tOSU and their Helmet Stickers

There’s a popular commercial running these days about why The Ohio State University has kept their helmets the same for decades. The commercial explains the logic (in short) behind how and why their student-athletes earn buckeye leaf stickers to be placed on their helmets.

If you were to look up symbolism in the dictionary or online you will learn that symbolism is defined as:

“the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.”

Qualities. Ideas. Symbols.

Symbols can be very powerful. If you have any doubt about their importance, look no further than how popular emojis, avatars and bitmojis are. Symbols are incredibly persuasive because they take complex ideas and simplify them. In the world we live in, I believe we all are looking for more simplicity.

How can we apply this to our businesses? It’s easy. Stop trying to put your mission, vision, and values into words and think about its essence. If you cannot define what you aim to do and why you exist by creating a symbol, there is a very real possibility that your teammates and consumers of your products/services have no idea why you exist.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, can you recite your organization’s Mission Statement? Can you recall your vision without looking it up? When you make your organization’s purpose easy to understand, you create a common language. You create opportunities for your brand ambassadors to understand your purpose, but you also allow them to express your purpose in their own unique way.

People do not buy products. People buy relationships. People buy “stuff” that they can relate to. Even if everyone within your organization did memorize your Mission Statement, would it resonate with your target market? My guess is that it would for some, but it wouldn’t for most.

Simplify your messaging. Empower your teammates and watch the results. You will be amazed.  There IS some value in “doing things the way we have always done them” if what you are doing is truly meaningful and memorable.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

Without wax,

Bryce

 

Advertisements

When Mental Health Issues Hit Home, It’s Almost Always Too Late

Mental illness is very serious. Unlike most health issues, where you can provide treatment and see immediate results, most mental health issues exist without many people knowing their friend, family member or loved one is dealing with more than they could ever possibly imagine.

Four days. Four days before Chester succumbed to the overwhelming feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, anxiety and not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, I I would bet my life savings that no one in this car had any idea the tragic event that would unfold four days later was even a remote possibility.

Stigma keeps so many people from seeking help. Stigma exists because, for decades, men like Chester have been told to “suck it up” or “be a man”. Excuse my language, but that is complete bullshit. Depression can be crippling. It also can be treated, but it can’t be treated until people feel safe seeking the help they need.

Last thing. While Chester was smiling, laughing and singing his heart away, he also said some pretty amazing things.

“This is the best day of my life.”
“I just want my children to find something that they love and are passionate about.”

Not my words: “Often, the people who appear to be the happiest are dealing with things other people cannot fathom.”

Four days before the world lost Chester Bennington, no one would have ever expected that what he was carrying around was so heavy that he would take his own life. Rather, mental illness would cause him to take his own life.

Something needs to change. I am blessed that my family understood how serious mental health is and helped me get the treatment I needed and still need to manage my depression and anxiety, but not everyone is so fortunate. If you know anyone who is struggling, please let them know you care and you are available to listen. It could be the difference between waking up and connecting with a loved one or waking up and the world losing another amazing person.

Without wax,

Bryce

Heroes and Humans

I’m guilty. I put famous people up on a pedestal. I think we probably all do more than we should. The world is a gigantic business and most of what we see and hear is very well rehearsed. Most of it is scripted.  Every once in a while we see who these “heroes” of ours are. It’s the times when you see or hear or read something that resonates deep within you. It’s a moment that you realize that the people you have put up on a pedestal are human just like you.

Nowadays, many of us are divided. It is my hope that we can return to a civil society focused on liberty and the best interest of all someday soon.

About this video… For me, this was one of those moments that I realized an artist I admired was human. He has the same emotions as me. He has the same tipping points as me and he is comfortable with being vulnerable.
This song, Why Not Me, pretty much sums it up. Our world lost a lot of innocent people this week. People who were out to have a good time and enjoy the music that gave them the special moments we all seek.
This video moved me and I hope it moves you to see how much more we all are alike than we are different. If you are a man and reading this, I hope you know that it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to feel and it is okay to share your feelings.
I’m thankful for moments like these that I will never forget, but I wish this moment would never have had to happen. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people we lost, all of the people who were wounded and every single individual affected by this horrific tragedy. All of my respect goes to the brave men and women of the LVPD who risked their lives to limit this unimaginable event.

Conversations with a Mirror

man-in-mirrorPM1

It has been said, “We are all a work in progress.”  While I believe that we all are a work in progress, sometimes we can find ourselves “stuck”. Maybe we’re a work in progress, but if we think about it and are honest with ourselves, sometimes we find that we haven’t been doing much work at all. Maybe we’ve been too busy with our careers, family or something else. Sure, we’re working, but we’re not working on ourselves.  I recently came to the realization that I hadn’t been working on myself.  Actually, it took a couple of really good friends to tell me that I need to wake up.  I needed to make some serious changes because I was totally unaware that my behaviors were not matching my intentions. It didn’t take me long to realize that no one was going to do the work for me, so I decided it was time to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror.

We all look in the mirror. Most of us do it daily to make sure we don’t look like a hot mess when we get to work.  What most of us don’t do is take the time to look into the mirror and really see ourselves. Reflect. Dream. Plan. Think. Get comfortable in our own skin.

I didn’t do this for a number of reasons:

  1. It doesn’t feel natural
  2. It’s not comfortable (It was actually really uncomfortable.)
  3. We might not even have the slightest idea that something is “off”
  4. We might not want to know who we really are because we’re satisfied with the persona we project as a natural defense mechanism

There are many other reasons but these are mine and I am owning them. I am sure you have your own reasons, too. I did it, though. It wasn’t fun, but it made me realize how much work I have to do.

So, now I’m in the process of trying my best to mend the relationships I have neglected. Show people who I really am. I’m not telling them who I am, I am showing them. Life is hectic. As we get older life finds a way of getting more and more complicated and slowly, but surely we lose little bits of ourselves. This becomes a problem when you lose the aspects of yourself that other people like. I don’t consider myself a workaholic, but I do have an unhealthy “obsession” (I can’t think of a better word and I don’t want to use a thesaurus) with working until I find myself drained. Drained of the excitement I once had. Drained of the energy to do anything else that once was fun. Drained of the energy to put forth my best self. Luckily for me, I have some really good friends who aren’t afraid to call me out on my bullshit.

So what am I driving at here? Put simply; you have to work on yourself first if you eventually want to put others first and create authentic human relationships. I’m talking work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. If you aren’t comfortable with yourself and you’re unaware of the areas you need to work on, chances are you will never be able to be present for the people who need you. And if you take nothing else from this blog, there are a lot of people who need you. If you’re reading this, there’s a really good chance that I need you, your talents and everything else you bring to the table.  And if I need you, I can guarantee that a lot of others need you, too.

Putting yourself first can sound selfish and it certainly can be when we’re not careful about what “putting ourselves first” really means. Life isn’t all about me, but I know that if I am not working on my emotional intelligence, reflecting on my words and being aware of how I interact with others, I am probably of little value to anyone.

So, take the time to look in the mirror. You might not like what you see at first or you might love what you see. Either way, it’s completely okay. If you like what you see, keep being you. The world needs what you have to offer. If you don’t like what you see, start working on yourself, the world needs what you are keeping hidden and have to offer.

We’re all a work in progress. Some of us just need to end our lunch break and get back to doing the work that will change our lives and the lives of others.

Without wax,

Bryce

When Memes Go Wrong

dear asshole

Hey there.  I know you’re not a frequent reader because I haven’t updated my blog in 2+ years, but guess what, today something hit me so hard that I thought I should share my thoughts.  You may disagree.  You might even agree.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m right about this.  If you disagree, please take a bit longer to examine your thought process.

I’ve selected an image to be attached to this post.  Honestly, I am disturbed that it exists and I had a hard time taking a screenshot of it because all I could think of was that I may also be contributing to the problem I am about to dive further into.

The title of this blog is misleading.  It’s not when memes go wrong, it’s when people go wrong.  I go wrong a lot.  I know it.  Most people know it and I’m not denying it.  So please, don’t take me for a hypocrite.  One thing I do know is that I NEVER joke about mental health.

Chris Cornell.  Chris Cornell died this week.  He left this earth and he left behind groundbreaking music, but he also left behind three children and a wife that he adored.  By all accounts, Chris had everything you and I have probably ever wanted, but he had something else that some of us might deal with day to day, some others might have a family member who fights their illness day-to-day and others may have never experienced depression, a mood disorder or any other type of “mental illness”.

By now, you’ve read a lot.  Here is my point.  If you walk by three people a day, statistically one of those people has had or will have a depressive “episode” in their life.  As a side note, I am using quotation marks when I must use terms that I do not agree with.

Chris Cornell did end his own life.  This is a fact.  Aaron Hernandez (the football player convicted of 1st-degree murder) also killed himself inside his prison cell.  Both of these HUMAN BEINGS had nothing in common with the exception on the Hollywood limelight.

To compare these tragic events in the hopes of a few Facebook Reactions, Twitter RT’s or whatever is completely insensitive and one of the key indicators of why our (the American) society continues to trot along with blinders on our eyes to the real issues we must first address.

In summation:

  1. Please stop using other people’s misfortune to gain a laugh, promote your product or further your own selfish initiatives.
  2. Suicide is NOT an issue of someone taking their own life.  Suicide is the sometimes sudden, but other times prolonged process of brain chemicals causing a person to experience various levels of suicidal thoughts and/or depressive/manic episodes.
  3. People who struggle with a mental health diagnosis are ill.  Some may be ill for a short time, others may battle their illness their entire life.  NO ONE ever makes fun of someone battling cancer, but in less than 48 hours people have created memes about a HUMAN BEING ending their life.  Correction, what I should have said is that a HUMAN BEING’s illness finally became insurmountable and they succumbed to it.

If you’re reading this and you feel like it is an attack on you, it isn’t.  This image and cultural appropriation runs rampant in our society.  It must be stopped.  I am just sharing my thoughts because I fight a struggle myself.  I don’t know what struggle Chris Cornell fought.  For that matter, I don’t know what battle(s) Kurt Cobian, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell and so many others have fought.  You can read the articles and call it drug addiction, but please know that addiction is a mental health diagnosis and often the after effect of a pre-existing mental health diagnosis and they call is co-morbidity.  Look it up.

Anyhow, please just stop it.  There are a lot of funny and often hilarious things that take place in life.  Unfortunately, there are also very sad and tragic things that take place every day, too.  We know about the more tragic events because of a thing we call, “the news”.

With social media, we can be the NEW news.  We can share the positive.  We can discuss issues and we can also debate.  Unfortunately, we can also make light of serious situations.  We can jest at others misfortune knowing that they may never see it but we may forget that the loved ones left behind may see it.

I know I’ve done my fair share of making light of others misfortunes before and I am confident that if you go back in my FB history you will probably find more than one instance of this immature behavior and I will likely be a hypocrite in someone’s eyes in the future, but for some reason this issue just really hit me hard.

I could write nonsensically all day.  Trust me, I could.  At the end of the day, I am writing this because it’s cathartic and I hope that it will change my future behavior and maybe someone else’s.  For the last 72 hours or so I can’t tell you how many times I have listened and viewed some of Chris Cornell’s YouTube videos.  I am thankful that we all have those to remember him by.

Thanks for reading.

Bryce

Redefining ROI

ROI-graphReturn on investment (ROI).  Every business person is familiar with this term and if you are a marketer, like me, it’s kind of a big deal.  No matter the nature of your business, marketers spend money to make more money.  It’s a pretty simple concept to grasp, but I’m not convinced that all of us really understand everything that needs to be involved to deliver firm numbers and report results.  So, now that I’ve put my credit union hat on, let’s talk about some of the issues I’ve encountered personally and heard from other people over the years.

Planning

It’s astonishing to me how many times I hear that marketers do not have a strategy or plan for the year about what they will be advertising, why they will be doing so at a certain time and how much of their budget will be allocated to a specific campaign.  If tracking is a big problem, this one is even bigger.  If you don’t have a plan, it’s impossible to track.  If you don’t have a plan, you become reactionary instead of proactive.  If you don’t have a plan, your message has a greater chance of getting lost in all the other advertising that is going on around you and your members.  There is certainly no shortage of financial institutions in any market, so, if you don’t know how you are going to deliver your message and why you’ve chosen a certain way, good luck standing out.

Execution

If you have a plan in place it is much easier to execute (no brainer, right?), but planning doesn’t mean you have to stay rigid.  Rates change daily and financial marketers are constantly playing a balancing act of gaining deposits or lending money out.  When you have a plan, you know what an ideal year would look like, but you also know where you can reallocate funds should you need to focus more on deposits or loan growth.  I can’t stress enough how these things should be interrelated, but often they are not.

Tracking

A lot of people aren’t tracking their total marketing spend!  This blows me away, but it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds.  The biggest here is that a lot of credit union folks don’t spend the time to calculate their allocations to each delivery channel and they don’t work close enough with their accounting teams to crunch the numbers before going live to determine what a “win” looks like.  A win isn’t just making more money than you spend, but providing a real value to all of the people who take advantage of what you’re selling.  Great product + significant income = win.  I’m not saying that I am the world’s best “tracker”, but if we all don’t continue to try to improve, we are doing ourselves and our members a great disservice.

The above are only three key aspects of calculating ROI, but let’s get into the whole redefining idea.  You need to generate a return.  Regardless if you are not-for-profit, non-profit or for profit, we all need to make money.  In the case of cooperatives (credit unions are cooperatives, btw), we need to make money so we can re-invest in our members and our communities.  So, the standard ROI is a given.  What I believe cooperative marketers need to really focus on in addition is Return on Involvement (ROI2).  To me, ROI2 is a function of our obligation to practice the Cooperative Principles, manly Concern for Community (#7).

Consider this example:

A local high school submits a proposal for you to run an advertisement in their Fall Sports Program.  You get to place your logo and a sentence or two about your business.  The cost is $200.

Sure, supporting schools is a great thing to do, but when was the last time you (or anyone else) bought a sports program to peruse the advertisers?  probably never.  Where is the ROI2?  You’ve done your part, but what did your institution or your members get in return?  Could you not have been a little more creative and received better exposure for the same dollar amount and still supported the school(s)?  Furthermore, if you sponsor one school in your field of membership then you probably have to do the same for everyone else.  $200 can quickly turn into $1,000 or more.  No good.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes “feel good marketing” is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  The key here is looking for opportunities to generate ROI and ROI2.  Most of the time, you will have to have a presence at things that your sponsor or endorse.  It’s as simple as having team members at the ready to thank current members for their loyalty or to tell your story in a compelling way that you could never do in a sentence or two in black and white ink.  Use the Cooperative Principles as the filter in which all decisions are made.  If a proposal for sponsorship doesn’t meet at least two requirements, you probably should pass.

The formula for calculating ROI is pretty straight froward and the same could be said for ROI2.  For starters, we can figure out how many people will our marketing spend (sponsorship) reach or directly impact?  Is it hundreds of people or thousands?  What does the business get in return for our spend (how does it help them maintain a program or provide more programming?)  How does this spend benefit the cooperative as a whole and not just our business needs (would our members be comfortable with us spending their money on this?)

So much more could or should be said, but you’ve spent enough of your time reading this far.  What are you thoughts?  Does ROI2 really exist?  Is the idea too much or a purist ideal?  What can we do to make sure we are creating ROI2 (assuming it exists)?

Without wax,

Bryce

Lessons Learned by a Young Professional

Lessons learnedThis past weekend, I made an outlandish and uniformed comment via one of my favorite social channels, Facebook.  My statement was about credit union trade organizations and the role that they play. While my intentions were to create a meaningful dialogue, my comments turned into a direct attack on the organizations that work every day to further the reach and impact of credit unions. I am deeply saddened and disappointed in myself for my words and actions and I apologize to everyone that I have offended or discredited.

I realize that my statements reflect negatively upon me personally and may be perceived to represent the thoughts and beliefs of the various organizations I am a part of.  I can assure you that the thoughts I expressed this weekend were entirely my own and were formulated with no empirical evidence to support them. This past weekend was most definitely a low for me.

While it would be easy to ignore my mistake or downplay the impact my words had, I realize as a Wisconsin Credit Union YP, it’s more powerful to own up to my mistake and share what I have learned.

I should never let my desire for meaningful change, my passion for credit unions and my impatience cause me to lose sight of the end goal.  As a firm believer in the power of cooperative finance (cooperative anything, really), I believe that every credit union young professional can learn from me by remembering to be mindful that we are an industry founded on cooperation and that the cooperative principles are our biggest differentiator from other financial institutions.

After reflection, it’s clear to me that it takes diversity to make an industry great.  We need our trade organizations to help us grow professionally and our trade organizations need us to provide them with constructive feedback and insight into the topics that we feel we need to gain a better grasp on.  Most importantly, we need organizations like CUNA to carry the political advocacy torch for us.  But, CUNA cannot do it alone.  We need the fresh ideas of professionals – young and seasoned – to bring new thoughts and viewpoints to the table to keep our efforts effective and fresh. The credit union industry is very diverse and is made up of  “shops” large and small.  Credit union vendors are an excellent way to help smaller credit unions make up for inefficiencies due to lack of resources human and/or capital and remain relevant in their respective marketplaces. Though we face big challenges, when we move forward together, we are unstoppable.

As I look forward to working in the credit union industry for many years to come, I know that the lessons I learned this week will help to guide my way of thinking as I continue to grow professionally.  They have reinforced my understanding of the importance of remaining accountable for my thoughts, words and actions.  I hope that my fellow young professional friends can use some of the above takeaways in order to further their own professional growth and be the assets that we need them to be so that we can continue to grow and make a positive difference in the lives of current and prospective credit union members.

Sincerely,

Bryce Roth