A Major Award

 By Julie House and Jessica Tharp
If your mind doesn’t instantly envision a leg lamp, stop reading this article and go watch a Christmas Story. Yes. Right now.  Ah yes, how proud Ralphie’s father was when he received his major award. He was eager to display his indescribably beautiful lamp in the front window for all to see and salivate over.  It was never really clear why he received the major award, regardless his euphoric pride for the award is priceless.  My point? We all love to be recognized. When someone else recognizes that we have done something right, it’s a big deal.  Here in Central Illinois the Better Business Bureau (BBB) delivers a unique award; the only major award of its kind - an award to business for ethics and integrity. I’ll be honest, the award itself isn’t nearly as sexy as a leg lamp, but its honor surpasses everything.

For over 100 years, BBB has worked toward a goal of a marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other.  Seems farfetched right?  It will never be perfect, of course, but it turns out BBB really knows their stuff.  According to Jessica Tharp, Vice President, “BBB is the most reliable source for fair and factual information on a business. BBB receives over 10 million views monthly and so far this year we have provided over 82 million business reviews”. That’s not all they do either.  Most of us know you call BBB when you have a complaint or a problem with a business. BBB staff that facilitate those disputes are remarkable.  Locally BBB receives about 50 complaints per day on average but more importantly is able to resolve 89%! Oh and get this, it’s free. Effective help for FREE. Practically unheard of.  BBB is a standards based organization that calls for businesses to use best practices and be honest and truthful. She says that not everyone meets the mark. “Businesses who have earned BBB Accreditation have earned our seal of approval.  BBB thoroughly screens these businesses, approves and monitors their activity on an ongoing basis” Currently just 1600 businesses have earned BBB Accreditation in Central Illinois.

So what does this have to do with an award for ethics?  When we met with Tharp she explained “because BBB is the expert on all things in the marketplace, because we are so effective with dispute resolution, and monitoring advertising and charitable activity.  For 100 years BBB has been advocating for trust. It is clear to us which businesses make the right choices every day-for their vendors, customers, employees and community”.  The nonprofit organization designed the Torch Awards to recognize local businesses that set themselves apart in their ongoing commitment to their vendors, employees and customers in terms of ethics and integrity. BBB says the award isn’t about money, or advertising, or how large or small a company is.  “It is about businesses that set their own high standards and consistently do the right thing”. So the Torch Awards were born in 1999 to honor and encourage this outstanding behavior in Central Illinois.

Not only is this award the only award of its kind, but it’s presented by BBB - the leader in advancing marketplace trust.  But it gets even better.  The Award was designed to allow other businesses in Central Illinois; yes it may even be a competitor; to determine the winner. Three different awards are given based on the size of the company-small, medium and large businesses can be nominated for the awards. Imagine the ecstatic feeling of getting an award from BBB that your competitor may have helped vote for your company; making your company part of an elite group of businesses that Tharp says “aren’t just better than the rest, but better than best in their craft”. The 2013 winners were just announced September 12 at the Gateway Building downtown Peoria. Federal Companies, ServiceMaster of Central Illinois, and Chily's Drywall & Finishing competed against other similar sized businesses in three categories to be selected as the winners of the BBB's 2013 Torch Award for Business Integrity," "The winning companies were deemed to exercise integrity and consistently meet very high standards in their relationships with customers, employees, vender/suppliers, industry peers and our community”, said Tharp.

The BBB’s event included a few other awards too. Mike Lane and Ashley Lane were named recipients of the Jeff Bell Customer Service Award. Ashley, the Office Manager and Special Events director for Jump Start Gymnastics was nominated by the owner of the business noting she is a key reason for their success. Mike, a salesperson and customer service extraordinaire at Pearls & More Jewelry was also nominated by the company's owner. Each exemplifies the character of Jeff "Bubba" Bell, a longtime supporter of the BBB; he worked at Coleman Printing for 24 years. His dedication to his family, community and customer service was extraordinary.
Trouble-Free Heating and Cooling was awarded the Truth in Advertising award for their commitment to leading by example when advertising. President, Dave Osborn stressed, "It's not just advertising, but running a great company from the ground up. That means drug screening employees, and making sure everyone in the organization puts their best foot forward." 

Local media outlet WMBD 31 took home the Partners in Trust award for their attentive coverage of consumer scam updates and news briefs.  

Bonnie Bakin, President and CEO of the BBB serving Central Illinois presented the Patron of Integrity award to Donna Peters of DPA Services and currently serving on the BBB Board of Directors. Donna has been a longtime advocate of the BBB and its mission.  Donna was truly honored that the BBB would notice her and her company's efforts and takes the time to honor her.   

We are so lucky to have such great business in Central Illinois, and the Torch Awards are a great way to encourage more businesses to do things right. All of these people will glow with pride from this award, just as Ralphie’s father did.  Ethics and integrity-now that’s really indescribably beautiful.

You can see pictures of the 2013 Torch Awards event and award recipients on the BBB Heart of Illinois Facebook page.