J-Liebert1CCTelling a national and local audience about the Better Business Bureau’s mission is the biggest challenge the organization faces, according to its new executive director.

Jonathan Liebert has been at the helm of the BBB of Southern Colorado for three months, and he’s already educating the community about its benefits. The BBB reviews business practices and will accredit companies if they meet standards set by the national BBB. If the business earns it, the area BBB office will give its seal of approval, showing the buying public the business has passed the trust and ethics test. It also investigates about 175 complaints against businesses every month with its staff of 16 people in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The local BBB has an annual budget of $1.2 million.

What lured you to this job from your position of vice president of enterprise at AspenPointe?

With health care reform, there were a lot of changes, and it took my job more into the health care realm. I really missed the business community and being directly involved in the community. I was excited about the opportunity to run another nonprofit, and this nonprofit works directly with the business community.

What does the BBB do? 

Its primary function is to promote ethical, trustworthy businesses. The BBB is a great example of self-regulation. We are not a government entity; we are a nonprofit. We provide free information so people can make better buying decisions.

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We’re a nonprofit organization that’s really trying to put the best of the best out there with accreditation, and they have to earn it. Some people think if you just write a check, [the BBB] will give you an A-plus rating, but that’s not how it works. We are trying to support business and good entrepreneurs, which in turn will create a better economy, which in turn will create a better community.

Talk about the complaints.

When people go online, they can look and see if there have been any complaints. We have a new feature — a customer review — and they can be positive or negative. Most of them are positive. We want to make sure we provide good, unbiased information so the customer can make better buying decisions. We take complaints and investigate them. You’ve got to sign your name to a comment. You can’t be anonymous. You have to state the issue, the timeline, what happened and what you’re looking for in terms of a solution. We let the business respond. Then we go and verify. If you are accredited, you have signed a document saying you will do what you can to resolve this complaint. We have a staff member who focuses on going through the complaint process and working with the businesses to get the complaint resolved. We also make customers in the community aware of any scams going on.

How much are dues for businesses?

It varies, depending on the number of employees in for-profit businesses. If a nonprofit wants a charity seal, it would be based on revenue.

Talk more about the value of accreditation.

It’s meaningful to a consumer and it’s also meaningful to Google. If you are accredited and use the BBB insignia, your business will pop higher in the rankings on Google. Businesses get their own page on our website. Accredited businesses get to put a photo and more information on the site. Just for Southern Colorado, we have about 700,000 inquiries on our website a year. People are coming to our website to inquire about businesses.

What does it take to be accredited?

There are seven points for the accreditation process. They’re listed online. Obviously, they’ve got to be in practice for so many years, and they can’t have any government actions or legal suits leveraged at them. It’s not so difficult to pass, but it’s not easy. I think it’s good middle ground. Once [a business] goes through the process, my board will vote them in, so a group of their peers actually has the final say.

Talk about “competitors” like Angie’s List and Yelp.

There are people doing things similar to what we do, but not exactly. Nobody does what we do. They’re not competitors; I see them as potential partners. On Yelp, people can write a comment; it’s all anonymous. The same person can write a comment five times. But how accurate is it?

We’re partnering with porch.com. If you want to hire a contractor, you would go on porch.com. If you look up a business on porch.com, it will show you whether they’re accredited with the BBB. If they are and you click on the link, it will take you directly to our page.