Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: planning (page 1 of 3)

Thinking Outside The Grid

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A lot happened at the most recent CUNA GAC. Though I couldn’t attend, it was apparent even to this distant observer that an attendee couldn’t possibly experience it all. Unless you had two years to do so! Between the sessions, round tables, keynotes, and Hill Hikes, interviews took place for a variety of industry publications. I wouldn’t fault you for missing, oh, 90% of them!

One of these segments was shared by LSCU (the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, no affiliation). In it, they discussed disaster plans with Ted Koppel, namely, power grid failure strategies. As you know, a branch going down is an inconvenience. Imagine if an entire city was dark for days. What services fail first? How do you manage member funds? Do we fall back to a cash (or seashell)-based economy?

You would be correct to say the primary concerns center around medical care, providing clean water, and distributing food to the community. But what about after that infrastructure has emerged? How long can you operate on battery backups and satellite phones if only overloaded mobile cell towers (usually on trucks) are available?

The discussion raises interesting questions and requires, wait for it, outside the “grid” thinking. Being an environmentalist, my first thought is focusing on adoption of solar and other self-sustained energy sources. These can substantially increase your capabilities during a utility outage, while fostering a community-based energy economy (think local farming, except your product is electricity). Plus, reducing emissions from energy production benefits everyone.

Your goal in building disaster resilience is to ask the right questions, ahead of time. But what if the “disaster” isn’t in a loss of power or something your crisis team cooked up? The other side of thinking “outside the grid” is to look at problems from a new perspective. Instead of considering how you can deal with a situation, imagine what you can do to avoid falling in to it entirely. How can you be, “off-grid”, as it were, to the issue?

Think of any challenges that arise throughout your member experience. Yes, coming up with simple ways to address them is important, but is it possible to eliminate the problem from ever occurring? I’ve seen a lot of credit unions using a graduated rewards program. However, none of them offer easy access to a chart showing what I need to do to be considered “Bronze”, “Platinum Plus”, or “VIP Gold”. I know these loyalty systems are tempting, but maybe you’re approaching them in a way which creates complexity no matter how well it’s planned. When the original iPod was released, a famous parody video emerged showing the packaging had Microsoft’s marketing team designed it. Sure, their final product told the customer a lot more, but, in reality, did it? Was the simplicity a crutch to be overcome or a victory in messaging on its own?

You’ve heard consultants suggest “outside the box” thinking. That’s so cliche. Who’s thinking “outside the grid”?

Image credit: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/styles/article_hero/public/Hero_Grid_0.jpg

Strategy for the Future…and Today

“Our competitors don’t stand a chance,” goes through your head as you step out of the shower. Hey, aren’t all your best ideas conceived between shampoo and conditioner?

Write it down. Draw out a cost/benefit analysis (SMART). Share it with others. Edit, improve. It doesn’t even matter what your idea was. Remember, “a dream without a plan is just a wish.” – Katherine Paterson

As a technologist and futurist (I look to new technologies and assess how our society will evolve in coming years), I view ideas as the root of our growth. So don’t stop dreaming! Just ensure it makes sense in today’s world.

Take, for example, hydrogen fuel-cell cars. If you’re not familiar with the concept, that’s ok. They are really new. I mean, only a few exist…new. Given the right technology improvements, policy decisions, cost-scaling, and marketing, it can be the holy grail of clean transportation. Your tailpipe would emit water. That’s it. And the compressed hydrogen the vehicle uses could be made using renewable energy.

Toyota showed us a glimpse of that possible future with the Mirai, a concept vehicle running on compressed hydrogen with range in the hundreds of miles. Refueling can be done in a few minutes at a compatible hydrogen station, and you’re on your way.

So what’s stopping us from switching to this obviously better fuel source? No harmful emissions, no oil, clean energy made here…let’s do it! Not so fast. Barring a few stations in California (and others scattered around the country) there’s nowhere to refuel the vehicle. Our current fueling infrastructure was built over the course of a century and would take years (not to mention billions of dollars) to match with hydrogen. Impossible to overcome? No, just something essential to consider.

Back to your shower idea. Turns out, it is industry-changing: your staff, focus groups, even sampled members agree. Using the hydrogen vehicle example, here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Is it ahead of its time or your competition?
  • Can it run the risk of being a non-starter?
  • Does it cost you time and money with little short and unpredictable long-term benefits?
  • Are you willing to build out the figurative fueling infrastructure?

A few months ago, I suggested having an R&D budget for your institution. Depending on the answers to those questions, your idea may be best passed along to this division. That way, when you are ready to make it happen, the hard work of development is already done. And you can still crush your competition!

tl;dr (Summary) – It’s great to be ahead of your competition and have the “early mover” advantage, but there is also a danger in pursuing a strategy/solution that doesn’t make it. Must have a strategy for today and tomorrow, with how you plan to get from A (the way it’s done now) to B (your super-duper amazing solution).

Aside: Yes, it’s a click-bait image.  But it’s a puppy, in a bath!

All Packed…Except For That One Thing

Special Sunday Post! If you’ve read it, make me really happy during my travels and comment or share it with your network!

Disclosure: This is written from a personal perspective, and not for an overnight business trip. I am heading to Peru to hike the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu! Given I live in Florida, I own neither high-altitude nor cold weather gear, at all. Imagine that the next time you shovel snow higher than your car. (It’s ok, during the summer, I can make jokes like this.)

Getting ready for a trip is handled many different ways. Are you the:

  • List-maker
  • Obsessive checker
  • Last-minute packer
  • Let others do it slacker
  • Carefree tosser
  • Organized chaos manager
  • Confident stuffer

Like a shape-shifting alien, you can be all of them at once!

In my preparations, I embraced my “-ers”. Initially, I was overwhelmed. “Basically, it’s impossible.” Then I made a list, and another, and still another. Today, I can tell you 90% of them were useless. But, they helped me transition into my next phase: Obsessive checker. “Do I have this? Perhaps, but better take everything out just to be sure.” Welcome to stressed, enjoy your stay. So I decided to wait until I knew more, when the trip was closer in time. You know, when other people could contribute. That’s not slacking, right?

Carefree tossing is not my style, but earlier today, I looked upon organized chaos and thought, “Manage this!” Each item was placed on my bed, photographed, and given the go/no-go decision right then and there. Sorry Margaritaville shirt, you’re not going to Peru. Pulling my shoulders back (it’s important for posture, especially when carrying the pack…has nothing to do with confidence), I began stuffing the chosen ones into the bag. Cinched tight, clips secured; this is what will come with me on the trail.

I forgot something. No idea what, but it’s important.

And that’s where you can fall into a cycle of inaction. If you’ve been reading my posts, you should know at what point the topic relates to your credit union. The time has come.

Every initiative has a plan, with preparations to support. Like packing for a trip. The “-ers” stop by your branch with glee. You can even name the people exemplified by each (except the slacker; credit unions are only filled with doers). Together, they make success happen. In fact, one could argue their necessity. If your credit union were filled with list makers, not much would get done, but it would be laid out in spreadsheet/presentation elegance. However, having steps all can follow helps keep everyone on the same figurative page. The obsessive checker catches what might be otherwise missed. A last minute push ensures final challenges are overcome. And so on.

The image that comes to mind is herding cats. It may be challenging, requiring specialized skills and a lot of patience, yet when done, a fluffy pile of meows and purrs emerges.

Or a successful program, even if it includes zero cats.

Now, where did that little fur-ball go?

Image credit: “80 – Machu Picchu – Juin 2009 – edit.2” by Martin St-Amant (S23678) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:80_-_Machu_Picchu_-_Juin_2009_-_edit.2.jpg#/media/File:80_-_Machu_Picchu_-_Juin_2009_-_edit.2.jpg

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