Matt Barrett jumped into the Colorado Springs business scene about seven years ago when he took a job with the UCCS Small Business Development Center — and he’s been a major part of the business community ever since.
He left SBDC early in 2011 to take a job as COO of Graham Advertising, but announced in April that he was accepting an offer to become CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.
He replaces Carol Odell, who had held the BBB’s top job for more than 20 years.
Barrett took some time to talk to the Colorado Springs Business Journal this week about the state of the organization and his plans for it in the years to come.
Why are you excited about your new job with the Better Business Bureau?
I’m more than excited to be back out in our community, interacting with all of the small business owners and advocates. Although I value my time away from the small business environment and learned an immense amount in a relatively short time, I quickly realized I thrive on and feel recharged by getting to help small businesses be successful.
What do you hope to accomplish at the BBB. Any goals you’d care to share or changes on the horizon?
My two goals are to grow brand awareness and to provide and show more benefit to our members.
While the BBB has a widely recognized brand, it’s not top of mind for many people when they begin making a buying decision.
For example, I just ran into a younger girl a couple of weeks ago, and she hadn’t ever heard of the BBB before and wasn’t aware of the services we provide.
Granted, not everyone is as naïve as she was, but I also come across a lot of people that think of the BBB only as a place to file a complaint when something goes wrong and don’t ever see it as a place to research and compare options before buying and potentially preventing the need to file a complaint. This is important to me because the more aware consumers are, the more value we can bring to our members.
What are the BBB’s greatest challenges nationally? What are the local organization’s biggest challenges?
Online reviews are a way of life now. We’ve all made countless decisions on where to spend our money based on other people’s opinions posted online.
The 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey showed 72 percent of people trust an online review as much as they trust a personal recommendation. This is an area that nationally the BBB is playing catch-up with.
While I’m happy that we’ll soon be completing our testing phase of online reviews, and will officially launch the capability this fall, the organization is about five years behind, and I think collectively we need to continue to push our organization into the future.
Locally, I’ve been so blessed to have been handed the keys to an organization that is hitting on all cylinders right now.
Carol Odell did a tremendous job setting me up here, so there aren’t any ominous dragons breathing fire into my camp right now.
I do think our greatest opportunity will be to capitalize on some of the unmet needs in our business community.
For now, that simply involves identifying and prioritizing what makes the most sense for our first move.
Why is the BBB important to consumers and why should businesses support it?
It all revolves around trust.
Our mission is to advance marketplace trust. When we are successful in doing that, it creates an environment that is more comfortable for consumers to exchange dollars for goods, and therefore helps stimulate our economy.
That is important to businesses, because if we can help a business be trusted in the marketplace, consumers who are naturally drawn to do business with people they trust, will choose to conduct business with these organizations.
Without the support of local businesses, our office will be limited in the amount of assistance we can provide in promoting trust in the marketplace.
What makes you feel most optimistic about the future of Colorado Springs?
I’m approaching my eighth year of living in Colorado Springs, and although we may not have the riverwalks that Oklahoma City does, nor the skywalks of Des Moines, I’ve recognized that one of our greatest assets is our diversity in thinking.
Our city is a melting pot of philosophies, doctrines, cultures and personalities. Because of this, when we approach a problem we have the capability of seeing it from many different perspectives instead of just one.
Although we may not have capitalized on that to the fullest potential yet, I firmly believe we are full of potential energy, like a rubber band stretched and ready to snap.