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.”

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-Palmer 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-Palmer 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-Palmer 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-Palmer said.

Most of Flamer-Palmer’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-Palmer.

“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 Palmer-Flamer 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-Palmer’s business visit allfamiliessurrogacy.com.

Holiday Weekend Statistics Infographic

Thanksgiving weekend is just over a week away! BBB has compiled statistics for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday in the infographic below.

Which statistic(s) stands out to you the most? Let us know in the comments section!

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Four Myths of BBB

Fact Myth Tablet Means Correct Or Incorrect Information

There are plenty of urban legends out there, meant to entertain you with their mystery and spookiness. There’s the one that warns to never flash your headlights at a car who has theirs off and there’s always some tale of a man with a hook.

There are even some myths about the Better Business Bureau. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths associated with BBB.

BBB is a government agency

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The Better Business Bureau is not affiliated with any government agency. It is actually a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. It was established in 1912 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then BBB has grown to include 112 BBB locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Learn more about what BBB does by watching the 90 second “Why We Are Here” video.

BBB is for consumers only

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BBB prides itself on helping consumers make smart choices when searching for a business. One of our goals is to help consumers identify trustworthy businesses and those that aren’t. However, we also do a lot for businesses, whether they are accredited or not. We offer business reviews, mediation services, advertising opportunities, a business magazine and industry driven webinars. At least three of those services are available to non-accredited businesses. Learn more about what we offer by visiting bbb.org/northwest.

BBB only reports complaints

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Not true. We actually provide customer reviews as well. BBB Customer Reviews allow customers to post positive, negative or neutral reviews about organizations with which they have done business. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interaction. Write your customer review today by visiting our Customer Reviews page.

No one uses BBB

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Staying relevant is extremely important to BBB. That’s why we have an outreach program designed to inform both consumers and businesses about the organization. Did you know that every four seconds someone searches a business on bbb.org? In fact, nearly seven million customers visit BBB website each year looking for a company to hire. And 95 percent of consumers recognize the BBB Seal. What’s more, seven out of 10 customers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.

People know the BBB and when they need help learning about a business they oftentimes come to us.

So consider this one myth busted.

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.

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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.

Military Millennials: What’s Your Emergency Savings Tactical Mission Plan?

Military Millenials 6.30.16

Written by guest blogger Letty Stevens, AFC®

Millennial servicemembers, do you have an emergency savings SMEAC? Whether you’re just building emergency savings or adding to it, here’s a basic emergency savings tactical mission plan for you to use today. When you have a plan, it’s easier to save.

S: Situation

M: Mission

E: Execution

A: Administration and logistics

C: Command signal (terms, code and signals)

SITUATION: If you are not saving a percentage of each paycheck to create an emergency savings account and to save for your financial goals, you may have a serious situation on your hands. What stops someone from saving up for his or her financial goals? Let’s think about this. The opposite of saving is spending, and you are surrounded by this enemy every day. This enemy is highly trained in the marketing of its product. When you go into a grocery store, you are the target.

From the music you hear to the colors you see, everything is strategically implemented to get you to spend your hard earned money. Even Harvard contributes to the science of marketing. It’s no wonder so many people are in debt!

MISSION: The mission of Military Saves is to help you reduce debt and build long-term wealth through financial action. So, how do we learn to do this?

  • Reading: It is best to learn from those who are succeeding at financial management. Reading about financial management is a good start. You are reading this article, so we can check that box.
  • Speaking: Make talking about your finances a healthy conversation by focusing on goals. But who can you talk with? Who do you trust enough to speak freely about something as personal as your finances? If you are married, please start the conversation with your spouse. I reference this list before speaking with my spouse about our finances. If you are having a hard time speaking with your spouse about your finances, you can always get free assistance from financial professionals on your installation. Military OneSource also has financial counselors available, and they are just a phone call away.
  • Doing: This situation requires a plan. A financial plan is unique to the individual because it often depends on what you value. What do you value? When you know what your values are, you can easily identify where you want your money to go and, more importantly, where the financial holes are. This is the beginning of a budget. The younger you start learning, the more you can save.
  • Teaching: It is our parents who provide the foundation for our adult lives. Unfortunately, not everyone learns good money habits from their parents. If this is the case, teach yourself. Newly married couples teach each other. Parents, teach your children.

EXECUTION: Start the conversation today! The sooner you begin reading and talking about savings, the sooner you can start to change your behavior to line up with your financial goals. What percentage of your pay can you save per paycheck? When will you set up that automatic savings deposit at the bank? Who is your buddy who will hold you accountable? You have a stable paycheck and numerous resources to help you along as you create your financial plan and work on your financial goals.

ADMINISTRATION: You are the sole administrator of your finances. When a married servicemember deploys, the spouse often becomes the administrator. Should you seek expert advice, again the free financial counseling found on your installation is the way to go.

COMMAND/ SIGNAL: You are a confident servicemember. Are you confident that you can reduce your spending and increase your saving? Since you’ve already started by reading this blog, you should be confident. Keep reading, keep learning and keep saving.

Set a goal. Make a plan. Save automatically.

FTC Battles Scammers Targeting Minority Communities

Stop Fraud Means Rip Off And Con

On Thursday the Federal Trade Commission released the report “Combating Fraud in African American and Latino Communities: The FTC’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan,” describing their work on assisting and educating African American and Latino communities. The report takes a detailed look at what needs to be done in order to promote public awareness.

Anyone who is actively working to serve these communities would benefit from reviewing the report. Sadly, the FTC’s research found that African American and Latino communities are known to under-report scams, despite being more likely to be targeted by scammers.

The types of scams they typically fall prey to include employment and debt scams. This includes work-from-home opportunities and debt relief scams. The best way to combat these types of cons is to educate and inform minority communities about these dangers and encourage them to report the crimes.

The FTC plans to expand its efforts in informing these communities by building networks with community organizations, visiting the areas with low-rates of consumer fraud reporting, and by further developing its law enforcement efforts to stop frauds affecting these communities.

The agency has scheduled a workshop for Dec. 6 in Washington D.C. to bring together groups that serve these groups, as well as state and federal law enforcers to study how the changing demographics of the U.S. will affect fraud prevention work in the future. More information can be found at  www.ftc.gov.

Other Resources

Better Business Bureau is another resource for anyone who believes they have fallen victim to a scam. They can research possible scams in their area on BBB’s Scam Tracker or by calling their local BBB office.

In the meantime, here are some important tips to remember to avoid falling prey to scammers:

  • Do not give Social Security, financial or other personal information to strangers who make contact by phone, internet or mail.
  • Keep antivirus software up to date and be careful when surfing the Internet.
  • Shred financial, tax, medical, insurance and other confidential records when no longer needed. Visit Council of Better Business Bureaus to find a shredding event in your area.
  • Trust your instincts. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A Conversation with Expedia Leadership

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A lot has changed in the past 20 years. Instead of collecting VHS tapes we now have a queue for movies in Netflix and Amazon. America Online was once the most popular website around and people “logged in” by plugging into a phone jack.

Technology is rapidly shifting, which means businesses have to be able to respond to the change. That’s something online travel company Expedia has managed to do since its inception in 1996. The Seattle based business started out as an online travel booking site owned —not surprisingly —by Microsoft. Today, Expedia commands 10 additional online travel sites including: Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, HomeAway and Hotels.com. The company has positioned itself as a trailblazer for online travel booking. Expedia became an accredited business with Better Business Bureau in 2000 and despite its exponential growth, has managed to maintain that status for more than 15 years.

This month John Morrey, Vice President and General Manager and Nick Curry, Global Customer Operations talked about the company’s past, present and what’s happening in the future.

When you look at where Expedia started 20 years-ago, how has it changed?

John Morrey:

Expedia was founded at Microsoft, with technology at its core and very much a PC-first business. But we were also among the first established legacy players in the industry to recognize the opportunity created in travel with the rise of mobile devices. And so Expedia has undergone a complete overhaul, as it relates to technology. One thing powering this shift is the fact that Expedia essentially has more data than anyone in the industry at its disposal: who wants to travel where, when, how, with whom. By leveraging the company’s tech roots and our test-and-learn approach to product development, we’ve tapped into and scaled that vast trove of data to generate smart tools and insights for travelers and partners.

How has it stayed the same?

John Morrey:

Expedia is as much a technology company as we are a travel provider. We’ve invested heavily in new technology, and are making huge strides in utilizing data to improve the experience for travelers at every stage – before, during and even after they return home. We continually build and ship new services to pass knowledge onto our customers around the world. Despite the many changing variables in the travel industry, our mission is fixed: to power the best travel brands in the world to deliver best-in-class customer experiences.

How is Expedia growing in terms of business and investments?

John Morrey:

We remain focused on the test-and-learn method and using it to optimize and innovate. Obviously, 2015 was a busy year for the Expedia, Inc. portfolio as we brought on a number of exciting brands like Travelocity, Orbitz and most recently, HomeAway. We’re excited about the opportunities these new brands present. We feel very well-positioned in the global travel market.

What projects are you currently most excited about?

John Morrey:

We’ve been busy adding new platforms to our mobile app since it was first introduced. The Expedia app saves time and money when booking travel and the interface is easy to navigate and requires fewer than a dozen taps to select a flight. But I think what travelers enjoy most are the notifications and ease of use, all necessary information is at your fingertips and if your flight is cancelled, your hotel is overbooked, or you need to speed up the time to book a car, we update you immediately. These seemingly small notifications and features help save time, but also help establish peace of mind that Expedia is operating on your behalf no matter where you are or what device you’re on.

How has the travel industry changed in the past decade?

John Morrey:

For one, transparency. For travelers, being able to see real customer photos and reviews instills confidence when you’re scrolling through hotel and flight options online. And when sites like Expedia require Verified Reviews, the fear of being misled fades. Another change is tied to technology. Twenty years ago, planning a trip involved little to no technology, often nothing more than phone conversations with travel agents. Expedia changed that dynamic, putting the booking power into consumer hands. Our tech platform, and the people who make it run, is what has allowed us to integrate other travel brands onto the Expedia platform. It powers our ability to continue investing heavily in technology so our customers get tools they need and our suppliers can trust we have the best data.

Another change is tied to price. Recently debuted on Expedia.com, Upgrade Options help airlines compete on more than just price, empowering customers to make the airfare choice that’s right for their travel occasion. The ability to have more control over what, exactly, you’re paying for has been a big change, and win, for customers.

What trends are you seeing in the travel industry?

John Morrey:

The importance of data has never been lost on us. We’re a data-driven company. Customers now arm themselves with as much data as possible when making travel choices. Our research shows that travelers search nearly 50 times across the web before they feel confident enough to book air travel. Insights on price changes, the best time to book and where to get the best deals are all critical data points these days.

These days, we also understand that the experience of moving back and forth between mobile and desktop should be seamless for consumers. They’re getting smarter every day, with more data at their fingertips. Planning trips is also becoming increasingly complex, however, as more options are added. We spotted the mobile trend early and have been tightly focused on it. From iOS and Android to Windows Phone and even Apple Watch, Expedia’s apps are designed to be the ideal travel assistant. Together, our collection of Expedia travel apps enable customers to browse and book everything from hotels and flights to rental cars and local activities on the go and access up-to-the-minute trip details and alerts in a simple, efficient way.

Expedia became an accredited business in 2000. Why do you feel it is important to retain accreditation status?

Nick Curry:

We want to provide transparency to our customers so they feel confident that Expedia is a business they can trust.

It is natural for larger companies, such as Expedia, to receive a high volume of complaints. Despite this fact, Expedia has managed an A+ rating with BBB. What do you credit that success too?

Nick Curry:

Without a doubt, our reputation is built by our agents who work tirelessly to provide thoughtful and helpful resolutions to customer cases. Booking travel with Expedia not only saves money but also connects you with customer service representatives who are there for you when issues arise. They are intelligent, resourceful and most of all, dedicated to ensuring service issues are resolved.

Why is it important to address complaints or concerns from customers?

Nick Curry:

We are passionate about travel and want everyone to have a great end-to-end experience with Expedia. When that doesn’t happen, we want to hear about it so we can understand what went wrong and use that insight to make the experience even better for the next customer.

Expedia has been honored with a number of awards and accolades, which award stands out to you most? Why?

Nick Curry:

We recently were awarded the 2016 People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Mobile Site & App in the Travel Category. Our efforts to exceed our customers’ needs have led us to invest significantly in our mobile offerings. As new technologies emerge, we want our users to be among the first to utilize them. We’re very proud that our app delivers such a welcome experience to our customers.

Did you know? Expedia offers a business rewards program. Business travelers can earn rewards through the Expedia+business program. Registration is free. Learn more at expedia.com/business.