By Bill Smith, BBB Investigator
In the beginning, Mike Rottler said, his decision to seek Better Business Bureau accreditation had little to do with dollars and cents.
It had more to do with becoming a better corporate citizen – aligning his business with people who shared his values and his commitment to customer service. “It just seemed that it was something we should be doing,” said the owner of Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions in Charlack in St. Louis County.
It was not until later, Rottler said, that he began to see BBB as a partner that brought real value – and real customers – to the company that his father began in 1956.
The value, he said, came from BBB seminars, a trusted rating system that attracts business and a strong system of self-regulation.
“Anytime you can police yourself, it’s much better than the government coming in and trying to police you,” Rottler said. “I’d much rather get a call from BBB than the attorney general or another law enforcement officer. It’s a lot better to get a warning than a ticket.”
Rottler said he believes it is important for companies like his to protect their BBB ratings by making good faith efforts to address customer complaints. “We work hard to make sure we keep our A+ rating,” he said. “We know it’s fragile.
“At the end of the day, what does a business have but its reputation?”
As an 18-year Accredited Business, Rottler is neither one of the oldest nor one of the newest seal holders in the St. Louis region’s BBB system. In its 98-year history, BBB has accredited virtually every type of business — from law offices to mortuaries, from car dealerships to landscapers. Currently, BBB Serving Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois has more than 6,500 Accredited Business partners and offers an ever-changing array of services to assist them in their work.
It is a rich and extraordinarily diverse group – in types of business, geography and size. BBB Accredited Businesses come from the small towns of rural Missouri and Illinois, the river communities of Hannibal and Cape Girardeau and from the bustling neighborhoods in and around St. Louis. Some have hundreds or thousands of employees; others have only one.
George “Butch” Welsch, president and owner of Welsch Heating and Cooling in Maryland Heights, said his father first turned to BBB more than 40 years ago, during a particularly notorious time for the HVAC industry. At that time, Welsch said, BBB was involved in a campaign to clean up a system where so-called “furnace men” went door-to-door offering free heating system checks. Too often, these unscrupulous operators were using high pressure sales and scare tactics to coerce homeowners to authorize unneeded repairs, Welsch said.
When Welsch took over his father’s business years later, he retained and strengthened his involvement with BBB. “My goals have not changed,” he said. “I want to improve the image of businesses in general and specifically that of the HVAC industry.” He sees BBB as an aggressive partner – and friend – in that struggle.
BBB has undergone dramatic changes in the years since our earliest businesses were accredited. The Internet has brought services to businesses and consumers that previously would have seemed unimaginable. In 2014, St. Louis BBB received 2.7 million business inquiries, an average of more than 7,000 a day, and the majority of those came through BBB’s website.
David M. Hoffmann is owner of Gaines HVAC in St. Louis, a heating and cooling business whose accreditation with BBB dates back nearly 70 years.
“As a service company, it is vital for our clients to know that we have a history of treating our customers right, by providing them quality service and installations,” he said. “BBB accreditation gives our customers a peek into that history.”
As consumers have becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet for information, Hoffman said there is a critical need for verifiable information on businesses.
“Having a source you know and can trust is so valuable,” he said.
Kirk M. Verseman, president of Missouri Floor Co. in Maryland Heights, said the company’s accreditation 40 years ago was seen as a way to underscore the company’s emphasis on honesty and fairness.
Then as now, he said, BBB accreditation demonstrates the company’s support for BBB principles and standards of trust.
He said he often hears from customers who refer to Missouri Floor’s strong BBB rating. “It lets us know they check the (BBB) website before selecting a contractor,” he said.
Like other accredited business owners, Don Brown, who heads Don Brown Chevrolet in St. Louis, said it was his father who first recognized the importance of BBB. Brown said when his father started his car business in the early 1960s, he was looking for a way to separate himself from the bad business practices of some of the car dealers of that day.
When Brown took over the business in the mid-1990s, it seemed natural to continue on with BBB. Now, he can’t imagine not being accredited. BBB has a system for weeding out the bad actors and highlighting the good, he said.
“I want to do business with good people,” Brown said. “I think everyone does.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Torchlight magazine for BBB Accredited Businesses and Charities.