I've been to my share of conferences and listened to enough big-name keynote speakers to have discovered that the bigger the name, the more interesting — but also least useful — they usually are. I've listened to some truly fascinating and even inspiring stories, but when it came time for me to offer some sort of tangible takeaway, something an executive could actually implement at the credit union not so much.
But reading CU Journal West Coast Correspondent Michael Bartlett's coverage of Earvin "Magic" Johnson's session at the California and Nevada CU Leagues' annual meetin, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sure, there were some of the typical motivational speaker platitudes — winning is a mindset, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and the like. But there were some concrete examples of strategies that credit unions actually can use.
For example, Johnson knew that when he retired from the NBA, he wanted to be a businessman. "I did not know business, so I took 20 CEOs who used to sit on the floor at Lakers games to lunch to ask them how they became successful, and how I could get started. I was not afraid to reach out."
Credit unions pride themselves on cooperating — it's called a "movement" instead of an "industry" for a reason — but they're not always so good about being willing to reach out beyond the sometimes insular credit union community.
When Johnson decided he wanted to become a businessman, he didn't reach out to other NBA players — he reached out to CEOs of a variety of industries.
There are a lot of different industries out there credit unions could be learning from. Navy FCU recently took the top spot on the National Cooperative Bank's top revenue-producing cooperatives in the financial category, and the $60 billion credit union on the planet took 11th overall. That means there were 10 other cooperative businesses from which credit unions could learn something. For that matter, there's likely much to learn from any of the cooperative businesses that made this list.
Another concrete takeaway: concrete goals, concrete numbers.
While in the NBA, Johnson determined he wanted to improve his free throw shooting — partly due to a desire to best his friend and competitor Larry Bird, whose strength was free throws. Johnson typically shot 85%, so he set a new goal of shooting free throws at 90%. He researched his weaknesses and found he was missing more free throws in the fourth quarter, when he was tired. To combat that, he did his regular work outs, then shot free throws at the end.
On the final game of the season, Johnson was told he needed to go 21 for 21 in free throws to pass Bird and Jack Sikma — and he did.
Notice all those specific numbers and statistics? The concrete goals? Crunching the data to figure out where the weak point was? Establishing a strategy to address that weakness? Knowing exactly what had to happen to reach the goal? These are all things credit unions should be doing — and some are, to be sure.
But I can't tell you the number of times I've called a credit union executive to talk about some exciting promotion the CU ran that ostensibly had fantastic results — and they have been — but there were no numbers to back that up, relying instead on anecdotal evidence.
Perhaps the most concrete of all of the potential takeaways offered by Johnson, however, is this: a piece of the Magic.
A member of the audience asked the NBA legend if he would lend his star power to promote credit unions. His response?
"I see the diversity in this room, and I like that," Johnson began. "I am about financial literacy when it comes to minorities in a big way. We were not brought up in money, and do not know how to save. So if Diana [Dykstra, the president and CEO of the CCUL and NCUL] asks me, then yes."
Sounds like it's time to reach out.
Managing Editor Lisa Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.