Defining our purpose

Last week during my commute, I was listening to the bonus disk that comes with my monthly Success Magazine subscription. In it, one of the article authors, Rabbi Shmuley, was discussing his theory about achieving a balanced and happy life. The interview was fascinating, but this one quote resonated with me: “Happiness is an organic byproduct - a natural outcome - of a purpose-driven life.”

I agree with him 100%. For example, while everyone looks forward to weekends without plans - ones that afford us the time to sit on the couch and catch up on reruns of Frasier - I always get to the end of those weekends feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Moreover, I wish I would have had more of a plan for my weekend.  

To extrapolate on Rabbi Shmuley’s theory about the purpose-driven life, I believe that this same theory applies to success in business. Success is an organic byproduct - a natural outcome - of a purpose-driven organization.

As I have said before, the problem that plagues some credit unions is that they try to be “the credit union for everyone.” They strive to serve no one in particular, don’t focus their efforts toward smaller niche markets, and instead try to open accounts for everyone they can get in the door. Moreover, these credit unions don’t focus on what they’re really good at. Just as they try to serve everyone, they try to do everything. There is no clear-cut purpose-driven reason for what they are doing.  

While this business model may help current membership growth, the credit unions that are setting themselves up for sustainable growth - five, 10 and 20 years in the future - are the ones who have a clear definition of who they are, who they serve, and what they stand for as an organization.

A credit union can’t truly be “best-suited” to serve any group until a clear purpose is defined for the organization. So the job, then, starts with identifying the purpose which will lead to the niche success healthy, growing credit unions enjoy.

Defining our purpose as Members First Credit Union has manifested itself in our culture standards project in several ways, which will insure sustainable growth for our future:

1. Our Core Values
2. Vision Statement
3. Leadership Expectations
4. Member Bill of Rights
5. Communication to employees
In short - “this is how we roll.”

Defining your credit union’s purpose, and working on your organizational culture isn’t this amorphous, “warm and fuzzy,” non-revenue generating project. It isn’t a project at all. It is a way of life for our credit union – it’s our credit union’s purpose. One other critical element of this winning strategy is to recognize that it is a gameplan, not a blueprint. It guides our actions, but it does not prescribe our actions. By doing this, it leaves room for the organic creativity of our employees and partners to be woven into the fabric of our strategy. It’s the edge that makes the strategy personal. It’s also the edge that allows us to be nimble. We don’t have to create a new blueprint every time the industry or political landscape changes. Our gameplan bends and changes with it.

The point of an organizational culture is to drive growth to meet your goals. If you combine a strong purpose with key growth targets for your credit union, it is a formula for winning the game.

Our Leadership Team and staff members have spent countless hours this year defining the five things (our key targets) that will sustain our growth for the future. They are:

Good-fit employees. We have worked hard to identify the strengths of our employees, put them in the right positions, an, in some cases, remove ill-fitting employees. Having a good team is the most vital part of an organizational culture.

Increase member retention. It costs a lot less to deepen relationships with existing members than it does to market to and attract new members. If we decrease the number of members leaving the credit union, it will increase loyalty and increase overall membership as well.

Identify, track, and use our Key Performance Indicators. While these may be different for every credit union, using KPI is an evaluation opportunity for continuous improvement, while allowing you the opportunity to celebrate victories along the way.

Build a simple growth model. Once we get to the point where we want to be within our own credit union, building that out into a model for future branch growth will be an extremely efficient way of reaching our growth goals because we won’t be “recreating the wheel” with each new location.

Grow influence and market share. Members First has been a “community credit union” for over ten years now, and we know what works for us. Just as we will build a simple growth model, we will use the same method for growing influence and market share by doing what has worked for us so well in our established community.

These key targets are as personal to us as our own personal goals and dreams for the future. This is the future for Members First Credit Union, and our Culture Standards, combined with the key targets above are the gameplan we need to get there.