Top 10 Ways to Get Full Perspective of CU Business

A few years ago I was doing a credit union planning conference in Jamaica. A local told me "Mon, in Jamaica when we talk about 'turning head around,' we mean all the way, as in 360. But don't lose your head!"

I've tried to keep that full perspective in motion inside and outside of credit unions since then. Here's some observations that I hope you find helpful:

Wellness makes the business stronger. It isn't wasted time and energy. Healthy people are happier, more productive and appreciate a place that understands personal well-being and financial success walk (or run) hand in hand. Too many people in credit unions are working too much at the same old, not getting results and getting soft in the body and head at the same time.

Mindfulness is the new Red Bull. Training in non-secular meditation; simply breathing and becoming more aware of emotional intelligence, has been sweeping Silicon Valley in an extraordinary way. It's not hippie bull, it's based in neuroscience. For more, read "Search Inside Yourself" to discover how mindfulness has made a positive difference in people and a bottom line difference at Google and other fast-growing companies.

Community engagement and social mission are at the heart of the credit union difference. Are we merely savings and loans boutiques for the middle class, or are we prepared to truly go back to our roots and help the men, women and small businesses that are working hard to share the American Dream? Get out there and serve somebody. You'll feel better.

Performance matters. I know. Duhhh! Yet some CEOs and their boards need to stop getting mind-blown by the latest weather, power grasp, regulation, golf game, Lexus dealer, or ego boost, and take on the steady, measured and methodical work of building member relationships and satisfaction. They need to insist upon strengthening capital, monitoring expenses, streamlining operations and delivery, reaching into their communities and creating powerful, positive work environments for their colleagues. What works? World-class execution systems breathe life into the credit union while driving results.

Blame is for the schoolyard. Regulators are just trying to do their jobs. Politicians? At least they sometimes admit that they really are political animals. Think chameleon. We won't be taxed if we act like credit unions as opposed to "mini-me" banks. Regulation-left, right, red, blue or purple-is here to stay. Work with the examiners and yes, talk to the politicos. Don't whine or get mad. Put a smile on your face and get back to working the credit union way!

Innovation isn't group think. You will never regret tapping the source of each individual and member at the credit union that you can. You may regret the next long-winded meeting that sucks the air out, however. If you've got a few bright, solo geeks, let them lead you into new ways of thinking, working and winning-together.

Gen Y is just one segment. Yes, youth should never be disrespected at any level, nor should any other segment be taken for granted. It takes a blend of segments, cultures, analytics, profitability understanding, clear communications, product configurations and creativity to grow your business.

Don't be a lemming and go one way because others are. Local Environmental Scanning is a lot more useful than a video from Madison. Madison and leagues do good scans, but you need to understand your local markets, competitors and trends as well as focus upon the state, country and planet. Update quarterly.

Collaboration is hard and worth it. Make and save some money by working with other credit unions, your sponsors, businesses, other cooperatives, non-profits and business partners. Just remember if you feel like you are the smartest cat or the toughest dog, you're wrong. We're better together.

Keep your head in the game and have fun growing. What we do makes a difference. Millions of good people are waiting for a financial institution they can trust. There is reason to be optimistic about the future of credit unions.

John Parsons leads Cooperative Strategies Inc., and has also worked at numerous positions inside credit unions, including CEO. For more information: www.cooperative-strategies.com.