What 1 Thing Would You Show Best Prospects? & Other Notes

Notes from the road, from Lindbergh Field to Lindbergh Terminal, from cars to bikes...

Having picked up rental cars in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Monterey, Calif., Maui and San Diego recently, I’ve learned that if there is an underserved segment in this country, not by credit unions but by the car rental companies–it’s front-end alignment specialists. None, apparently, are employed.

That auctioneer-on-speed narrator who appears in every car dealer’s radio ad racing through all the strings attached to the offer that was just advertised is one of the reasons no one trusts car dealers. So it was a bit disconcerting in San Diego recently to hear a credit union radio spot with a similar flamer disclaimer.

Overheard someone in Monterey ask another, “How long is this 17-Mile Drive thing?”

* It seems the introduction for every conference keynoter must include the adjectives “innovator” and “pioneer.” Seldom does the speaker ever merit the hype. That wasn’t the case in Rancho Mirage, Calif. recently when CO-OP Financial Services brought in Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak to speak. Wozniak is among a half-dozen or so true pioneers who significantly influenced the way we work and live even though he’s always been overshadowed by the much better-known Steve Jobs.

In his remarks (which will be featured separately in the Journal), Wozniak offered some off-the-cuff asides that made it apparent he operates in a different realm than the rest of us. He noted that while many measure the value of a hotel by its appearance or amenities, he was happy because he was staying in room 1025. “Ten,” he observed, “is a good number, and 25 is the square of five.”

Wozniak shared that his dream when he was young was to someday own a computer, “but a computer cost more than a house. So I decided that I would get an apartment.”

What was also clear in listening to him is how we all see others from different perspectives. While the rest of us may see Microsoft’s Bill Gates as one of the world’s richest men who happened to have been a code writer early in his life, Wozniak sees Gates as a code-writing geek like himself who just happened to go on and make a fortune. His first introduction to Gates’ was the latter’s book on BASIC for Intel chips. “We had heard about Bill Gates, and I thought someday I am going to be famous, too.”

* Purgatory officially exists. It’s the lobby lounge at any airport hotel on a Saturday night.

While leading a breakout session at the California league’s Big Valley Conference recently, Chicago-based consultant Joe Sullivan made a comment in passing that many of the board members in attendance were there with their bosses, their respective CEOs. Sullivan soon found himself being interrupted by board members around the room to make sure he understood that no, they were the boss.

Meanwhile, Sullivan also proposed taking advantage of the tough current economic conditions to leverage the essence of credit unions. “What if you were to send each of your members a letter in Everyday Joe language about what’s going on in the markets and asking them for feedback on what they would like to know more about?,” he suggested. Good idea. If you can’t turn to your credit union in a crisis, or don’t know you can, then just where can you turn?

* You might think that if your credit union were in dire straights you’d become more conservative. But as Ken Schmidt, who was at Harley-Davidson when the company was on the brink of ruin, observed during the CO-OP’s recent Think 2008 event, that’s not always the case. “When you’re $250 million in debt and your physical plant is 80 years old you have a whole new approach to liability,” joked Schmidt. “It was the ‘Sue us, we have nothing to lose’ school of risk management.”

Later Schmidt had a challenge worth giving some thought: “If you could show something to your 100 best member prospects, what would you show them?”

As for his own financial relationships, he added, “My bank does not like me. I know this because I’ve gone there for 22 years and they’ve always called me by my first name: Next.”

* It was Earth Day last week, and there’s no shortage of talk about the environment. But it’s still mostly just talk. At the Philly airport Marriott, for instance, there was a brochure in every room headlined “true green” that talked all about what Marriott hotels are doing to support efforts to conserve energy. That would explain why 15 floors of hallways and elevator lobbies were lit up like New Year’s Eve 24/7, whether someone was in them or not. I’ve seen the same message in numerous other hotels, including the Marriott in Washington, where I watched the escalators run all day and night regardless of whether someone was riding them.

At the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware, room service includes an 18% “service charge.” This “service” is apparently completely unrelated to the $2 “delivery fee” that comes on the same bill.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann<at>cujournal.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com