Launched in Minneapolis, BBB marks 100 years


The Better Business Bureau, now internationally known, was launched by Minneapolis business owners 100 years ago. Fed up with shady competitors harming their trades and reputations, they sought to establish a standard of ethics for the advertising industry. Just four years later, the name “Better Business Bureau” surfaced, and has since become a cultural institution in the United States and Canada, with 122 branches across the two countries.

The non-profit organization is a non-government agency whose mission focuses on integrity, honesty, and transparency in business, offering a neutral ground for mediation and resolution. While their genesis was in concerns about truth in advertising, they have grown to cover internet scams, fraud, and automobile lemon laws. The organization monitors advertising and even offers a Senior Program to educate the elderly about ongoing scams. Local chapters address the needs of the local community rather than broader national trends, with their website hosting a regular stream of regional scam-related news.

Eighty-five percent of Americans prefer to work with companies accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and many identify the organization as the first thing they think of concerning business rankings. In Minnesota and North Dakota alone, the organization receives between 24,000-25,000 complaints each year—resolving approximately 90% of those.

While the agency was founded by businesses, they serve both sides of the relationship. As a non-government entity, decisions are non-binding. However, as BBB Communications Coordinator Dan Hendrickson explains, “We think self-regulation is always the best option.”

“If businesses are able to police themselves and employ best practices,” he said, “it’s better for them and it’s better for consumers. … It also eliminates the need for further restrictive government regulations.”

As the first Better Business Bureau, the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota strives to maintain a leading example. The office has won a BBB award for excellence in communications, has been honored as a top place to work by the Star Tribune, and annually challenges more business advertisements than any other chapter. The organization employs 46 people between their offices in St. Paul, MN and Fargo, ND,

“We strive to be a progressive BBB,” Hendrickson said. “We haven’t lost that ‘pioneer spirit’ which led to our being the first BBB in the country.”

To celebrate these accomplishments, the BBB has a full calendar of events throughout 2012. First, a documentary will air on TPT on January 22. Also in the works are a Scam-a-thon, a reception at the Governor’s Residence (also turning 100 this year), and events at the state fairs of both MN and ND. For a full listing of events, visit their website.