The organic growth challenge

What creates the types of places people love going to?  Think Disney…why do people like to go there?  Because of what they can buy?  Because of the rides?  Because of the nostalgia?  Maybe a little of all of those, but mostly, they love it because of how it makes them feel.

So in the quest to create a specific feel and signature that will attract people to and keep people in your organization is, I would argue, the single most important thing you can do.  And by the way, very few of us are effectively doing it.  We’re waiting, or doing whiz-bang new ads, or offering a new loan program…all fine and dandy.  But it doesn’t do anything to right the ship and create a place people love to go and, more importantly, set the course for strong organic growth.

There is no easy path for organic growth.  It requires rolling up your sleeves and getting ready for some dirty work and hard decisions.  Here are five tactics that will help your credit union be successful in achieving a transformational kind of organic growth:

Pick a target market already!  Is it geographic, demographic, or product set focused?  Stop trying to be all things to all people.  Focus on what you are good at and what you have to offer these people that is better than they could get at your competitor(s).  What truly sets your financial institution apart from the rest?  If you are unable to answer that question, it is time to put together a branding strategy.

Remodel, revamp, or freshen up – but do something.  Now that you have hopefully identified the people you are best suited to serve, you need to make sure your branch(es) are enticing to those folks.  Conversely, making your branches look like the Apple Store because it seems like the cool thing to do may not be the right strategy for creating the kind of environment your target market wants in their primary financial institution.  Be sure that the choices you make about your branch environment are the right ones to delight the right audience.

Dust off the pink slips.  Credit unions pride themselves on being “nice” organizations, but this often means that the wrong people are in the most important roles – taking care of the members!  In my former role at my last credit union, we had a receptionist who I’m convinced hated people.  Peers from other credit unions would call and say, “Your receptionist wasn’t very nice.”  And, regrettably, it took her making many bad impressions before we decided to let her go.  It’s OK to tell someone that they aren’t a good fit for the job.  In most cases, they will probably agree with you if they have been struggling in their position, and may even find a place elsewhere in the organization where they would be a strong contributor.  An open conversation with the employee is a great way to handle the situation.

Stop making excuses.  There are credit unions out there that are more comfortable relying on their not-for-profit status as an excuse to not do things than to actually risk something and go out and do them.  When an excuse becomes the reason for not taking any risks, it is no longer an excuse but rather a fear of failure.

“Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker.”

Zig Ziglar

Embrace that you are part of an industry that is nimble and resourceful.  Remember that some of the biggest risks you take for a big reward don’t always have a big price tag.  Just remember to think big.

And saving the best for last…be a better leader.  You may believe this doesn’t have any impact on new member growth, but I would argue that it has the potential to have the biggest impact on your organization.  If your employees are unhappy, unchallenged, and your organization continues to fight uphill battles for growth, it might be time to take a look at the management styles that are predominant in your company.  A great way to get started is by determining your team’s strengths and ensuring everyone is focusing on the things at which they are strongest.  This best enables them to contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Engaging your employees is the absolute most important thing you can do for your organization.  Engaged employees are more apt to adopt new programs, are more productive, contribute to a more positive office environment and, most importantly, deliver a better member experience.

These decisions and changes are uncomfortable to make at times, but look at them as the necessary growing pains of a successful business.

Amanda Thomas

Amanda Thomas

Amanda is founder and president of TwoScore, a firm that channels her passion for the credit union mission and people to help credit unions under $100 million in assets reach ... Web: Details