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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

BBB ethics program searches for a more effective approach

A year after announcing plans for an ethics education program for companies, the Better Business Bureau in the Toledo area is still trying to figure out what approaches might work.

One of the first projects is an upcoming forum focusing on family businesses. Richard Eppstein, BBB president, said it's possible home remodelers may take ethics classes for a re-certification mandate that could be imposed by the city of Toledo.

"We have done a lot of spadework to try to come up with a program," said Mr. Eppstein.

A year ago, the local BBB, in its annual report, envisioned an ethics program as a way to "help restore honesty and a commitment to integrity to the business," and promised that the Better Business Bureau Foundation of Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan would help fund it.

But reality set in. "We have seen attempts in other cities, and a lot of them didn't have much success," Mr. Eppstein said yesterday. "People don't come back to follow-up sessions." Now, he believes that ethics seminars tied into continuing-education credits for a variety of business people might be the best lure.

Mr. Eppstein said the Toledo remodelers' board of control - of which he is a member- has talked about including ethics in a series of classes that remodelers could take as part of getting, or keeping, their certification.

Jim Mossing, president of SMB Construction Co. Inc., also a member of that board, said, "We're working on it." But he added that an ethics class would only be part of an array of instruction, much of which would teach remodelers how to do more accurate estimating and how to manage a budget.

The BBB also has been looking at ethics programs around the state, the president said. One reason to go slow, Mr. Eppstein said, a need for funds. The two-year-old foundation has raised about $17,000, but needs more for an effective program.

One seminar is scheduled for family businesses in late April at Lourdes College in Sylvania.

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