I do a lot of strategic thinking/strategic planning sessions. One of the areas I like to help organizations focus on is profoundly understanding what they really sell. Harley-Davidson does not sell motorcycles. They sell confidence, feeling strong, and enjoying the freedom of the open road. High-end restaurants do not sell food. They sell a fine dining experience and beautiful memories with your friends and family. Credit unions do not sell mortgages, checking accounts, car loans, or credit cards. At its most fundamental level, you sell the exact same thing all your competitors sell: money. And because you are highly regulated, there’s no significant difference between the products and services and the competition. So, what do you really sell? I believe that you sell financial peace of mind. Being able to buy my first home. Saving to put my kids through college. Knowing that I have someone that I trust looking after my financial future. You also sell, helping people gain financial literacy. Sponsoring a fundraising event. Donating to charity. Pride in being a member of an organization that makes a real difference in the community they live in.
So that’s what your second most important group of customers buy from you. They give you deposits; you provide them with the ability to sleep at night knowing your credit union cares about them and their community. But you notice I said, “second most important customer.” The most important customer of your credit union is the employees because the biggest driver of happy, loyal, and engaged members is happy, loyal, and engaged employees. As I like to say, “The member’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience.”
So what do your most important customers buy? I can guarantee you it’s not trying to get to three billion dollars in deposits. They are probably not super excited about keeping the Board of Directors happy. They are definitely not overjoyed to fill out paperwork and create reports. What they want from you is a noble purpose. They want to know that they are doing something important and positively impacting the lives of other people.
In some businesses, it’s very easy for employees to see their impact. If you work in a hospital, you save people’s lives. As one of my friends that owns a prosthetics company says, “We watch them crutch in and then walk out.” For me, it’s knowing that if I can help an organization improve, they can take better care of their employees, who will take better care of their families, which will positively impact their community.
What then is the noble purpose of your credit union? What do you do that makes your team members feel enlivened, engaged, and dedicated to the success of your organization? Here is another one of my favorite phrases, “People will get out of bed in the morning and go to work for a paycheck, but they will jump out of bed and do their best work for a purpose.”
It’s a pretty basic idea that applies to every company in the world. Hire the best people you can, take fantastic care of them, and they will take great care of your members, which will lead to positive financial results.