LATHRUP VILLAGE, Mich.-Michigan First grew assets by more than $140 million during the recession and its CEO attributes the steady climb to not over-reacting to problems right in front of the credit union.

"When times are tough you have to stay the course on things that really matter," said Michael Poulos. "Don't lose your long-term perspective."

During the downturn Michigan First CU did not waver on spending for employee training or marketing. Poulos said that has strengthened its market presence today and kept a lot of skilled employees on board, which translates directly to higher member satisfaction levels.

"We actually increased our spending for employee training," explained Poulos, who said that improving skills sent a sign to the team they are valued. "Do the opposite and you will see some good employees leave. Unfortunately, I think employee training is one of the first areas CUs cut when expenses have to be reduced."

MFCU also increased the budget for marketing over the last four years, which Poulos believes has the $625-million CU well-positioned to capture a lot of the consumers fleeing banks. "We are averaging about 1,500 new members a month and the number continues to go up."

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