Jealous of your friends or neighbors? Coopetition is the answer!

My neighbors have some seriously cool Halloween decorations. One house has a cauldron surrounded by three larger-than-life witches that are creepy even in the daylight. Another house has a set of 4 skeletons dressed as cheerleaders with three forming a human/skeleton pyramid and the other doing the splits. And of course, there’s the house with the obligatory 10’ skeleton dressed as the Grim Reaper. I guess skeletons are popular in my neighborhood.

I keep thinking, “What can I do to compete with all these amazing decorations? If this is how far they go for Halloween, what do they do for the myriad of year-end holidays? How am I going to keep up?” The answer came to me during a recent conversation at my credit union.

As self-professed #CreditUnionNerds, we may often find ourselves in conversations with random people about how cool credit unions are and what a difference they make in people’s lives. Imagine my delight when I visited my new credit union here in South Carolina and got to share a tidbit about the cooperative movement – which includes credit unions, of course. My conversation with a new member service rep included a discussion about how we are surrounded by cooperatives and most of us don’t even realize it. #CooperativeNerds will recognize the following as cooperatives:

  • REI
  • Ace Hardware
  • Land O’Lakes
  • Ocean Spray
  • Cabot Creamery

Given that Cooperation Among Cooperatives is the 6th cooperative principle, you’d think we’d all be searching for ways to serve more cranberry juice, butter, and cheese while wearing hiking boots and fixing plumbing leaks at our annual meetings. Yeah, that’s a stretch even for me.

Sometimes cooperation gives way to competition, and we find ourselves battling over the same communities and the same members. We know that a little bit of healthy competition can create motivation, differentiation, and innovation. So, what’s the balance? What if we focus on coopetition instead?

While you may be familiar with the concept of coopetition, don’t assume everyone on your team knows what it is. Coopetition is a business strategy that combines elements of both cooperation and competition. Credit unions who may be considered rivals in a competitive market can still cooperate in certain aspects of our business. There are mutual benefits to be gained by working together, even though you may continue to compete in other areas.

Key benefits of coopetition include:

  1. Resource optimization: Coopetition often involves sharing resources, knowledge, or expertise in areas where it makes sense. This can result in cost savings and more efficient operations for both parties. Having hundreds of thousands of ATMS available around the country through a cooperative network is a great example of coopetition.
  2. Innovation and research: Coopetition often fosters innovation by allowing credit unions to exchange ideas, technologies, or research. Joint projects can lead to the development of new products, services, or technologies that may not have been possible in isolation. Many CUSOs rely on coopetition to deliver innovative products and services to their members that wouldn’t be available without the pooled funding available through coopetition.
  3. Market expansion: Credit unions can collaborate to enter new markets, especially in regions where local expertise and resources may be limited. Shared branching helps credit unions grow their market presence more efficiently.
  4. Learning and knowledge sharing: Credit unions involved in coopetition can learn from each other’s best practices, industry knowledge, and expertise. If you’ve ever learned alongside someone from another credit union at a League or national program, you’ve engaged in coopetition.

In a recent social media post, Amy Weatherly, co-founder of “Sister, I am with you,” wrote the following:

“I truly don’t understand the whole you vs. me mentality.

I know some people thrive off of that competition, but I will never believe it needs to be that way. What are we competing for?

Love? There’s enough of it to go around.

Success? There’s enough of it to go around.

Happiness? There’s enough of it to go around.

Attention? Bleh. Is it really all that great anyway?

In my mind, it will always be you + me.

I don’t need to push you down to get ahead. I don’t need to put you down to be lifted up. I don’t need to steal your ideas or take credit for your work. I’ve got my own brain, my own thoughts, and my own passions.

The only way I want to go through life is valuing others, valuing connection, and believing we ALL have the ability to get where we need to be and that we are more likely to get there building bridges than building walls.

Here’s to collaboration.

Here’s to helping each other.

Here’s to working together.

Here’s to making sure everyone at the table gets fed.”

As for me, I’ll add a few strings of orange lights and an inflatable ghost to my yard while encouraging others to take a drive through my neighborhood to enjoy everyone’s decorations. How about you? Where can you grow the coopetive spirit? If you’d like to learn more about coopetition in the credit union movement, reach out to me and I’d be delighted to help you take your credit union to the next level.

Angela Prestil

Angela Prestil

As Senior Consultant for CU Difference, Angela brings a distinct specialty set in the critical areas of employee engagement, leadership development, and member loyalty strategies. She has helped hundreds of ... Web: Details