Tornadoes, trust, and transparency

Kitt Letcher, BBB Central Oklahoma

Do you remember learning to trust your boss? If you are the boss now, do you remember when your team began trusting you? I do.

My first day at the Better Business Bureau® (BBB) was May 20, 2013. If you live in Oklahoma, you know that the month of May means you’re at the peak of tornado season. And on May 20, 2013, multiple tornadoes hit Moore, Oklahoma City, and the surrounding areas.

My Start with Trust® Moment

Tornadoes are a normal occurrence in Oklahoma. When the severe weather began, I started evaluating places I’d have to take myself and my new team, but there was no tornado shelter. My first day on the job and on my list of things to expect and anticipate, this situation was not one of them.

My team, many of whom at the time were parents, were desperate to leave and go get their children, but I had to make the unpopular choice and tell them no. I didn’t say no to be mean, but I knew it was safer for everyone to stay o the roads and shelter in place.  That day was terrifying for many across the state—many people lost their homes, belongings, and some even their lives.  We were fortunate to all be safe and not have any damage to our office, homes, and loved ones.

The motto of BBB is Start with Trust®, in that moment, I decided to put my team and their safety first and I needed them to trust me.  It’s fitting that I learned my first day on the job the true extent of what our motto is, and what it means to trust and be trusted.

Transparency and Leadership

The decision to put my team and their safety first was the beginning of the transparency and trust that we run BBB with today. In the following days, I met with each person and outlined my core values, the reasons why I took the job, and the culture I was trying to build within our office.  I shared with them one of my key values: we don’t operate on based on revenue, but truly embrace the fact that we are a nonprofit and that our primary mission is to serve our community.   

At the end of the day, I can be satisfied knowing we are working to make our community a better place. I promised to always be honest with them and expect that same in return. 

We now have an amazing team founded on transparency and defined values because I was willing to be transparent from the start and they were willing to trust that I have their best interest at heart. 

Building a Community of Trust

The tornadoes opened my eyes to an aspect of BBB I hadn’t previously thought much about: sales. At the time, the organization was using an outside sales team to contact local businesses and explain the value and process of becoming an accredited business with BBB.  Soon after the tornadoes hit, I received more than one phone call from business owners who had been accredited for decades. They informed me of calls they received from our outside sales team saying, they weren’t accredited and that they risked losing business in the weeks of disaster recovery ahead because of it.

I was furious and shocked.  I was furious that a sales group would try to use a disaster for profit.  I was furious that they were careless in the fact they were calling businesses who already believed in and supported BBB’s mission.  I was furious what they were doing to the image of a nearly century old local office of a nationally recognized nonprofit.  I contacted the manager of the outside sales group and terminated their services. 

My personal purpose is to make my community a better place.  That is what drives me every day.  The best way to build our community and grow trust starts in our office and with our interactions with my team, consumers and businesses.  We brought a new sales team in house and hired locally.  We developed an onboarding program for any new hire to train on and truly understand the mission and vision of our organization, and the importance of trust.  And we reinforce our core values by walking the talk. 

Disasters can take many forms, our just happened to be a tornado.  Out of this disaster we built a team that puts our community first and Starts with Trust.  Are you building your team on trust?

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