Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: experience (page 1 of 2)

Achievement is a Moving Benchmark

Originally published as feature article in February 2015 issue of student newsletter at my dojo, University Karate Center. Then published on CUInsight.com

Training in martial arts isn’t easy. Same with any other sport or activity. Beginners think, “wow, everyone is so far ahead of me…how could I ever do that?”

As a reader of this blog, you gain valuable insight into my secret life…a martial arts student and instructor. I’ve trained for, let’s just say, a while.

Progress in Life & Training

During my time at the karate school, many students have come through the dojo. Some still train today. Others moved on to different phases (and places) in their life. Most thrilling is welcoming past students back after extended absences due to school, work, or family.

In all of these scenarios, there is a continual challenge of improvement. What do I mean? Well, when you’re doing a thing for a while, you are immersed in it. You gain skills at a nice rate. It feels good.

But then you stop for a long period. “No problem,” you think. “I’ll just get back in the swing of things; I know this stuff!” Except, we all know it’s harder than that.

What you remember as simple isn’t quite so anymore. But you’re committed! You train hard and help regain your previous skills, perhaps even with a deeper understanding. Good for you!

Sure, these are the seeds of a longer discussion, but today I want to focus on what I call the moving benchmark.

As You Improve, So Do Others

The benchmark challenge emerges for individuals both new and long-term.

One recent karateka, as students of martial arts are referred, asked a great question a few months into their training:

“Sensei, how can I become as skilled as the high ranking instructors here? Every time I gain a new insight, they show me another way in which I’m just a beginner.”

Sound familiar? Hint: This isn’t solely about karate.

As you get better, at anything, and you are (really!), those with more experience are as well. You are working towards a moving benchmark. While you train and learn, your teachers get better, too.

Avid readers know what happens now. It’s time to relate to credit unions!

Improvements & Your Credit Union

Paper Notebook with Graph and ChartThat’s a mighty fine marketing strategy you’ve got there. As is your website; the team should be proud. And your member referral program is stellar!

Of course, yours is not the only credit union working on making each area better. Another looks to the same improvements, yet has an additional 25 years upon which to build.

As we tell our students at our dojo:

“It’s not about how long it took to finally start training. You started. And you’re here now. That’s what matters.”

Emulate the Experts

Even Olympic champions look up to someone. It’s how we all work together to improve.

Don’t be discouraged if the expert looks like an expert. That’s literally the point!

Continuous Growth

Embrace our karate school ideals of continuous growth and replicate what works.

We also encourage learning from those both junior and senior to you. Just because they’re a white belt doesn’t mean a Black Belt can’t learn from them!

Finance Flowchart with Laptop on DeskFor you, that means looking to your competition, whether that’s a fellow credit union or regional/national banks. Then remember you’re not competing with credit unions! You can all learn together!

In the martial arts, we use the opponent’s strength to our own advantage.

While sweeping your competition onto the mat may be an untenable act, observe their “movements” (actions, strategies, etc.) and discuss internally how a similar approach might work within your own institution.

The road to Black Belt is a long and challenging one. Also, it never ends. Who says it’s any different for credit union success?

Sheer Experience

Friday, I took a road trip to meet with one of our credit union partners. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind their name being used, let’s say it was “Awesomesauce CU” in the Central Florida region. The goals of the meeting were simple: Get to know the staff face-to-face, learn about how our solutions were going for them, and brainstorm ways we could make all processes simpler and more effective.

So what did they want?

The CEO wished for access to more benchmarks, guiding their initiatives with respect to other average and best performers within the industry. Makes complete sense, and is already underway. The CLO wanted more processes in place to ensure members 1) get pre-approved for loans and 2) book those loans with the credit union. Agreed, because that’s the whole point of the game! The Loan Call Center Supervisor wanted less work and more results, or, in her words, “It don’t gotta be that hard.” It sure doesn’t.

At the outset, the staff all made clear they supported the program and wanted to see it succeed, but had concerns about initial hiccups along the way. That’s normal, we explained, as our partners have the most issues in the first three months following implementation, then they find a rhythm which works well for them. But that doesn’t make struggles ok! What can we do to minimize those launch challenges?

We had an all-hands meeting scheduled to run for an hour. Two and a half hours later, everyone was satisfied with the ideas generated. Thus begins the process of seeing what can be implemented and how. But first, lunch. Three of the staff were able to join us for a meal filled with everything but business. That’s not to say these CU staff didn’t care about their work!

Between our three lunch companions, there was nearly 100 years of experience at this one credit union. Looking back at our board room meeting, if you weren’t with the CU for over 20 years, you were a newbie.

After a too-large lunch combined with stories of travel, motorcycles, and families, we returned to the branch to get cracking. When a successful initiative means your staff is overwhelmed, it’s time for some better processes. I listened as the credit union’s point person moved step-by-step through their daily effort. “That’s way more work than we intended,” I thought as she finished. However, our company doesn’t have access to the LOS or internal member lookup system for each credit union (and given the security needed, we don’t want it). As a result, it’s difficult for us to know what is involved to move, view, or edit data within their system. We made some suggestions on reducing steps and explained how other credit unions have found their stride, with an eye on making everything just take less time. I relished the opportunity to learn how it all “goes down” in a working environment.

They requested process improvements for our side as well, and those are now being organized and sent to the appropriate parties for consideration. If we can do them today, it’ll happen. For things that take some corporate cooperation, we’ve begun that endeavor.

We had 2 hours of interaction time scheduled with their team. Over 4 hours in, we were still sharing ideas and seeking to overcome challenges. When we arrived, we were vendor partners there to streamline the system and answer questions. That evening, we left as friends. And I found a fellow Whovian!

As partner meetings continue to be more common, I’d like to devote some time sharing those experiences on this blog. Since we learn the most when everyone’s participating, I welcome your comments when you see something that resonates, or is completely different from how you’re always done it. Without the “Credit Union”, this blog would just be a geek rambling. Thanks for reading, sharing, and contributing!

Image credit: http://www.zedonbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Business-Partnership.jpg

Who’s the Most Benevolent of Them All?

Some may say the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference is a glorified lobbying event. They would not be wrong. But it is far more than solely a political maneuver. It’s a family reunion.

When you put a few thousand credit union executives, staff, and board members in a single room, an interesting dynamic emerges. They do not brag about loan volume, capital expenditures, or legislative pressures. Instead, topics revolve around how much their members were helped by initiatives and services. It becomes a competition of benevolence.

“Everything the credit union does is for its members. We don’t say yes to everything, but we do consider what can serve all of them best.” This refrain was far from uncommon.

Consider one credit union with a large membership of teachers. It’s tough to be a teacher. So much is demanded, and too often, so little is provided. Their solution? An interest-free new teacher loan. Just show your offer paperwork and the credit union will extend capital at no expense for classroom supplies, decorations, and more. Oh, you didn’t know? Teachers in many places pay for supplies out of their own pocket. Talk about being committed to their mission.

On the topic of education, what about the other challenge…student loans? Yeah, credit unions are helping there, too. In 2008, a number of institutions banded together under the banner Student Choice to create a better option than students drowning in debt. I spoke with some of the founders, and the passion was oozing out of their pores. Sure, the program helps create financially-stable lifelong members, but also provides access to higher education for many who otherwise could not afford it. While we were talking, there was an “ah ha!” moment when I finally got it (I can be dreadfully slow to comprehension if it’s not a Star Trek reference)…their excitement was such that I was expecting a group hug.

Stories like these flow freely out of the attendees. You’d think one article was sufficient to address their giving nature. Then this one appears. And I’m not done! Have you ever heard of a co-op? Maybe for farmers, or an electric utility, or, a credit union. Yes, credit unions are cooperatives, too. And when these entities work together, great things happen.

Look for a final roundup of the great things the credit union industry is doing, besides banking.

« Older posts

© 2019 Credit Union Geek

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑