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Washington Company Supports Employee Growth

zeroezWritten by Kirstin Davis, Marketplace Director Eastern Washington/North Idaho

Tenaciously smart, no jerks, be real, bold regard and coolness.

These could be considered adjectives or community pool rules, but instead they are the core values of Zerorez Spokane. The words stand life size inside the company building in Spokane Valley.

Skateboards, beards, massage loungers, mascots and Foosball.

These could be things you see on fraternity row at a University, but instead they are the visuals you see as you wander the Zerorez Spokane warehouse. When 23-year-old Jeremy McGee decided he was going to honor his entrepreneurial spirit, he started with the fortitude and energy of all the above.

“I just wanted to have something I could build, something that would allow me to work with people, grow my talents and theirs too,” he said.

McGee climbed into his first and only cleaning truck in 2004. But he didn’t have many jobs that first day. So, he got out and started knocking on doors.

Eventually his perseverance and customer service skills paid off and one truck turned into multiple trucks. As McGee matured so did the business and McGee knew things were progressing to another level.

“The most monumental tipping point was moving from being a technician and actually doing the work to being the leader,” McGee said.

Eventually, McGee stepped away from operations and marketing and hired directors for the roles. This allowed him to focus on mentoring his team so they could make day-to-day decisions independently. Today, Zerorez Spokane employs 30 people and has a fleet of 14 trucks.

The Zerorez warehouse is a playground of support, creativity and elbow grease. Company culture is a priority for McGee, who fosters personal and professional growth for all team members. Many technicians clean carpets for two to four years and don’t imagine being in the position long term.

“We are completely transparent when techs come on board,” McGee said. “This is an opportunity for them to grow in a span of time and then move on to bigger and better things, and that’s what we hope for them.”

Tyson Chapman was one of the first cleaning technicians for McGee. He worked his way up to a technician leader and became part of the management team. Eventually, Chapman was ready for more and McGee was more than happy to continue supporting his ambition.

In 2014, they strategized a plan to take the Zerorez brand to the Tri-Cities, with Chapman taking on the leadership role. McGee would provide the start-up funding, hiring and marketing resources while Chapman took to the streets with a cleaning van. The first month was the most successful in franchise history. Last year Chapman bought McGee out and today Chapman has five trucks servicing the Tri-Cities.

“If you are about yourself and try to make a buck, that can work.,” Chapman said. “If you in turn do something for others, you will grow.”

You won’t find a community service policy at Zerorez, however it is big part of the culture and authentic. It may be in the form of a food drive, pink shoe covers in October or donated cleaning services.

“If they see a need to take care of somebody that is in grief or need, they can act on it,” McGee said. “Technicians feel empowered by this ability to give back. It’s not a mandate —we don’t regulate it.”

McGee’s products are simplified with alkaline based and oxidized empowered water.

“We were green before green was cool,” McGee said.

High temperature water and efficient equipment allows them to clean without using soaps or shampoos, which are designed to attract dirt.

Cleaning inside people’s homes is a very personal service and requires excellent customer service and trust. Legitimacy and reputation is a priority for McGee and was one of the reasons he decided to become a BBB Accredited Business in 2011. According to McGee, customer service satisfaction for the industry is on average 30 percent, but Zerorez sits at 82 percent. McGee said they set goals to improve the customer experience.

“It’s helped us really know how we can better serve the customer,” he said. “It gives us something else to watch and learn from.”

Even as an established entrepreneur with a young family, McGee sleeps well.

“It is a simple industry,” he said. “What allows me to sleep at night is knowing that we’re being honest and doing the right thing and the customer gets to see that happen personally.”

Missoula Builder Offers Tips of the Trade

jbuilthealthyhomesWritten by Dan Buchta, Montana Marketplace Director

The real estate market has been heating up in the Northwest region and home values have been shooting up. Home values are so hot across the state of Montana that many are looking to reinvest in their home by considering home remodel projects. Still, others see it as a good time to cash in on their home’s rising value so they can build their dream home on a new lot.

For some, taking on a home remodeling project can be intimidating. Then there is the time and effort that goes into building a home. From selecting the lot, floorplans, finishes, securing financing and even finding the right builder —it can be one of the most daunting projects ever attempted.

Jason Townley from J Built Healthy Homes, LLC knows the realities of constructing a home. Two years ago, Townley relocated his home building business to Missoula from Kalispell. He got started in the home building business more than 30 years ago, as a carpenter for a Master Builder and over the years he has expanded his talents and training to include all aspects of construction from design and planning, materials selection, built in furniture design, paperwork, etc., all the way to completion of the project.

To help promote his business in a new city, Townley turned to Better Business Bureau. The BBB was a household name where he grew up, just 20 miles outside of Boston. He

associates the BBB brand with trust and said he finds himself more likely to hire someone with the BBB seal.

“When I moved to Missoula, I didn’t really know many people and nobody knew about my business,” he said. “I figured that I would be more likely to hire a business with the BBB seal and that there are probably a lot of other people out there like me who feel the same way.”

Jason likes to work with a small to medium sized crews and to be involved on-site from start to finish on every project.

“For me it is great because it is always different, it is always changing, you are not just framing house, after house, after house –which gets boring,” Townley said. “When you build a house, side it and then go inside and build the cabinets, built-ins, and trim —it gives you an appreciation for when you are framing the house on how the whole project is supposed to come together.”

It is also a very different landscape for finding help today than it was five years ago. It seems there has been some pent-up demand for building, remodeling, and home repair services and now consumers are aggressively hiring for these services. What does that mean for people looking to build their dream home? They will find that builders and remodelers are less willing to discount their services as they might have in the past. Because discounting could mean cutting corners.

“Watch out for builders or contractors who are more like sales people,” Townley said. “They may have a silver tongue and quote you a price that is in your budget, but then they start the work and they tell you that the job will require extra time and more money.”

He also advised for people to trust their instincts.

“You should have a good gut feeling about the person you are going to hire. This person may be spending weeks inside your home,” he said. “Make sure it is someone you feel good about being there.”

For anyone taking on a home remodeling project or building a new home it’s important to be patient with the timeline.

“People watch HGTV and all these home shows and they see a home get a complete makeover in two days,” Townley said. “A lot of time, that is what they expect when they hire a contractor or builder. It is unrealistic. It takes time to get a job done right.”

It is evident that Townley is passionate about his work. While he is a licensed contractor, he prefers the title of builder.

“Contractors just do the paperwork,” he said. “Builders do the paperwork, manage the subs, and actually do the physical work. I love doing the physical work that is involved in building a home – that is the fun part.”

When asked about the biggest challenges of his job, he stated he tries to share and articulate how the finished project will look by laying it out on paper. Two people can look at the same layout with a different perspective. The challenge is getting on the same page as the homeowner and making sure the finished product meets the vision the homeowner had at the start of the project.

“I just want them to be happy,” he said. “And I want to make sure that the finished job meets their expectations.”

Idaho Business Fueled by the Sun

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Written by Emily Valla, Senior Marketplace Director

As Carl Simpson points out the contraptions on a roof at a Meridian home, his eyes light up. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and why he does it. For the past seven years, Simpson has installed more than 1,000 solar tubes as part of his Treasure Valley- based business, Renewable Energy Northwest.

You may have heard of solar panels providing electricity to homes and businesses —and Simpson can do that too —but, his expertise is on solar thermal energy. Think, heating your hot water by the power of the sun.

The tubes sit on top of a roof, on an exterior wall, or even on the ground, and absorb energy from the sun. Simpson describes the unit as two glass tubes with a vacuum in between.

“The ultra violet rays go inside the tube, and (the inside) can be 400 degrees in an hour even at negative 30 degrees,” said Simpson.

The outside, however, would match the temperature.

BBB Credibility

Renewable Energy NW became BBB Accredited in 2012. Accreditation is important to Simpson, because he doesn’t have many competitors, which isn’t typically why businesses seek accreditation. What Simpson does is unique, and he often finds potential customers don’t know much about solar thermal energy. When they go to seek other quotes, Simpson says they don’t always find other options. So, to establish credibility, he sought to align with Better Business Bureau.

“(It’s) extremely important that we deliver satisfaction and affordable renewable energy solutions,” Simpson said in an email.

He wants his customers to do their homework and find he is committed to upholding BBB Standards.

Solar Power Savings

Simpson regularly outfits existing homes, to the tune of about 80 per year, but he does just as many new construction homes. He says that’s where there is the most opportunity: solar energy can be integrated into the design from the start. A large portion of Simpson’s business is commercial projects.

One of Simpson’s favorite projects was a car wash in Fruitland. He says the installation paid for itself within 18 months, when comparing the cost savings over natural gas to heat the water used in the wash. A CPA by training, Simpson pays close attention to the numbers when it comes to cost savings. He wants clients to be aware of incentives available to them for installing the solar units, and he sends links to the possible options along with quotes before beginning a project.

Potential cost savings are a big attractant for potential customers, as are environmental impacts. Simpson says his system is 94 percent efficient, and can function on days with minimal sunlight. Customers often begin with just heating hot water, which Simpson says is about a quarter of most customer’s energy bills. If they’re interested, customers can also do heating and cooling systems, including radiant floor heat. Simpson says homeowners with pools are often attracted to solar energy.

For those considering making the switch to solar thermal energy, Simpson encourages them to do their homework. He suggests asking questions about permitting and what the installation process is, as this is an important safety step.

Important questions to ask include: What is the strategy to prevent overheating? How will the installed units look? What is the warranty if anything breaks? As satisfied customers are the core of Simpson’s business, he offers a 10-year warranty on panels.

And to ensure he’s doing everything he can to assist the customer he welcomes customer feedback.

To learn more about Renewable Energy NW visit renewableenergynwllc.com.

Portland Business Is a Family Affair

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Written by Veronica Craker, Content and Communications Director

When Carey Flamer-Powell and her wife welcomed their daughter in 2011, it sparked a passion to give back that ultimately launched her Portland business, All Families Surrogacy.

“Once we had our daughter it was this amazing feeling of someone giving us a huge gift,” Flamer-Powell said. “There’s no way we could create that gift without the help from a perfect stranger.”

The same-sex couple turned to a fertility clinic in Portland to find a donor to help them have a child. For them, the process was relatively easy and within a year of trying, they were parents. But Flamer-Powell knew their case was special and there were families all over the world finding it difficult to have children.

In 2014 Flamer-Powell created All Families Surrogacy and her business exploded with growth.

“We went from zero to a very full clientele in about three months,” she said. “Surrogacy is a very high demand in the United States because there aren’t very many countries that do it.”

The most common form of surrogacy, and the one Flamer-Powell practices, is gestational surrogacy. With this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is simply the carrier and has no biological or legal ties to the baby.

“We are sort of the last country that practices it ethically, meaning all parties have separate legal representation,” Flamer-Powell said. “All parties are fully informed of the risks, legally, medically and psychologically.”

Compensation for surrogates can differ, but there is typically a base fee of $30,000 for first-time surrogates and $35,000 for experienced surrogates. This doesn’t include other expenditures that might pop up during the process.

“The biggest misconception about surrogacy is that people think surrogates are doing this for money and nothing could be further from the truth,” Flamer-Powell said.

Most of Flamer-Powell’s staff, including herself, have served as surrogates. This has provided everyone with a unique perspective on the process and has helped them create a warm environment for both the parents and the carrier.

The Surrogates

Angela Padilla, who serves as a surrogate case manager, was a surrogate for another company before going to work for All Families Surrogacy. She said she didn’t get the type of attention and support she was hoping to get when she signed up. But she’s found that with Flamer-Powell.

“I just wanted to help a family have a child because it happened so easily with me and my husband,” Padilla said. “Really, the parents should get the credit. Everything they’ve been through as parents, I don’t know if my husband and I could do that.”

Why BBB

About a year into her business Flamer-Powell decided to become BBB accredited. She said it is a way to offer peace of mind to her clients and surrogates.

“I want to ensure surrogates and the parents, we’re here for the long haul, we’re transparent and ethical, we have nothing to hide and we’re trying to do everything we can to provide stability in the world of surrogacy,” she said.

To learn more about Flamer-Powell’s business visit allfamiliessurrogacy.com.

Lunch Dates for Busy Singles

meet-me-for-lunch

Written by Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager

Patti LaFond, owner of BBB accredited coaching and matchmaking company Meet Me for Lunch in Anchorage, met her husband, Chuck, at a ‘break-up’ party she and her ex-boyfriend threw when their relationship ended after seven years.

Yes, that’s how they met.

LaFond started out as a tour operator and eventually specialized in Alaska tours for single women. She advertised the tours in AlaskaMen Magazine as “Experience Alaska and meet Alaskan men along the way.”

The themed packaged tours brought groups to Alaska six times a year, visiting Anchorage, Kodiak, Skagway, Fairbanks and Seward. That was how LaFond honed her matchmaking skills. Meet Me for Lunch evolved from these singles tours to a local service where Patti could facilitate introducing single people to each other to create long lasting relationships.

LaFond, who didn’t know anything about professional matchmaking, checked out other dating franchises before deciding to start her own company. She advertised in magazines, TV, radio and word-of-mouth resulting in a dating machine signing up an average of five people a day. This didn’t exactly sit in line with her values of bringing couples together for long-term relationships —not simply a revolving door dating service.

Today, matchmaking is just one part of her company. Her subsidiary, Dynamic Dating, is the coaching side of her business which includes in-person sessions and two signature eight-module programs. According to her statistics, there have been 90 plus marriages, with another 52 percent of people in her database in long-term relationships.

LaFond is a big supporter of Better Business Bureau after becoming accredited in 2009. She likens her business to a therapist’s office where everything discussed is personal.

“How else would someone check me out because everything is confidential,” she said. “I tell people to check me out with BBB.”

One of her successful matches was Alicia and Conrad Froh who met in 2009 through MMFL and married in 2012. Both were in their mid-50’s at the time. It was Alicia’s second date but Conrad’s ninth or tenth and he was about to give up.

Alicia had tried online dating sites before without success.

“There are too many variables that are missing on online dating sites. You don’t know what you’re getting,” she said. “With Patti’s company, you must pass a background check —she takes out the unknowns.”

When asked about consumers using online dating sites compared to a fee based matchmaking service like hers, LaFond responded that online dating sites are not competition.

“Go try and figure it out on your own,” she said. “Get the ball rolling. You are casting a big net going online with hardly any filters.”

LaFond believes personal coaching and the singles events she organizes sets her apart from other dating companies and has been a component in her success. She adds that woman feel safe using her services because she screens all participants.

LaFond believes dating is a bit different than it was 20, even 10 years ago. In the past, it was customary for men to be expected to pay for the date, while today splitting the check is totally acceptable. It was also once customary for men to make the initial phone call, but today women often make the first move.

One of the biggest differences now is how couples communicate. Between texting, email and social media the dating scene is constantly changing.

But LaFond points out one thing to remain constant is women still seek her out for discretion and security. While men use her services because it is more efficient and less time consuming.

They simply need to show up.

To learn more about Meet Me for Lunch visit meetmeforlunch.net.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About BBB

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Better Business Bureau has been serving consumers and businesses for more than 100 years. That’s more than a century of helping to advance marketplace trust. While you may be familiar with our grading system, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about BBB. So let’s take a look at some of the services and missions we work at every day.

Here are five things you didn’t know about BBB:

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1. We are here for servicemembers and vets. 

The BBB Military Line is a consumer education program that offers a MobileMi$$ion app, which provides resources for vets, active duty and retired military personnel. The app is designed for transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families to help them navigate their finances during the shift from active duty to civilian life. This app provides access to educational activities, a financial mentor, and peer chat support on the go, wherever you are.

Want to speak to someone in person? Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest is available to give presentations to military personnel on scams and identity theft, wise buying, car shopping, buying a home, investing in higher education and much more. Contact our Marketplace Development Team at marketplace@thebbb.org.

Handshake - Business deal concept

2. Request a Quote

This one is specific to Accredited Businesses only, but is important to note. Once businesses receive accreditation they can install the Request a Quote button on their BBB Business Review page so customers can quickly and easily ask for estimates, information or proposals from the business.

But wait, there’s more. If a customer is looking for a bid, but doesn’t know which company to go with, they can send requests to multiple companies. Find out more at www.bbb.org/northwest/quote.

Email Computer Key For Emailing Or Contacting

3. Serve as mediators. 

BBB has been helping resolve disputes between businesses and consumers for more than a century and whether your company is a small local firm or large national corporation, we are here to share our expertise and experience with you and your customers. A panel of approximately 1,000 professional arbitrators–predominantly attorneys–partner with the BBB system to provide arbitration hearings that are local and yet consistent with overall program mandates. The programs are developed for specific industries, including automotive, telecommunication and moving and storage. This service helps both businesses and customers save time and money when handling legal issues.

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4. We are looking out for our future.   

Teenagers are making economic decisions every day and with advances in technology they are doing a lot of it online. But who is educating them on how to be smart consumers? Our Marketplace Development Team visits high schools across the northwest educating our youth about identity theft, social media safety, scholarships and financial aid. They can come out to your organization and present on these topics. Locally, we host a $10,000 scholarship contest for a high school senior who personifies high ethics, as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic accomplishments.

Scam Alert Indicates Rip Off And Advertisement

5. We investigate scams.

BBB Scam Tracker provides consumers across North America with a place to report scams and fraud and to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities. All 112 BBBs operating in Canada and the United States are collecting information from consumers and processing data, which is shared with law enforcement agencies for use in identifying and prosecuting scammers. Go to bbb.org/scamtracker to see the interactive map and see what scams are happening in your area.

This is just a fraction of the types of services BBB offers. To learn more visit bbb.org/northwest today.

BBB Customer Reviews – Great for Businesses Too

Are you familiar with BBB customer reviews? They are not just for consumers; businesses can benefit from them too!

Customer Reviews Infographic for Blog

To learn more about customer reviews, go to http://go.bbb.org/akorww-review. Customer Reviews from a Brand You Trust!

9 Local Businesses Win BBB Torch Awards

guest blogger 3Written by guest blogger Savannah Kimball, BBB Washington Outreach Manager.

Better Business Bureau proudly hosts an annual awards program to provide businesses with the opportunity to be honored for their outstanding achievements. Every year we have recognized one business in each of BBB’s service areas—Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. For the 2015 Torch Awards program, we decided to ask the judges to select three recipients in each service area in the Small, Medium and Large Business Categories.

Savannah Kimball, Washington Community Outreach Manager for BBB
Savannah Kimball

The entries from the 85 finalists were evaluated by independent panels of influential leaders from the business community. These judges volunteered their time to thoroughly assess the company’s commitment to BBB Standards, its involvement in the community and the thoroughness of the application.

“What a privilege to recognize local companies that preserve a solid commitment to best practices,” says Brenda Hansen, Vice President of Business Development at Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. “The Torch Award promotes the importance of honorable business traditions, and the willingness made by these outstanding businesses to ensure ethical standards endure.”

Congratulations to this year’s 2015 Business of the Year recipients! Thank you for valuing ethical business practices and marketplace trust.boyt2015

Alaska Oregon Western Washington
Large Business of the Year
(51+ employees)
CIRI Alaska Tourism Corporation Vacasa ATGStores.com
Medium Business of the Year
(11-50 employees)
The Wilson Agency John’s Waterproofing Company Westhill Inc
Small Business of the Year
(1-10 employees)
Hogins Plumbing & Heating Cauble & Cauble LLP Graham & Graham Eldercare Consultants LLC

BBB welcomed entries and nominations from all for-profit organizations, regardless of size, in Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. BBB Accreditation was not a requirement for entry, nor was it considered in the scoring process.

#BBBinRipCity: Why the Trail Blazers/BBB Partnership Works

bbb_trailblazers_sponsor_headerIt’s game time! As the Portland Trail Blazers enter the NBA playoffs as a No. 4 seed, capping off what has been an exhilarating 2015 season, many wonder just how far they will go. But for Better Business Bureau, who is a proud sponsor of the Blazers, it can’t get much better than this.

BBB and the Blazers entered into a partnership last year sharing a common interest in educating, community support and consumer protection. And with the help of BBB’s Accredited Businesses, the Blazer/BBB partnership has come to fruition.

So, was it worth it?

You better believe it.

Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation.
Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation in March 2015.

I was in awe last month when I watched 18-year-old Spencer Mitton of Anchorage, Alaska, accept a $10,000 scholarship check from BBB CEO Tyler Andrew in front of 20,000 cheering fans during the Portland Trail Blazers halftime show. It was a huge moment for this young man, BBB and the Blazers because it reinforced the commitment that both organizations made to improve the lives of young consumers.

Like the Blazers, BBB strives to stay relevant—which has been increasingly difficult in today’s digital world. A partnership with the Blazers put BBB back into the mix.

During the 2014-15 season, the Blazers partnership connected BBB with 950,000 fans across the Northwest. With the support of our Accredited Business partners, BBB’s brand and mission was showcased in front of fans during every home game, in the community, at an exclusive watch party, during the first-ever Blazers/BBB Business Summit at the Moda Center and now in the playoffs.

This is a partnership that works—for everyone.

BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.
BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.

“We have already had the pleasure of working successfully with BBB,” said Steve Scott, Trail Blazers Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Marketing & Sales. “Based on our experience with BBB during Secure Your ID Day, we know this partnership will provide security to many deserving members of our community.”

Now with the NBA playoffs in motion, BBB and our participating Accredited Businesses have an even bigger opportunity to leave our mark. As thousands of fans pile into the Moda Center, they’ll see BBB’s seal on the LED board, hear about our mission over the radio and read about us in the Rip City Magazine. This connection drives trust and connects consumers with an added resource to help improve their lives.

Just ask Spencer Mitton, who created this 90-second video about BBB:

His video entry on how BBB protects people from identity theft earned him a scholarship to BYU so he could pursue a career in engineering.

So the next time you’re at a Blazers game, or when you’re watching them on TV during the playoffs, look for the seal and be reassured that the Blazers/BBB partnership is not only working, but making a difference to the people we serve.