The last article I wrote focused on the things that credit unions should NOT do to in order to help them succeed in a changing market. Some of it was hard to hear perhaps, but I know we are all on the same team together to help credit unions – of all sizes – grow and thrive. Because we love this industry.
So what do credit unions need to START doing or DO to succeed in a changing market? DO:
- Look at the market to make sure you are keeping up with member needs from a technology and convenience standpoint.
- Take diversity and gender equality seriously. In your marketing. In your recruiting of new employees. In your compensation packages. In every way you possibly can. The companies (not just credit unions) that don’t start taking this seriously and adapting their business and policies to embrace equality will not be the ones succeeding in the future, regardless of their growth metrics now.
- Hire people smarter than you. It takes some attitude changing to not let the title on your business card make you think you are the smartest person in the room. But one of the best things you can do as a leader is sit back and watch the people you have hired around you do what THEY do best. Supporting them and their ideas is a huge win for them and you will also learn something in the process.
- Think about scarcity. Every single one of your members is experiencing scarcity with either time and/or money. How can you save all of your members time and/or money? How can you make their lives easier? Make that your connecting point with them.
- Get out and do outreach. One of the great things about credit unions is that we are closely tied into the communities we serve. Time spent volunteering and helping out in the community often goes way further than a monetary donation and it puts a face to your credit union’s brand.
- Provide financial literacy opportunities. For your employees, for youth members, for underserved communities. We have the same products and services as anywhere else, but if you lend an ear, some guidance, and a warm hand, you become way more than someone’s financial institution. You become their lifelong financial partner.
- Find a tribe. It is LONELY being a CEO or a COO or anyone in a one-person department. One of the very best things about the credit union industry is that we are founded on the cooperative principles. We are interdependent parts of one movement, which means we have our own tribes inherently baked in. Want to talk CEO to CEO with other like-sized credit unions? Reach out to ones in a different state. Join or start a mastermind. Having a tribe to listen to you and support you will keep you fired up for even the hardest days you have.
- Give young professionals a chance to grow and flourish (and fail). The one thing the last credit union CEO said to me in my job interview with him that sold this position to me was “we aren’t looking for someone who plays it safe all the time. Consistent base hits are important and expected to get results, but we want someone who will swing for the fences and miss sometimes…because it shows you are trying something new.” This industry is ripe with countless young professionals in LOVE with this industry ready to learn from you and to work with you on mapping out their careers. These are the future leaders of the industry.
- Trust your crazy ideas. Every once in awhile, maybe in the shower or in the car on your commute, you may get an idea that you know is REALLY out there. Don’t “should” on it. The very thing that made you excited about this idea is the very reason you should share it with your team, and find a way to put it into action. It may be the very thing that sets you apart from your competitors.
- Marry culture and marketing. Your core values and mission and vision are not something that are developed to sit in an employee handbook…they are the definition of your credit union. More importantly, these brand tenets dictate everything from hiring to product offerings to the member experience and everything in between. Today’s most successful companies are marrying these with their marketing to communicate their “why” and embracing their cultures, not their products or their pricing, as their differentiator over their competitors.
- Never stop learning. Readers are leaders. If you spend every day with your head down (believe me…I worked at a credit union for 11 years so I know it is so easy to do when you are wearing 82 hats and someone is out sick), it is hard to keep your brain in the frame of mind of innovating and adapting and coming up with new ideas. Make sure you are constantly a student of what you do. Listen to podcasts, read articles and books, or even listen to audio books on your way to and from the office.
- Become the best leader you possibly can. A friend of mine told me once I had employees reporting to me that I was no longer a marketer…I was a leader, and 80% of my job going forward was to make sure my employees were empowered, armed with knowledge and supported. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams
- Remember the work you are doing matters. It touches lives (employees and members). It changes communities.
Thank you, credit unions, for allowing me to do the work I do in an industry that I love. Keep up the awesome work.