Since 1962, the Better Business Bureau has been serving Vancouver Island to create trust between consumers and businesses, and most importantly, to help businesses become the best they can be. The amazing team at the BBB VI achieves this through a variety of programs, events, and outreach projects. We sat down with BBB VI’s President and CEO, Rosalind Scott, to learn more about their amazing work.
What does the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver island provide and what is your mission?
“We’re complex. We are trying to create a marketplace where consumers and businesses can trust each other. Which is not a very complex kind of equation in terms of thinking about it, but actually doing it is very complicated.”
Rosalind explains that they work with both consumers and businesses, regardless of whether a business is accredited with the Better Business Bureau.
“Basically, on the consumer side, we consumers when they have difficulties with businesses…what we ask is that there is a real business transaction taking place–that it’s a real customer and a real business who have come to an impasse of some kind over a product or service.”
First, the customer and the business need to have some sort of communication with each other to try and sort out the problem, before the BBB steps in.
“If they can’t, we become a mediator in the middle. We do not take the side of the business, nor do we take the side of the consumer. We try to bring them together in a reasonable conclusion.”
But that’s only one piece of the equation–the BBB VI also helps businesses directly.
“For businesses, we help them to be the best that they can be. We have all kinds of educational programs and services to help them be really fantastic. And we have some amazing businesses that are accredited with us. The idea is, if you’re an accredited business, the consumer should know that when they come to you they’re in good hands. They’re safe.”
Rosalind explains that it’s not like a business can just write a cheque to become accredited–they must be awarded the accreditation after meeting certain criteria.
“They’ve gone through a process to prove that they are a really good business that has good business practices, and if there’s a problem, that they will deal with it in a reasonable and fair manner…You actually have to be screened, vetted, and actually pass [to be accredited].”
“We also call out businesses for being bad businesses. If we find really bad actors, it could just be a conversation around how to fix the problem, or it could be as serious as working with the RCMP and somebody ends up behind bars. So, kind of one end of the spectrum to another.”
Part of this, Rosalind explains, is reviewing business ads to make sure they are ethical and effective for the consumer.
“You have to advertise properly. It’s not only Canadian law, but it’s something that we track and look at as well…it’s not a punitive process, it’s meant to help businesses have good advertising so they can get consumers using their service or product. If you say you have the best pizza in the world, you actually have to prove that. Because that’s also not fair to the guy across the street who also has a pizza place, and that’s not a message that consumers actually like to see.”
“If people have substantiation of what they’re saying, then consumers have more faith in what’s going on. Consumers don’t like when they’re being misled…So that’s where bad advertising goes wrong for businesses and quite often they just don’t realize it. We work with businesses to help them to correct that.”
Like checking up on business’s ads, Rosalind and the team at the BBB VI also check for businesses that may be misusing logos.
“We catch out a business that is displaying a logo that they actually shouldn’t be displaying–primarily ours. People think, ‘I’ll just stick the logo on my website’ and it’s like no, you can’t say you’re an accredited business if you actually haven’t gone through the process and been awarded the accreditation. So we ask people to remove that if they’re doing it.”
A new program, BBB4Good that is currently in its pilot stages, helps identify businesses on Vancouver Island who are socially conscious.
“We have a brand new program called BBB4Good and it is a trust seal for socially conscious businesses–businesses that have a purpose–but that are also for-profit…Not greenwashing, not just giving to the United Way at Christmas. That doesn’t cut it. [Being socially conscious] actually has to be built into the business plan.”
“That program is actually in a pilot phase right now and will be officially launching later this year. Very exciting!”
Another BBB VI program that helps both businesses and consumers is their website mechanism called Scam Tracker.
“We have one of the big mechanisms for tracking and informing the public about scams and frauds. The Scam Tracker is an interactive map of North America with pins…if you hover on the pin, it’ll tell you what scam is happening in that area, how many people have been affected, what kind of money they’ve lost, and how to protect yourself. So, it’s pretty cool!”
“As an extension of that, I go out into the community and talk to community groups and show them how to stay safe. We do that as a public service. I really like doing that, it’s really fun. Primarily, I get asked to talk to seniors and small-business groups. They seem to be the two that really like that stuff.”
Finally, one of the bigger events for the BBB of Vancouver Island is their annual Torch Awards that recognize excellent businesses.
“We have a Torch Awards program that we do in the fall every year, but unlike other business excellence awards, we don’t allow businesses to nominate themselves. It must come from a customer, so people who have had an amazing experience with a business can nominate them for a Torch Award. When we have our big celebration we actually read those testimonials out, and it’s pretty amazing. Every single year one of the judges cries. Because some of the things businesses have done that are above and beyond are just so amazing.”
I hear you have a special event coming up–the Connect Us networking event. Can you tell me what’s happening with that?
“So, we are doing a new event coming right up on June 1st (2022) and it is an event that will showcase five rising entrepreneurs. They each get to do a 90-second pitch and explain to experienced business leaders what help they actually need. But, just to make it even more interesting, we are engineering tickets so half of the room will be full of entrepreneurs, and the other half will be full of experienced business leaders. So even if you’re not one of the five that gets to pitch, you’ll still be able to connect with business leaders, make those connections, and hopefully find mentoring and guidance.”
This event is extra special because everything has been donated by Greater Victoria businesses, and it will raise money for the Kinsmen charity for cystic fibrosis as well.
“It’s a zero budget event where everything at the event is donated. You’re going to see some amazing food from some of our wonderful restaurants. We will have a cash bar, where all the proceeds will go to the Kinsmen charity for cystic fibrosis. Spaces at Uptown, which is a gorgeous coworking venue, is actually donating the space to us, which is super generous of them. And I have volunteers from Workday coming to engineer the event on the day. It’s going to be really fun!”
How did you get involved with the BBB?
“I gotta tell you, I have the best job in the world because it’s never boring. I actually got started because I was head-hunted. A friend of mine was associated with the BBB at the time and he asked me to come and talk to the board. I did, and I actually thought they were asking for advice. I didn’t realize I was being interviewed!”
“The chair of the board at that time was Nigel Brown of Ruffel and Brown, and he kept coming back to me and asking me to take the job, and I’m like, job? I must have seemed like a complete idiot, but long story short, they didn’t stop until I said yes. It was completely awesome.”
Rosalind says that a few days later they came back and said they forgot an important question that might be a dealbreaker: can you travel?
“I’m thinking hey, the service area is Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Haida Gwaii, and Power River so sure, I can get in my car! They said, ‘thank God, can you go to San Francisco next week?’ It’s an international association with meetings all over, with the very good part being, I love travelling! So it was awesome, I get to do some very fun stuff.”
“I’ve been here for 13 years!”
Can you tell me a bit about the history behind the BBB of Vancouver Island?
“We’ve been around for 50 something years. So we’re a very established, old organization. The system in general has been around for 100+ years and gone through many many iterations.”
“I think the unfortunate myth of the Better Business Bureau is that we’re here with a big stick making sure that people are in line, but that’s actually a really ancient view of the BBB. We’re here to celebrate good businesses, and we’re here to help businesses be the best that they can be.”
“I think you’re going to see the branding change to Building Better Businesses. Because that is, in fact, what we do. ‘Bureau’ is kind of like, what are we, the FBI?”
“I think that we’re younger now, and we’re more entrepreneurial. Because we’ve been around for so long, people hang on to that ancient perception of us, and we’re working very hard to turn that around.”
Rosalind explains that another myth people have of the BBB is that they are a government agency who has a lot of money. That is not the case.
“We have no government money of any kind, ever. We are a non-profit incorporated company. My staff are absolutely utterly amazing–I wish they made millions of dollars. They don’t. But boy are they good at what they do.”
What is important to you and your team in the workplace culture at the BBB of Vancouver Island?
“That people actually believe in what we do. And I’ve had people work here who could have undoubtedly gotten a higher paying job elsewhere, but it’s the BBB mission, values-based piece that brings people here in the first place and most of my staff have been with me from day one.”
“We’re all kind, honest, happy, gentle people. There’s no drama here. It’s quiet, it’s friendly, and people believe in what we’re doing. So that is a culture that I really like. And my staff support me too, which is amazing! You know, I get to dash out the door and go on planes, trains, and automobiles, but my staff are here, down in the trenches, doing the really heavy work all day long. I never walk out that door and worry about what’s going on. They are terrific.”
“Trust is what we’re all about. That, in fact, is our tagline: ‘Start with Trust.’”
Is there any special ingredient to making the BBB of Vancouver Island as amazing as it is?
“I think the challenge for any business, for any association, is to stay fresh, to stay young, and to be constantly looking at what you’re doing to reinvent it. During the pandemic if I heard the word “pivot” one more time, I would’ve probably screamed. But actually, it’s what businesses should be doing all the time.”
“You’ve got to look at everything with fresh eyes, come at it with excitement and enthusiasm, and be prepared to let things go if they’re not what people need anymore. That’s what we’re doing all the time–looking at the business scene and asking how we can be more helpful. How do we make sure that we’re doing the best job we can do?”
If someone had never heard of the BBB of Vancouver Island, what is one thing you wish you could tell them?
“The thing I think that’s a little bit sad, is people come to us after the fact with very sad stories–they’ve been scammed, they’ve had a horrible experience with a bad business, they needed to find the best window cleaner but just kind of did it on their own. We hear the after the fact a lot. And that makes me sad on the consumer side. On the business side, sometimes we help a business in a particular area and they go, ‘I wish I had known about this five years ago!’ So I wish we could get to people sooner or quicker or better.”
“This is real life–as we are talking, businesses are doing something wrong, they’re doing something right, they’re going out of business, they’re just starting business. We don’t know, and there’s no way we could be on top of all that. So we need people to come to us and share the good, the bad, and the ugly.”