on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Standards of Trust
- Leadership Character
- BBB Impact
- Stakeholder Involvement
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix.
Intro: We’re broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Association Leadership Radio. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here another episode of Association Leadership Radio and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Kip Morse with the International Association of Better Business Bureaus. Welcome, Kip.
Kip Morse: Hey, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: I am so excited to talk to you and learn more. Please tell us a little bit about the International Association of Better Business Bureaus. For the folks who aren’t familiar. I’m sure everybody’s heard of the Better Business Bureau, but the Association for Better Business Bureaus is exciting, and I’m excited to hear about it.
Kip Morse: Yeah, so better business girls have been around for 110 years now. We’ve got 95 babies and 165 different locations in North America. And so we have an international association that does fairly new. We’ve always had an umbrella organization, but we broke away from a much larger association. And so for our line of business, this is the association that that runs b v dot org and serves the stakeholders of the biz and provides resources and brand alignment across North America to help those babies have the biggest impact in their communities.
Lee Kantor: Now, can you educate us a little bit about the history of the b b? How did that get started?
Kip Morse: Yeah, really, one of the first babies was out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and they were really formed for business owners getting together and recognizing that in the free market, free enterprise system, there’s a responsibility required to operate a business and that we should set standards so that the government doesn’t have to come in and and provide all sorts of regulations. And so it was really around responsibilities. There was Rotarians oftentimes were a big part of the first VBS that were getting started, and then it kind of just moved across the country and local communities decided to start their own lives and set those standards for how to operate and separate themselves from those businesses that that were taking advantage of the system and taking advantage of consumers now.
Lee Kantor: So we’re kind of organically grew at the beginning.
Kip Morse: At the beginning it did. And then then they felt as though the need was to have an association. So there’s been a number of variations of of the association, but yet it organically grew. I knew I started with a and down in northeast Florida, and that actually started within the Chamber of Commerce as a better business division. And then once they realized that the missions were very different and that we were evaluating businesses based on standards, they separated from the chamber and became a better business Bureau. So some are 110 years old and others are more like 50 years old. But yeah, the collaboration of communities that move towards having a better Business Bureau.
Lee Kantor: Now, once you’re in a market, how does that work in a given market? So you have your you have overarching kind of standards, right, that you’re saying this is how we recommend businesses you serve and these are kind of the rules of the game. And then you look for local business people to raise their hand and say, I agree with that.
Kip Morse: Yeah, pretty much so. But because we have robust data and we build profiles on businesses and and businesses come to us because we have a rating system, it’s around introducing businesses to what all the value of the Better Business Bureau is. We consider it a community of trustworthy businesses. So in the older days it was more of the guardian of public trust and and businesses would support us because they’d say, yes, we want there to be a better Business Bureau. We love the work you do. On protecting the community from scams and and evaluating businesses that are aren’t operating properly. But then it kind of shifted more. And our focus is much more now around building better businesses. And so when a business is in a community and they need help and they know that trust is the the number one component that’s going to drive success, they want to understand what what trust means. And so that dives into customer service and dispute resolution and leading with high character leadership and ethics and and and involving yourself in the community. And so we set those standards and then try to convey those to businesses and help them if they’re not properly licensed and they want to be a part of our community, we help them get properly licensed, work with them in any way, shape or form that they need assistance.
Lee Kantor: So it sounds like over the years it’s evolved and but it’s always around standards, standards of trust and character, things like that.
Kip Morse: Yeah, we always say standard based organization. We’ve got we’ve got the standards that we evaluate businesses on in order for them to become accredited with us. And if they become accredited with us, it opens up the opportunity to work with us on a lot of different initiatives. And then we’ve got even higher level standards where we just finished up our internal International Torch Award for ethics. And we evaluate businesses based on character, culture, community and customers. And so those businesses really kind of highlight what we stand for and what the brand stands for. And so we utilize them to, one, honor them, but then also showcase this is what it looks like. These are businesses that that put a lot of are very intentional around how they build out those four quadrants.
Lee Kantor: Now what are some of the challenges in the in the markets that you serve it Is it do do companies embrace the b-bbee as they once did? I remember when I was younger, that was like kind of that stamp of approval that this was a b-bbee organization. So I knew I can kind of trust it. And in today’s world, with so many, you know, online Yelp reviews, things like that, people are going to other places for, you know, kind of at least a glimpse of what trust could be.
Kip Morse: Yeah, that’s that’s why we do a lot of collaboration because absolutely, we encourage them to go to lots of different places because there’s a lot of different aspects of trust. We want to build more into our business profiles and we’re doing that, but we’re still looking at upwards to 20 million people coming to our website every single month and and looking for businesses they can trust. And the fact that we have 165 locations. So I refer to it as boots on the ground. We know the players in the communities and we can we can have a lot of data on them. And so if a company, let’s say a company is going south or has an F rating and they they know that that’s it’s very difficult to operate with an F rating if consumers are coming and finding that out, if they decide to shut that down and open up another company to try to get a better rating, we have that information in our database. And and we can tie that to their their business practices and vice versa. If they are operating a fantastic company and they open up another company, we know the type of a business that they’re going to operate. So it’s it’s a matter of using the data and then engaging in the local communities and and working with those businesses. And when you say that that seal, it’s really the sign of a better business is what we’re there monitor it and it’s it’s still incredibly valuable to businesses so that they can they understand that consumers are looking for businesses they can trust and they know that we’ve evaluated them based on standards. And if they decide or if there’s something takes place where they all of a sudden decide they’re not going to respond to complaints and resolve them satisfactorily or they’re no longer licensed or they end up with a government action, then they lose that accreditation and it affects their ratings. So it’s an opportunity to to work with the business and try to understand what they might be struggling with.
Lee Kantor: Now, in your role as the CEO of the International Association of Better Business Bureaus, the you’re helping those people in the local markets kind of serve their community better and giving them best practices, giving them tools that they can use and implement locally.
Kip Morse: Exactly. The goal of the international association is how how would an enterprise level can we can we take the responsibility of whether it’s whether it’s marketing, whether it’s the infrastructure in the in the website, the user experience coming to the website, consistency on the website for our business resources and content. How can we deliver that so that the local VBS can spend their time with their expertise of working with the businesses and, and really having the most impact that they have? So we don’t we don’t want to build a system whereby local B&Bs have to do so much data integrity work that can be done at the enterprise level. We want to give them the resources so that their marketing to businesses and their marketing to consumers is effective and done at the at the level that a brand like the B-BBEE is required.
Lee Kantor: So you’re trying to take kind of the back office heavy lifting from technology and data management off their plate so they can focus on that kind of, like you said, boots on the ground shaking hands and kissing babies, part of the the networking and marketing locally.
Kip Morse: Yeah, exactly. But. But the shaking hands and kissing babies is is a lot more intensive. They do a lot more of dispute resolution answering calls from consumers, working with businesses, evaluating them based on standards, having they all have their local boards of directors. And so they’re really having to evaluate whether a business is still worthy of accreditation. And then they’re engaged in collaborations and partnerships, whether it’s with the SBDC, the SBA or other associations that that trade associations that really have high standards of trust for their own members. So there’s. You know, they’re never at a loss for a work to be done at the local level.
Lee Kantor: But it sounds like over the years, their role has evolved from not just being a directory of these are accredited resources, but you’re also trying to help those local businesses, you know, maintain and stay trustworthy and give them tools themselves to serve their clients better to uphold the standards of the Beeb.
Kip Morse: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the best case scenario case study is Phenix, San Diego and a couple of additional locations. They actually have incubators, co-working spaces, Kiva hubs, where they have small business loans that they provide. And so they’re working with really new young entrepreneurs that are catching them early on and helping them build their businesses out. That’s been kind of a wave across North America where there’s going to be more of those co-working spaces. Some of it started before the pandemic, but the pandemic obviously was with opening up some of the spaces and people working from home on the on the back rooms areas. It opens up those spaces to be collaborative spaces that businesses love, and that enables us to have those conversations with businesses like we’ve never had before.
Lee Kantor: Now, you’ve been with the Beeb for quite some time. Is there a story that stands out to you of maybe a local business that joined and really was able to take their business to a new level because of that, you know, stamp of approval via the BPP.
Kip Morse: Well, I mean, there’s there’s all sorts of there was there was one. And so I ran the Columbus V for 20 years, and there was one in Columbus that was already a really good company. It was a bank. And and we really worked with them on taking it to another level with some of the programs that we have with the Trust Store and and the Student Integrity Awards and the Torch Awards. And so they became very intentional about wanting to develop a culture of high character within their organization. And they used a lot of our resources and it ended up becoming a torch award for ethics recipient. And and it was we used that as a case study for really taking it to another level. But then there’s stories where you have a business that has a all of a sudden has a C or D rating and they’re in the roofing industry and and they’re upset that they have that rating. And we we bring them into the office and we say, okay, we reviewed all these all the complaints. And it seems there’s a common thread here that that delay in responding to those complaints and the light bulb went off for them and they said, you know, we give bonuses to our to the to the leads at the team leads on the different jobs if they don’t get any complaints.
Kip Morse: And so what’s happening is they’re making sure those complaints don’t ever make it to the Home Office. And so they’re kind of doing what they can, but it’s not sufficient. They change their entire model based on the data that we had. And and they no longer saw those complaints and their rating began to improve. So it’s insights into business models that people might have. And if we say there’s a pattern of complaints and this is what it looks like, it might be their advertising, it might be that they they’re promising something that they can’t deliver. And and so we can help share with them that this is deceptive and misleading because you can’t deliver on it. And so they make changes. And and we help them understand what causes that rating to go bad.
Lee Kantor: Now, do you have any advice for other leaders of associations when it comes to you know, when you’re working, it’s almost like a client’s client, like your people are working with business people locally. So when there’s organizations out there that have chapters may be and then they’re dealing with members, is there ways that you’ve learned that can help the communication and the sharing of best practices get disseminated quickly or efficiently throughout the network? You know, in a in a way that, you know, kind of gets those learnings out of the hands of maybe one person that’s doing an innovative thing into the hands of others.
Kip Morse: Yeah. I mean, really around collaboration. I mean, whenever I talk to businesses, I’d say, you know, you get to cover your ABCs, you should be a part of it at your trade association. Part of the Better Business Bureau and a part of your Chamber of Commerce. Now there’s lots more as well with the SBDC and the SBA and and, and different groups to work with. Now, with young entrepreneurs, there are so many different incubators and work groups that we are we can we can go to those and we can present modules or trainings on building trust within your customers, whereas they might be doing everything from finance to accounting to budgeting or whatever else they’re working with the business on. So it’s a matter of collaborating and finding what is really your niche in terms of educating a business. And and let’s let’s work together on that. And so we’ve got, we’ve got a national MOU with the Sbdc so that we can share what resources they have and then vice versa, they can share the resources that B2B have.
Lee Kantor: So what do you need more of? How can we help?
Kip Morse: Well, I think we we need more businesses to to understand and seek out the B2B and understand that we’re much more like you said, we’re much more than a a website for consumers to check on businesses. It’s really more about businesses finding out how their local Better Business Bureau can walk hand in hand and helping them grow their business, develop trust within their community, and and use a lot of the resources that we’ve developed and the cost savings alone on on a number of the partnerships that we’ve got is immense. And so I think it’s. Explore your local Better Business Bureau. It’s not your grandfather’s breed and and see what you find out.
Lee Kantor: And for those who want to learn more, what’s the website?
Kip Morse: You can go b-bbee dot org and and the way that our website works is you will based on where your IP address is coming from, you will be open up to your local communities view site and then you can change that. If you’re if you’re wanting to check out other sites and other locations, but go to that org and that’s there all centrally located right there.
Lee Kantor: And then once you do that you can drill down to the the b-bbee nearest you and then reach out and contact the person running that.
Kip Morse: Yeah. You can contact the person running that you can we have a live chat built in so you can do a live chat right there on the spot. And there’s a section on that site that says for businesses. And so you can even just kind of do your own little review and see what they have for businesses and and get a sense of all the different resources that are available.
Lee Kantor: Well, Kip, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Kip Morse: Thank you very much, Lee. I appreciate being on.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Association Leadership Radio.