Top 15 post: Matt McCombs

The Wow Project

“Good is the Enemy of Great” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

This quote symbolizes the essence of The Wow Project at DHCU. In fact, all Operations Managers are currently spending a portion of Ops Meetings discussing the notion of taking a Good Company to Great(ness). A little over a year ago, DHCU recognized it was a Good Company in a Good Segment (Credit Unions) in a very poor industry (Banking).

We realized that any company has the ability to be Good for a short period of time but what distinguishes Good from Great is sustainability. We embarked on a journey to create a sustainable climate that would know nothing but how to be Great. Thus, The Wow Project was born. Like learning to walk, the first few steps are the most difficult. We began by understanding to have sustainability we needed to peel away the pieces of our business that were only Good (And some that may not have even measured up to that!).

The first area we identified was our Sales Culture. Although the credit union had a history of driving Good sales numbers, we lacked significantly outpacing an industry that is marginal at best at engaging our membership. As an industry, credit unions control 35% of its members deposits and less than 33% of its members loans, not even counting mortgage business! As an organization we knew this would be unacceptable and needed to build expectations apart from “industry averages”. Goals were formed and branch managers were given significant freedom to run their office knowing they were now accountable and responsible for results. What started as a top down approach quickly became a wildfire spreading throughout the entire organization. Soon contests started and staff became driven to reach critical milestones – like making the CEO (and me) kiss a pig!

Although critical to the organization to set the tone with Great results, to be Great we can’t just be a flash in the pan. We knew we were just beginning the initial phase of The Wow Project. Generating sustainability comes from somewhere much deeper than a sales culture. Sustainability has to come from excellence in the only true competitive advantage we can have in financial services, our people. As an organization we had to raise the bar on employee engagement. In a time period where employee loyalty is questioned daily, we had/have to create an environment where employees feel valued for all they do for the organization. We began to measure employee engagement and are starting to tie managers compensation levels to a portion of their staffs engagement levels. We also have incorporated all front and back office employees into team goals to drive a “one team” approach. Although we have started strong and experienced increases in engagement, we still have much to do for long-term success. As we work on the next phase, identifying, evaluating and properly setting individual training programs based upon performance and potential are becoming a glaring need. In the recent weeks we have started to analyze performance and potential across roles and are beginning to assess proper training programs for each area.

The final part of our initial phase was to establish Corporate Values. Recognizing we are still early in our transition, our values define who we are and what we believe in. They are rooted to the core of why we exist as an organization and why we behave like we do. Do we all live up to these on a daily basis, probably not. However, this is where we are striving to go as an organization. Our long-term success is incumbent upon every employee believing and living our values.    

As in any transition, we expected some bumps along the way. No pain, no gain right? Ironically, with such significant and rapid change, we experienced very few bumps. As Jim Collins states, you need the right people in the right seat. Other than a few moves around the bus, we found ourselves in a position with great people to drive us in the right direction.

So was there gain? Over the last year the credit union experienced outstanding growth. Membership growth is tracking at over 6% and loan growth is at record highs. According to Raddon Financial Group, DHCU has been in the top 1% of all credit unions in terms of loan growth and this has driven our loan to share from 63% to 82%. Our staff engagement levels are continuing to trend up and profitability has moved back to pre-recession levels. And the best part is by creating a truly sustainable change – we are driving ourselves towards Great(ness).

Matt McCombs, DHCU Community Credit Union