Rock & Roll for Credit Unions 10: Credit union beer goggles

There’s a chill in the air, and a lot of talk about hopes, dreams, and goals for 2014. That’s right, it’s strategic planning season for credit unions as we prepare for the year ahead. I’ve been privileged to sit in on many planning sessions over the years, some great, others, not so much.

Recently I had the honor of being a part of a planning session for a credit union whose success the past few years would be the envy of many. Loans continue to grow, and the balance sheet would make any CFO enjoy a celebratory beverage.

Maybe a beer. However, we found one glitch. The mission statement.

When the planning session opened the board and management team were asked to evaluate their mission statement. Some heads nodded and a few vocal grunts were heard approving what has been used as the mission statement the past few years. As we dug deeper into the words of the mission statement and a few probing questions were asked, eyebrows began to rise. “We will deliver cutting edge products, service, and technology to our members.” It didn’t match with the current business reality. The website was outdated, there is no mobile app available, and members who live outside of the credit union’s geographic area have to snail mail a check in to be deposited.

I’m sure those who wrote the mission statement several years ago had the best intentions. But none of the benefits mentioned in the statement were available for members, nor would they be in the near future. It appeared to me that the board had their beer goggles on when evaluating their credit union. Rightfully so, they had a lot to be proud of.  However, all of the wins the credit union had been experiencing were clouding their judgment of who they really were, and how much opportunity they had to grow and be even more successful.

How often do you sit back, with your beer goggles on, lusting after how great your credit union looks, only to be sobered up by an outside evaluation of how things really are? Take some time this fall as you’re in planning mode for 2014 to do one of the following:

  1. Invite some members in for a reality check. Share mission statement with them. Ask them how you’re doing in delivering that. Find out how they’re using the credit union, and why they may have accounts at other financial institutions. While you may think you’re the bee’s knees, your members are always ready and willing to let you know where you’re falling short.
  2. Invest in your strategic planning. We always encourage credit unions to spend some time and money on hiring a professional to conduct the strategic planning session. Your cousin’s friend who always has great ideas is probably not the best use of your time or the boards’, nor will you get a very high level discussion. Instead, turn to someone who can help guide the conversation towards strategy, not tactics. Adding mobile banking is a strategy. Being more convenient to your members is a strategy. Know the difference during your planning session, and make sure your moderator is keeping the conversation at 30,000 feet.

Neal McCoy said it best in his late 90’s hit “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On: “He don’t see ugly through his bloodshot eyes… Right now his worries are gone. ‘Cause life looks good, good, good. So good, good, good. Life looks good, good, good. Billy’s got his beer goggles on.”

Remove the beer goggles and take a sober look at your mission statement and goals for 2014.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details