Ep. 173 – Better Business Bureau VP & COO, Michael Sedio


Our guest today is COO Alliance Member, Michael Sedio, the COO and Vice President of the Better Business Bureau.

Michael Sedio doesn’t just work at the Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest; he loves it. He joined the team in 2008 armed with a BA in Global Studies, planning to have his first “professional” job while he prepared for law school. Working full-time at the BBB and attending the University of San Diego School of Law in the evenings brought together an awareness of two related but distinct concepts: what is legal and what is right.

Michael fell in love with a career at the BBB he never intended to have, worked his way up through just about every operational role in the organization, and since 2013 has had the extraordinary privilege of helping good businesses be better by serving as the COO and General Counsel.

Michael is also an avid hiker, a dedicated Star Trek fan, and married with two daughters.


In This Conversation, We Discuss:

  • How to pull law in without becoming too legal with his operational role in the BBB
  • How COOs can communicate better with in-house or outside legal counsel
  • More about the BBB and how they join the conversation about business rapport along with Google
  • How the BBB not only displays critical reviews of businesses but also rewards credible businesses
  • How COVID affected the BBB business as a whole
  • Conflict management and how to grow from it



Connect with Michael Sedio: LinkedIn

Better Business Bureau – https://www.bbb.org

Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

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The post, Ep. 173 – Better Business Bureau VP & COO, Michael Sedio, appeared first on COO Alliance.

Our guest is COO Alliance member, Michael Sedio, the COO and Vice President of the Better Business Bureau serving the Pacific Southwest. Michael Sedio doesn’t just work at the Better Business Bureau serving the Pacific Southwest, he loves it. He joined the team in 2008 armed with the BA in Global Studies planning to have his first professional job while he prepared for law school.

Working full-time at the Better Business Bureau and attending the University of San Diego Law School in the evenings, he brought together an awareness of the two related but distinct concepts, which is legal and what is right. Michael fell in love with the career at the Better Business Bureau, and he never intended to have one.

He worked his way up through the organization through just about every operational role, and since 2013 has had the extraordinary privilege of helping good businesses be better by serving as the COO and General Counsel. Michael is also an avid hiker, dedicated Star Trek fan, and he is married with two daughters. Michael, welcome to the Second in Command Podcast.

Thank you very much.

I love that you’re an avid hiker. I’m on a crazy hiking trip right now for four weeks through the US West, and you’re one of only three phone calls I’m doing during the entire three and a half weeks, so it’s cool that you’re a hiker. Have you done Bryce Canyon?

I have not, no. I do a lot of local hiking. I grew up in the day before internet and smartphones and all that. A fun weekend for me was going outside and not coming back in until Sunday night.

How old are your daughters?

My oldest is seven and my youngest is five this year 2021.

At seven and five, they can do it. I would literally rent an RV next summer or this fall and drive to Bryce or fly into Vegas, and do the three-hour drive. Bryce Canyon blew my mind. We’ve done Zion and Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park and Yosemite, a whole bunch of them in the last three weeks. Bryce is another world if you’re into hiking, and your daughters will love it. It’s like a magic kingdom. It’s so cool.

That’s awesome.

The Better Business Bureau, now you’re also on the law side of things, as well. It’s pretty unique for COOs to have a law degree. I have a background in law. I did my undergraduate degree in Law, but I think there’s a lot that law brings you in terms of the operational side of the business. How do you pull law in and how do you avoid being too legal in your role?

That’s a challenge that I sometimes have difficulty navigating. Let me answer the second part of that first. When I look at something from a legal perspective, it is often impossible to separate that entirely from an operational strategic perspective and stuff, because I wear those two hats. I have to make sure that advice that I give is clearly coming from a legal perspective.

I will frequently say, “Here’s the legal aspect. Here are the things that we want to consider. Here are the strategic, the practical aspect, and stuff like that that I want to consider so that it’s clear where I’m coming from.” At the BBB, there’s really a neat connection between those two things because the operational side of things, the nature of what Better Business Bureau does sometimes creates a little bit of controversy. We rate companies, we handle disputes and stuff like that.

Frequently, I’m talking to people about BBB’s right to report, talking about the First Amendment. I’m talking about things that they might be really upset with us about that. Then the second piece is that I think a legal education actually sets you up to be very strategically operationally minded. One of the things you learn in law school is the approach to legal analysis. You have issue, rule, application, and conclusion. That way of thinking I think actually sets you up well to think in the business world. You look at what’s the opportunity, what are the challenges, how do you make it happen, what’s the possible outcome? I think that works really well from that perspective.

A legal education actually sets you up to be very strategically and operationally minded.

That makes sense. You balance it in terms of also your communication with the rest of the organization that it’s coming from a legal perspective. Curious, how do you balance out the legal tends to be the threats and risk mitigation, and ops tends to be growth? They’re almost polar opposites in terms of their focus. How do you balance that out?

I try and make them as complimentary as possible, “If we’re going to do this, here’s the right way to do it,” looking at legal as an opportunity. I really think that if an organization either in-house or using outside council has a good strategic minded business or corporate attorney, they’re going to be looking at that same thing too. How does legal facilitate the strategy? How does it help give it a boost?

As opposed to being the department that says, “Slow down. You can’t do that.” If that’s the legal strategy, that’s the legal stuff that you’re getting, I think you need to reconsider that because while there is certainly an area where you have to say no, you can’t do that, and sometimes you have to say that loudly. There’s always a way to pivot and say, “Let’s do this where we minimize the risk. We maximize opportunity and that sort of thing.” That’s just the mindset that you’ve got to have.

Maybe it’s not a no, it’s a ‘not that way.’ Or maybe it’s a yes, but find a better way. What advice would you give to COOs who have to deal with legal counsel, either in-house or outside legal counsel? How do we communicate better with legal counsel? How do we work better with legal counsel? What advice would you give us?

You want to have a rapport with them. You want to establish some trust and you want to make sure that they take the time to understand your business. We also, even though I’m in-house legal counsel, it’s very much a generalist role. We still use outside counsel and you want to make sure that, let’s say they’re reviewing a contract with you and you’re going over a contract. If they are simply looking at the contract and redlining the legalese and not taking the time to understand your strategy and your approach and the benefit that you hope to get out of that bargain, that legal advice is really incomplete.

Anybody can cut and paste a section of legalese or something like that, but it’s important to know what the business objectives are. You want a lawyer that does that, and you want a COO who has faith that the lawyer is going to have their best interests in mind from an overall strategy perspective and that’s it. It’s really about rapport building, just like I think with any other business relationship.

SIC 173 | Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau: Anybody can cut and paste a legalese section or something like that, but it’s important to know the business objectives. And you want a lawyer that does that.


Let’s go back and talk a little bit about the Better Business Bureau itself. Can you tell us what the Better Business Bureau is now, and maybe what our grandparents’ version of it was? I always thought of the Better Business Bureau as something that was very stuck in the 1970s, early ‘80s perhaps. Then you and I met a couple years ago at a dinner that I spoke at for the Better Business Bureau in Arizona. I was really impressed with the culture of the whole organization, hundreds of amazing excited entrepreneurs just to be honored to be a part of the event. What is it today and how have you changed as an organization?

What’s interesting is that as an organization, we have added to as opposed to eliminated. There are two ways to answer that. If you hear the name BBB and you think about what your grandparents thought of it, we are a non-profit business association with the mission of promoting an ethical marketplace. We do that by processing complaints and by issuing business profiles with ratings and helping people identify ethical businesses and stuff like that. We still do all of that and we do this other cool stuff that not a lot of people know about. That’s some of the stuff that you saw.

We have our Torch Awards for Ethics, where we are out there celebrating marketplace role models. We’re not just wagging our finger and saying, “Look at the bad guys.” We’re out there actively celebrating the companies that are doing it right. Of course, most businesses in America are good, ethical, honest businesses. We have scholarships and we have business accelerator and incubator programs through ethical partners like GoDaddy. We are working to help make good businesses better in just about every conceivable way.

Has the Better Business Bureau had to change or iterate with organizations like Yelp, Trustpilot, Glassdoor, and Indeed? Have you had to change where there have been other rating services available to rate companies in different ways?

There’s certainly an awareness that there are multiple different ways to accomplish the goal of having consumers know more about a business or a transaction because we’re a non-profit. I often like to think of those other organizations as complimentary to what BBB does as opposed to competitors. If somebody is looking at a business, of course, we want them to look at Yelp and Google and Facebook and get a referral from their neighbor, and we want them to check out the business with the BBB, read the content and stuff that we have.

To the extent that there’s a new awareness to the ways that consumers like to find information and where that they are, yes, of course. We adapt to that. We learn from that. It’s much more likely that somebody is going to come to us from a generic web search, a Google search, or from a business than it is to go to www.BBB.org and do a search. We’ve learned in nature, we’re offering our content in that way.

I would think that the other services that are out there that rate companies in different ways might even help the BBB because consumers are being probably more so than ever driven towards accepting the third-party credibility. If I’m buying something on Amazon, of course, I’m going to buy the one with the most reviews. If I’m going to a restaurant, of course, I’m going to go to the one that has the best Google reviews. I left two Google reviews on restaurants today alone. I think as consumers being really focused around that, has that helped the BBB as well? Or is it like you said that you’re just so much more of an organization than that anyway?

I think it has helped. There’s a great awareness of it. If people know to look at Google and they do a search, BBB is also going to be a part of that conversation. They will usually read or review multiple sources and get that information. We’re looking for an ethical marketplace. To the extent that there are other organizations to help provide information, to educate consumers and motivate businesses. I think it’s a win-win.

You’ve talked about serving your members a couple of times. What do you think your members benefit the most from membership in the BBB?

I think that we’re an ally for them. I mentioned that we are an organization that wants to help make good businesses better. We, of course, have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience and data around that point. We are also able to convene resources and partners and stuff like that to bring that together and to share with both our accredited and our non-accredited businesses, quite frankly, because we want them both to be better. We’re an ally for them. We are there to help good businesses be better. There’s a lot of different ways that a company might find value in that, be it a webinar, be it an accelerator program, be it Torch Award or something like that. We’re there for them in whatever way they need us.

Are there any programs that BBB offers that you wish your members would grab onto or leverage more than they do? Are there any programs that you guys are excited about that they’re not using as much yet?

I wish businesses would take a more holistic view of consumer generated content. Being in the operations department, in the legal department, the conversation will frequently go like this. The company calls up and they say, “I got this negative review and it’s not true. I’m so upset and it’s making me mad.” I will say, “Okay, fair. Here’s what we can learn from this. Here’s how we can take this and be a better organization.”

Channel that anger, hopefully not in me, but if you want to, that’s fine. Let’s look at the ways that we can do better. Understanding that BBB is an ally as opposed to an obstacle, an adversary, or something like that. That’s what I’d really like them to do. Some of them, I think, the smart businesses know that and businesses that struggle. I think they struggle across the board.

Better Business Bureau is an ally as opposed to an obstacle, an adversary. We are here to help good businesses be better.

Let’s talk about the org itself. If we’re to look at the organization that you’re running now as the COO, how many total employees are you working with?

The BBB starting the Pacific Southwest covering Greater Arizona and a few counties in Southern California, we’ve got just over 120 employees across two states.

Then how many offices?

We have six. A primary major campus in Phoenix, another primary major campus here in San Diego where I’m at. We’ve also got other campuses in Newport Beach, in Yuma, Arizona, and Prescott, Arizona.

What’s the campus? I was at what would have been called the campus in Phoenix. I won’t describe what I saw when I was there, but I was amazed at how modern it was. Anyway, tell us what the campuses are and what they serve.

It’s the place where you have the grandparents’ view of the BBB, and you walk into it, you’re going to pull out your phone and check to make sure you got the right address.

Exactly, I thought it was in the wrong spot.

That’s good. That’s what we’re going for a little bit. The campus we have in Phoenix and we’ve got another campus in San Diego. When we say campus, what we mean is it’s a community center for the ethical business community. We’ve got in Phoenix, Arizona. We’ve actually got three buildings that make up our campus. We’ve got one, which is the results building. That’s where we get results. That’s where the staff work. That’s where they get things done.

We’ve got the Business Community Center, which is probably the building that you walked into first. This is a meeting center. This is a place for community members for ethical businesses for consumer groups. They come in, they use our space, they have meetings, they hold trainings, they do stuff like that. Then we’ve got our Ignite Sparked by BBB, which is another building. This is a collaboration and co-working space. If you think about the goal of the BBB, it is to philosophically be a part of the conversation about what it means to have an ethical marketplace, to have buyers and sellers trust each other. The campus is a physical representation of that. People can physically come together and help to brainstorm and achieve that ethical marketplace.

SIC 173 | Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau: The goal of the Better Business Bureau is to philosophically be a part of the conversation about what it means to have an ethical marketplace, to have buyers and sellers trust each other.


I like the description of it, calling it the Community Center for Ethical Businesses, because that’s exactly what I felt when I walked in. I felt like I was in a community center, modern, clean, white. My name was up on a board like, “Welcome, Cameron Herold,” walking out. I was like, “This is weird. Where the heck am I?” It was bizarre. I did see lots of meeting rooms that were open and available for use or for clients to book. Are your members aware of those services or is that something that you’re constantly trying to make members aware of? What’s the difference between a member and just a business that’s getting rated on the BBB?

Two good questions. Yes, our members are aware. Our accredited businesses are aware and we want more to be aware and we want more to use them. It’s a constant cycle of welcoming businesses in and then trying to make more and more and more aware. We’ve got roughly 20,000 accredited businesses within our service area, the parts of Arizona and Southern California. Before the pandemic, we’d have a thousand or so people come through the place that you saw every single month. It’s an opportunity to continue to build on that and to make sure that people know that it is theirs. That’s the beauty of being a nonprofit is it’s not mine. It’s not ours. It’s theirs. We want them to come in to use it.

To your second question. We have businesses that we classify as accredited, and sometimes I’ll slip and use the term member, but it’s really accreditation. What that means is that the company has applied for BBB accreditation. They’ve gone through a thrill of vetting process. We’ve got standards of trust that we’re applying to that company and making sure that they’re upholding those standards of trust and then they’re earning. They’re continuing to earn it. They’re pledging to uphold our BBB ethical standards. Those are companies that are BBB accredited.

We will actually rate every single company that comes to our attention and the rating system is identical, so accredited, non-accredited. The exact same rating score, the exact same rating algorithm and stuff like that. That’s on an A-plus through F scale, just like in school. A company ultimately represents BBB’s opinion of that company. A company that answers its complaints, that advertises honestly, that has clear contracts that is walking the talk can earn an A plus rating regardless of whether they’re accredited with us.

The accreditation is their purchasing. Is it a membership? Is that right?

Yes, it’s actually an accreditation status. In most BBBs, you’d talk about it as a membership, but my auditor would slap me on the wrist and say, “No, it’s accreditation.” It’s accreditation more like a subscription model.

Is that your revenue stream, the accreditation then? Or how does the BBB make its money?

That’s our primary revenue stream, absolutely. We will invite businesses to go through this vetting and assuming that they pass the vetting, then they pay accreditation fees, the fee to maintain that accreditation. We get new and renewing accreditation, and then we will bring in other money through sponsorship programs and stuff like that.

Do you have partners that are partners of the BBB or are these more like the platinum accredited members? Do you have anything like that?

Yes, we sure do. I mentioned earlier that we will work on accelerator and incubator programs. I mentioned GoDaddy, which is a company that’s headquartered in Arizona. They partner with us on the Empowered by GoDaddy Program to offer education and training and stuff like that to businesses. In addition to offering accreditation to companies, we will often partner with companies that have an equal level of dedication to creating an ethical marketplace. They might come in and they might sponsor a scholarship, they might sponsor educational programs or something of that nature.

Through COVID, I imagine that you guys faced similar challenges, but how did the BBB weather the whole COVID storm? How are you weathering two very different states too with California and Arizona?

We had one state of California that shut down a lot. Another state of Arizona that really didn’t shut down this far. I’m frequently asked, “What’s the difference?” The two states are different in terms of population and density and stuff like that. The one commonality is that business has struggled in both areas. The struggles might have been different, but they both struggle a lot. When we first started to go into the pandemic, March of 2020, when we basically shut down. I can’t say shut down, we went remote.

We never shut down. W went remote right before the governor in California did shut things down and make them go that way. Because we had been working dispersed geographically with locations in Arizona and in San Diego, we were well equipped to do that. It took us twelve hours to shift our core operations from on-campus to at-home for people. It was a lot of plug and play, a lot of voiceover IP type stuff.

We’ve already been using Zoom and Google products and stuff like that. That was really quick. We’re trying to forecast what’s going to come. We’re also recognizing that as a non-profit organization that exists to support the ethical business community. We have a role to play and we have businesses and stuff to support. It’s not simply a matter of selling product or anything like that.

We went into it and very early on in April we said, “We need to accomplish two things. We need to continue to be able to accomplish our mission, and that means responding to the needs of the business community as they exist now and not as we all wish they were.” We want to do right by our employees. Rather than do any furloughs or anything like that, we took across the board. We took a pay cut and we had entry level employees, took about 5%. We wanted to impact them as minimally as possible.

SIC 173 | Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau: We need to continue to be able to accomplish our mission. That means responding to the needs of the business community as they exist now and not as we all wish they were. And we want to do right by our employees.


The higher up he went in the organization, the higher the pay cut went. C-Suite was taking a 15% pay cut. Our CEO, God bless, gave himself the biggest pay cut out of anybody in the organization. We did that preemptively while revenue was still coming in and things were still going well. Then we implemented two other things.

We said, “If you’re an accredited business and you’re otherwise in good standing, meaning you’re answering your complaints and you’re advertising honestly and stuff like that, and you can’t pay, we’re not going to kick you out.” We’re not going to say you’ve done something wrong. We’re going to allow you to continue to have your accreditation and it’s not building up. You don’t owe it to us. Just when you’re in good shape, let us know, we’ll kick it back in.”

We had hundreds of companies take us up on that, but for the most part, they were honest and they said, thank you, but we don’t need that. Then we launched a Main Street Matters program, and this was us and our partners in Arizona. You may know a desert financial credit union. They supported that in a big, big way. GoDaddy, lots of other companies helped support that. These were companies that were still doing well, financial services, home services or something like that, who donated money.

We passed through 100% of that, no administrative, no overhead or anything like that, to a relief program to companies that needed help. Your hairdressers, your dental offices, your graphic design studios, places like that, that actually had to close down. With our own resources and convening our partnerships, we were able to give these little micro grants to businesses that could, it’s not a PPP loan, but it helps them pick one month. It helps them renew their life. It helps them do that type of stuff.

Pretty meaningful differences. How about in the organization itself? You said that you went remote or went, forget the term you used, like literally overnight where you didn’t shut down. How did it affect the organization and are you going to continue to have some remote employees?

I think that the genie is out of the bottle there. There will always be some aspect of a hybrid arrangement. The beauty for that is, of course, is that we trust our employees. We have faith in them. They are dedicated to our mission. When we say, “Here is your part of the mission. Here’s how you can help advance it.” They’re going to be just as motivated to accomplish that if they’re sitting right outside my office as they are, if they’re sitting at home.

We made sure that they knew that we were prioritizing their wellbeing, their safety, their happiness. We did a lot of virtual team building and we tried to really stay connected and stuff like that. I think that to the extent that that creates an advantage, that people are not sitting in traffic, that they can spend more times with their kids or their pets or whatever the case may be. There’s always going to be an element of that. I think that there’s some real value to having people physically come together to do meetings, to collaborate and stuff like that. I’m looking at a purpose-driven work location. What is the purpose of your work? That’s where you need to be.

As an organization, I would guess, two years ago if anyone had said you’d have a hybrid and a bunch of people working from home, there’s no chance. That would have been a hard no.

It would have been a hard no. At least to the extent that we’re doing it now. You always have the occasional employee that is working remotely. We had a person working for us and their spouse. It was in the serving the US Navy. Are we located? We’re like, “Let’s create a hybrid arrangement for this person because we want to support a military spouse. We want to support this employee.” That was a one off. Those were the exceptions. Now, it’s just a part of what normal operations look like.

Do you think these campuses will continue to exist or will you have a new style for those as well?

Yes. We had some real heated conversation, not heated, but we had some real intense conversations about this. I’ll tell you one reason. It was particularly a focal point of some talks. In San Diego, we have a campus and things are a little bit more expensive in California than they tend to be in Arizona. Fall of 2019, we actually renegotiated our lease to expand our space and to do a bunch of Tis and extend our lease to 2027. There was a couple of days in the height of the pandemic when we wish we maybe waited a little bit to do that.

I’ve done that.

I think actually now having come through it, at least if I can say where we are, is through it to this point. I think it’s actually going to be fortuitous for us because as a lot of places are going hybrid, they need meeting spaces. They have employees who want to come in and do co-working. I think that the same philosophy that we apply to being a hub for places is actually going to be in greater demand. That’s my hope at least.

I think you might be on the right train there as well. I think there is going to be a huge demand for that fractional workspace and the fractional boardrooms and meeting space. If your members and accredited members are super aware of that, I think you will see some real uptick. In terms of the offices being used, what’s your intent on getting your members to start using those? Are you going to start bringing them in, running open houses, making them aware? Because that’s a huge opportunity for many of them, I would think.

Yes, all of the above. Every way that we can share it. We have a year conventional awareness campaign. We communicate with our credited businesses all the time about the value and stuff like that because a traditional membership organization. We want to communicate the value of accreditation. There’s a philosophical.

There’s a moral purpose we think for organizations supporting the Better Business Bureau where they believe in what we do, and we want to provide additional value and services. We communicate that to them and then we communicate it to the public in general. They don’t have to be accredited to use the space. We hope that when you come in here, you maybe want to be accredited. That feeds into the accreditation as well as it being a benefit for accredited businesses.

I want to go back to the pay cuts. You mentioned that across the organization you did pay cuts 5% on the frontend, and then up to the highest of the CEO. I’ve got to imagine that of 120-ish employees, a bunch of them weren’t so thrilled with the idea of a pay cut. It’s like, “I get it, but I still have bills to pay.” How did you manage your way through that?

It was tough. We were both forecasting, “What do we need to do to make sure that we weather this and we can maximize our resources to support our accredited businesses and do right by our employees?” We’re looking at all the things that was being talked about furloughs or production force or something like that. At the time, of course, the first round of PPP loans, we weren’t eligible because we’re a non-profit, a 501(c)(6). We were not eligible, and we were transparent with our staff.

We trusted them, they trusted us. We said, “Here’s the thought process that we went through. Here’s what we need to do and why we need to do it.” We had overwhelming support. I’m sure that people are like, “Great, that’s the last thing they need.” I’d struggle on stuff like that but people were overwhelmingly supportive of it to the extent that that Main Street Matters program I mentioned earlier where we were accepting donations and stuff.

A large percentage of our staff actually voluntarily donated to that program because they wanted to support the mission and the ethical business community and stuff. Of course, we were forecasting. The good news is we came out of that having done very well, and we’re able to order in several months, not only reverse the pay cuts, but we were able to bring back to equal the staff that had given the pay cuts. At the end of the year, it washed out.

Was that part of the plan then? Did you plan to make it equal at the end? Or was that something you were able to do?

We hoped.

Did you tell them you were hoping you were going to be able to, or was it the management knew you were going to hope but they weren’t told that?

Yes, we didn’t want to dangle that.

That’s good.

We wanted to sell it honestly, and not trick people into believing it, even though we were sincere about it but we didn’t say it. We just surprised them with it, and that was a happy surprise.

My brother did that years ago with his companies. He had to get his employees to take a major cut and got 100% of them to volunteer to take the major cut. After they all agreed to do it, then he said, “By the way, when we are back on our feet again. We’re going to try to make you whole.” They were all blown away, but he didn’t want to tell them. He wanted to see who was there. Do you think that your employees were on side with that because you are such a cause-based organization versus just they’re working for XYZ Widget Factory?

I think that’s a big part of it. I think that they see us investing into our team and our staff. Our CEO, Matt Fehling, when he was being asked by somebody at one point about some of the benefits and stuff he spends on staff, he said, “We spend X amount of dollars to bring in food and feed our staff and stuff like that.” They’re like, “How can you justify spending the money on your staff?” He is like, “How could I justify not doing it, investing in our team and stuff like that?” They see that we’re sincere, and so I think they trusted us and they believed in the cause.

I have a course that I launched called Invest in Your Leaders, and it’s all the strong leadership skills that every manager needs to be good at. I was talking to a CEO, and he said, “I’m worried that if I invest in my team and I have them all go through this course, they’re going to be so skilled up. They’re going to quit and go somewhere else.” I said, “Okay, but what if you don’t invest in them? They don’t have the skills and they stay in your company and run it.” He’s like, “That’s worse.” I’m like, “Then grow your people.” What’s your focus as a leader? Where do you focus your time right now?

I believe in servant leadership to the extent that I believe that I fully understand what that completely involves. My job is to be there for the talented people that I have the pleasure of working with, and I work with them and identifying their goals, their strategies, the way that they want to accomplish things, and really trying to be there for them, being a sounding board.

Frequently, there are times when I’m wearing my legal hat. There are people on an org chart who report to me, but when they are executing on a contract and I’m the one who’s reviewing it, I basically work for them. I’m providing legal review for them to make the decision. It’s a team. That’s what I get to do is I get to help be a part of a team, and I get to listen and be there to help reduce obstacles and cut red tape and get them the resources they need and that sort of thing.

Part of being on a team is the conflict that naturally happens inside the team, sometimes as a leader with people and then sometimes you with other leaders. What are your thoughts related to conflict and conflict in the workplace, and how to actually grow from it and have healthy conflict as Pat Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team talks about?

It’s really essential, and that’s maybe one of the biggest challenges that I would face, maybe as an individual, as a leader, is fostering that healthy conflict. You have a group of people, and they like each other and they trust each other and they’re professional. Sometimes the negative consequence of that is they will stifle conflict. Somebody will be quiet instead of offering a dissenting opinion. Somebody will go along with something that they think there’s a better way to do it.

We’re pretty good about not having the disruptive conflict. We don’t have people that are stabbing each other in the back or flying over each other or anything like that. You don’t have that in a non-profit, and particularly you don’t have that at the BBB. What I struggle with, what I work on is saying, “Good, thank you. Now, let’s vet the issues.” This is another area where I think being a lawyer helps in that two lawyers will go at each other on the issue vigorously representing their clients, and then go out to lunch. That would be fine.

Pretty funny.

You want that among your team. It’s hard to not take things personally. You’ve got to help people to find their way of presenting that healthy conflict and resolving it. The bottom line is everybody’s a little bit different in how they want to experience and process conflict. My view is that it’s essential. It’s an ingredient of growth, and I struggle with helping to achieve that on a healthy level.

You’ve got to help people to find their way of presenting that healthy conflict and resolving it because the bottom line is everybody’s a bit different in how they want to experience and process conflict.

It’s 1 of the 12 modules in my Invest in Your Leaders course is embracing conflict and dealing with conflict management. I have a model that I walk people through, but have you got a model that you use, or is it more of just you’re not worried about it and you treat it in a healthy way that allows you to work through it?

We’ve got some various models that we try to use, but it’s nothing at a professional grade. We will have people fill out professional user manuals that talk about how they want to be approached and they want to be dealt with and stuff like that. That’s good for a little bit because frequently people will say they want to be approached in a way that is not really the way that they want to be approached so that you have to take that with a grain of salt.

We do a lot of team building and issue processing. We’re very deliberate about sitting down and saying, “Let’s identify your issues.” If you think you don’t have any issues, that’s the issue. That’s the problem. Let’s talk about how we can do that. We’ve got a continual growth mindset. My boss, our CEO, is constantly engaged in things like Vistage and stuff where he is learning to grow. He’s investing in me to join COO Alliance to learn and to grow and to find better ways to do things. We take that back. I’m sure, I messed it up a little bit, but we try and apply it to ourselves and learn from it, and that’s really our process.

Do you recruit for that? Do you look for people that are constantly working and working on growing themselves? Do you look at that in your interviews at all?

Yes. Interviews are an interesting process. I think that it is at best, an educated guess into somebody. Because depending on the person, they can represent themselves also in different ways in an interview, but you try and get a sense for them and you probably have nowhere near as good a sense of the person as you think that you do but then you also invest in them. You hire for it. Then, you invest in them and you help them grow. Even if you think that they have that, it doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and say, “Now you’ve got it, and I’ll go do it. You want to continue to foster that for their entire career.

How about the user manual for Michael Sedio? What would the top three points on the user manual for you talking to us about?

I spend a lot of time talking about how I like hiking and Star Trek and stuff like that, but beyond the fun stuff, I think that I like to communicate very directly and that I will have a two-way street. Whether that’s true or not, you’d have to ask my colleagues. It’s really about open, honest, robust conversation. Don’t worry so much about saying the wrong thing or offending me or anything like that. Just tell me what you need, what you’re feeling, what mistakes have been made, and let’s have a conversation about a solution.

How about yourself and your skills? Are you working on anything right now? Anything specific where you’re working on growing yourself?

I have the privilege and the challenge of having grown up at the BBB. I started an entry level job making $11 an hour in 2008. I wanted my first professional job as I was going to law school and stuff like that. I did a little bit of everything. The benefit there is that I have a real good idea as to the nature of the organization, our mission, what we do, and stuff like that.

The bad thing is I can be ten. I can tend to be married to that. I can say, “We did it this way when I was over in that position, and stuff like that.” Constantly learning to challenge myself, that’s something that I always try to work on. This is going to sound lazy. I want to find the easiest way to learn it, to do something right. Instead of doing it the hard way, which happens and you learn how to roll with the punches and stuff. I want to learn from my colleagues. I want to learn from what other people are doing. I’ve done that within the BBB as we have performance groups and stuff like that. That is good to a point. Then you want to learn about the whole wide universe of leadership thought. That’s what I’m working on.

Now that you’re in the COO Alliance, you’ll be able to see that from a completely different perspective, not only from other businesses, other types of industries, but even global. We’ve got members now from seventeen countries. Do you have the performance groups within the 88 other offices or regions? Do you have COO groups with the other regions or leadership programs within the other regions or with the other regions? Or do they operate completely independently?

There are all different committees and leadership interactions and stuff like that. My personal favorite is performance/possibilities group. The CEOs of the BBBs get together, and this is not all of the BBBs, but it’s a select group. It can be eight to a dozen or so depending on the time. They get together and they compare all the metrics.

Then you have the one level down from them. You have the VPs and the C-Suite. They will get together with their peers. We look at the same metrics, and we’ve got a whole big book of metrics that we pull together, and we’re looking at that, and we’re talking about best practices and what we’re struggling with. Then we’ve got a moderator who meets with both the CEO group and our group, and help guide us and give feedback in both directions actually.

That’s great. It’s huge when that actually happens. I want to roll back to the 21, 22-year-old Michael. You’re just getting ready to graduate college. What advice would you give the 22-year-old you that you know to be true, but you wish you had known when you were starting out?

I was an awkward kid. When I was a kid, into my twenties, I talk about struggling with Imposter syndrome that now I certainly do. I would tell myself, “It’s okay. It’s going to get better.” There was always a time when I was looking to what’s next and not enjoying the moment. I can’t wait until I finish this semester. I can’t wait until I graduate. I can’t wait until I get a promotion. Both being where I am, where I’ve achieved a level of success and the organization that I worked for, and being a father, I really want things to slow down and I want to enjoy. The challenge I have now is not reminiscing too much and fantasizing about the same days that where I was, I can’t wait until the next thing. Then I think back, “Those were so good. I wish I had enjoyed them at the time as much as I think I did.

Michael Sedio, the COO for the Better Business Bureau serving the Pacific Southwest, thanks so much for joining us on the Second in Command Podcast. I really appreciate that.

Thank you so much for having me.

Great to see you again.


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