The passionless credit union

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.                                                                           

John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961

A few months later, President Kennedy made an unannounced visit to the space center. During his tour, he asked several folks he met the same question: “What is it you do here?”

One person was in blue overalls and looked rather dirty. When JFK asked this gentleman, “What is it YOU do here?” The response was “I pick up the trash.” President Kennedy gave him a quick smile and moved on.

Later in his tour, he crossed paths with another gentleman in identical blue overalls. President Kennedy asked the question again, “What is it YOU do here?” The response brought a huge grin to the president’s face. “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

Both gentleman in blue overalls were janitors. While both had the same position within the space center, each one had a very different sense of purpose. One was simply picking up trash. It was his job. The other was playing a small but vital role on a team of people who were going to put a man on the moon.

What would happen if you walked through your credit union and asked the same question? Would your tellers simply respond with “I handle transactions for our members.” Maybe your loan officers would say, “I make loans for our members.” What about the janitor at your credit union? Would he or she simply be picking up trash? If those are the answers you get, they’re not wrong, but they’re not very inspiring.

Passion starts with purpose. Does your team have a purpose? Are they passionate about it?

  • There’s not much excitement in just making loans for a living. But is there eagerness in helping someone through a tough time?
  • Is there passion in helping someone buy their first home? How about energy in assisting someone realize a dream?
  • Is there passion in helping a single mom purchase a car that will help get her kids to school and her to her job?
  • Is there passion with helping the couple nearing retirement pay off their debt faster so they can enjoy retirement without having to worry about their finances?

Why does this matter? Because passion is contagious. If you find it in your credit union from the CEO to the teller line, you’re going to find it among your members. Passion fuels word of mouth, which is what 9 out of 10 people use to make decision about doing business with a brand. Whether you’re spending $50 a year on marketing or $500,000 a year on marketing, if 9 out of 10 people talking about your brand are indifferent (or worse, talking bad about your brand), you’re flushing money down the toilet.

How do you gauge the passion and the energy of your team?

  1. If, at random, we choose one of your employees and one of your members and put them in a room together, do they have anything in common? Is the member talking about that time the credit union helped them through a tough spot? Is the employee talking about his or her passion for doing those things for members every day?
  2. If your credit union locked its doors tomorrow and ceased to exist, would anyone notice? Is your marketing message solely responsible for driving growth? Or does it live in the hearts and minds of your employees and your members? Is there a culture of loyal members who need what you have, or feel such loyalty to your brand that they would protest outside the door for you to come back?
  3. Can your credit union cross its heart and hope to die on the promise you make? What is your promise? Those who come your way through glitzy ad campaigns and fancy promotions will one day realize that’s all it is – glitz and fanciness. No substance. Few can make a promise and keep it. If you can clearly make a promise in just a few words, you’re ahead of the pack. If you can keep that promise, you’ve got something special.
  4. Do you have talented people beating down your doors with resumes? Are you struggling to find employees? Some people just want a J-O-B. Others want to do work that matters, and are willing to sacrifice big paychecks and fancy benefits to passionately work with a purpose. Maybe the employees you do have, and resumes you get are from people just doing the bare minimum to get by. If you’re creatively leading your credit union with purpose, you would never have to post a job opening. There will be a wealth of talent waiting for a position to open.
  5. Is the inspiration that gave birth to your credit union alive and well? Prove it. Remembering why your credit union came into existence can be one way to turn your culture from tired to inspired. Remember the story at the beginning of this article. When one janitor was asked what it was he did for a living, he knew he was playing a part in helping to put a man on the moon. Does everyone in your credit union from the CEO to the teller line know why they are doing what they do?
  6. Is paid advertising driving your results? If the government passed a law tomorrow that outlawed paid media ads (like radio and billboards), would your credit union survive? If you’re providing stellar service and truly serving the unique needs of your members, you have fans that are doing your marketing for you. Likewise, if you’re providing dreadful service or just making loans, you have some members that would put you out of business within weeks or months with what they have to say about you.
  7. Do your credit union employees speak up or shut up? Have you beaten your employees into submission? Or do they feel empowered to speak up and provide ideas and thoughts that will help fuel your purpose? Your employees are your greatest assets. Employees, who are passionate about their purpose, will fuel members who are passionate about your purpose.

Your members are nothing more than Millennials with attention deficit disorder in a room full of shiny objects. You might catch their attention for a quick second with a fun campaign. But can you keep them engaged? You never will unless you find a way to kindle a passion for your brand. Build a credit union that would leave a void in the world if it went away tomorrow.

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: yourmarketing.co Details

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