One Strategy For Growing, Another For When You Are Not

Can you really afford to attend a conference in 2009? And not just because of the cost. Take a look around at the economy. Who even wants to leave the credit union, or, for that matter, their own house?

Yet the real question should be: how can you afford not to?

Let's cut right to the chase. Conference-related expenses deserve scrutiny in any business environment, but will be especially deserving of such attention during 2009-you need no more evidence of that than the coverage on the front page of this issue. A conference should be able to demonstrate a clear return on investment for the attendee-you shouldn't go home with memories of a funny keynoter, you should go home with a notebook full of practical, effective ideas you can start to implement.

We understand that. It's the same foundation upon which we build coverage in Credit Union Journal-there should be demonstrable value in being a subscriber, which is why you see such an editorial focus in the Journal on success stories and models your own credit union can learn from and adopt.

You will see the same thing, too, in Credit Union Journal's Grow Show, scheduled for April 27-29 in San Diego. Grow Show veterans know the agenda is without fluff. We have no famous keynoters. No golf tournament. No comedians. What we do have is credit unions and other analysts offering perspectives, experiences and ideas on how to grow just about every aspect of your credit union. Membership. Lending. Savings. Plastic cards. We've got fellow credit union leaders talking about developing the kind of innovation within the credit union's culture that fosters improved service and unique products. Another leader will share how his CU is generating bottom line "green" from the Green Revolution.

And as we did in our 2008 event, we've asked that every solutions provider on hand be prepared to answer the question, "How can we help you grow?" and we've set aside time for interaction with these providers so attendees can cram their notebooks with even more ideas.

Of course, we've also built into Grow Show plenty of opportunities to interact with both speakers and other attendees so as to get even more value from the experience.

Yes, the location, the Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island just across the bay from San Diego, is a gem. This classic hotel is worth a visit and a stay even if you're not there on business (just Google it if you're not familiar with the Del). But we also know it comes with a cost. If you're coming from outside Southern California you've got an airfare, and every attendee will have to budget for registration, transportation, meals, and a couple of nights at the aforementioned Inn. In all, that's likely to be a couple of thousand dollars from your budget.

For that, you should be, indeed must be, able to show a return on that investment. We're confident you'll agree with previous attendees at Grow Show that your participation comes with clear ROI. Successful businesses, not just credit unions, know they must invest for growth regardless of economic conditions, so that when the economy does rebound they are ahead of the market. Take a moment and check out the agenda by clicking on any of the links at cujournal.com. It's the first step in ensuring your CU is one of those market-beaters.

* There is some difficult news for credit unions that will be announced this week and throughout this month, and it's anything but market-beating. As Credit Union Journal first reported at cujournal.com and then in more detail in this issue, a number of credit unions are reporting some significant losses for 2008. Most of those losses are tied to real estate loans gone bad, and many are in the once-boom states of Florida, Nevada, Arizona and California.

A few CEOs' heads have already started to roll. Those who keep theirs will be tasked with explaining to members why the bottom line numbers are red. Some CEOs have already moved quickly to get out ahead of the news before members could read about it in local media, including Ron Wested, president/CEO at the $1.7-billion Arizona FCU, who has written in a letter posted on the CU's website at www.azfcu.com, "Just as mid-year media headlines wrote of our $42 million loss for the first six months, you may soon read reports of Arizona Federal's $115 million loss for all of 2008. This result reflects our financial reality as a greater number of our members did not or simply could not make their loan payments."

Arizona FCU, which saw a five-fold increases in loan losses, still has 10% capital, Wested goes on to stress.

Unfortunately, other CUs are going to have to get ready to share similar news. After all, they're not just "member-owners" when the numbers look good.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.