Credit Union Shark Week

Shark Week on Animal Planet is a pretty big deal to a lot of people.  Not so much for me.  I’m the guy that goes on vacation to Florida and sticks his foot into the ocean and calls it a day (I’ve “been in the ocean” three times. So, I’ve got that going for me…Which is nice.)  I know sharks don’t lurk in 2 inches of water, but jellyfish are another story.  Anyhow, I think there are some lessons that credit unions can learn from sharks.  I’m not talking about feasting on sea lions or instilling fear in people like myself.  Instead, I’m talking about the inherent characteristics that make sharks, well, sharks.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

 Sharks can’t stop swimming?

You’ve probably heard that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die.  This is true of most species, but there are some exceptions.  Nonetheless, credit unions cannot afford to stop “swimming”.

As an industry we need to continue to make a concentrated effort to further what I will forever refer to as the “Credit Union Revolution.”  Every decision we make (I think about marketing and advertising mostly) should be about raising the bar, pushing the envelope and separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters in the banking industry.  I am not talking about bank bashing, but poking a little fun here and there has proven to be a tried and true method of getting people to understand that we are different by design.

Be cartilaginous!

Sharks are cartilaginous.  (Personally I just love this word.)  An animal that is cartilaginous is defined as one who’s skeleton is made up completely of cartilage.  This means that the animal is more flexible by nature.

We need to be flexible.  This rings true in the things that we already do.  A prime example of this is working with our members to understand their situation when they come to us for a loan that they can’t get anywhere else.  It goes much further than this though.  We should be flexible in the fact that we are one of the “best kept secrets” in the finance industry.  Being rigid and sticking to traditional ways of spreading the word about the value of credit union membership simply will not fly.  Our world has been rapidly changing for years and we need to be flexible and change with it.  Our marketing and advertising efforts need to be different, standout, maybe they need to be a bit outlandish (James Robert Lay has great insights on this. Here is just one of his most recent blogs for CUinsight.)  Generally speaking, the smaller size of our respective institutions are the perfect atmosphere for being flexible.  We need to enable our employees to tap into the resources we read and rely on for fresh new ideas.  Instead of only some of us hearing about the exciting things other credit union people are doing, we need our entire staff to understand that there are a lot of people doing awesome things in the name of “The Credit Union Revolution”.

I don’t know about you, but when I read an awesome blog post or hear about an exciting campaign someone in the industry is spearheading, I get amped.  Imagine if you could ignite your entire staff with that same amount of passion…

 Sharks are so misunderstood.

I’m a prime example of this.  I think sharks exist to hunt humans.  In reality, the number of shark attacks on an annual basis is relatively low.  Sharks are most definitely opportunistic.  I think the “we” the the torch bearers of “The Credit Union Revolution” could be much more opportunistic.  There is no better time than right now (Van Halen reference.)  While many of us are wearing many hats at our credit unions, we need to think outside of the branch (thought I was going to say box didn’t you?)  How can we carry on the conversations we have everyday in our branches to a wider audience?  How can we get the attention of others who have no knowledge or understanding of credit unions?  I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of countless community outreach events and each time, I’ve been able to spark conversations about credit unions.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is the credit union that I work at.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for everyone to join my credit union, but if the person doesn’t qualify, I’m Quick Draw McGraw with my iPhone to tell them about a credit union that can serve them.

We are a cooperative.  We are unique.  We are not sharks, but we should be fierce with passion about our industry.  People helping people sounds great, but we are much more than that.  We are people helping a population that is mostly unaware of what we can do for them.  To me this is the biggest tragedy.

Be cartilaginous, don’t stop swimming and make sure we are never misunderstood.

I look forward to your thoughts…

Without wax,



Memorial Day: Remembering One of My Heros


I usually use this medium to talk about marketing, social media, credit unions, my thoughts and trying to be what I consider humorous.  This post won’t really talk about many of those issues.  What it will talk about is one of the most important and motivating factors in my life that made me understand from an early age the importance of giving 100% all of the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am very special in most regards, but I do know that no matter what I do in my lifetime, I will not settle for mediocre results.  I will do everything (ethically) within my power to make a difference, to create positive change, to help create opportunities for people to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Let’s be honest, though.  No matter what any of us do, in our respective professional careers of choice will never compare to what so many brave men and women have done to even allow us an opportunity to pursue our goals and dreams.

So how did I come to the understand that anything less than a 100% commitment to whatever I am doing is absolutely unacceptable?  There are two people I have to thank for that: My father and my grandfather.  Naturally, one can assume that everything my father has and continues to teach me is the direct result of the morals and life lessons that his father shared with him.

I don’t really know why, but this year I find myself thinking a lot about my grandfather Dale “Butch” Roth.  Grandpa Roth passed away when I was still in high school and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about him.  I especially remember how happy all of his grandchildren were whenever we had the chance to be with him.  He truly was a “spectacular” man.

Grandpa Roth enlisted in the US Navy while in high school and left his classmates prior to graduating to serve our country.  Little know fact, Grandpa Roth was named Most Handsome Sailor while serving.  Maybe that’s where I get my good looks?  Anyhow, he left all that he knew at a young age and went off to serve.  Like I said, he didn’t graduate with his fellow classmates.  If you knew my grandpa and how much he loved his school St. Mary’s Central Catholic, you would probably think that was a bigger deal for him then heading off into an uncertain future of military service.

Grandpa never really spoke about his service and much of the info I know today was learned after his death.  Grandpa Roth raised what at the time was a typical Roman Catholic family (8 kids, yea, you read that right.)  My father was the youngest.  I’m told my dad was pretty confident in himself at a young age.  He once told my uncle Ed that he was going to be a State Champ in wrestling (this was the first time he met Ed.  I believe it may have been their very first verbal exchange as well.)  The funny thing is, my dad, Jude, was like 90 lbs. soaking wet and was doing arm curls at the dinner table when all of this happened. To be a fly on the wall…

Anyhow, only one of these men will have a chance to read this, but I am sure the other one is watching as I type.  This was rather lengthy and may have went a little different route then where I thought it would go when I started, but the message remains the same: Please remember why most of us won’t be working on Monday.

Also, never settle for anything less than your best.  While many of us will never sacrifice like so many have, what we can do is make sure we take full advantage of all the opportunities we have because others made and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice so we even have a chance to pursue our wildest dreams.  To do anything less is unacceptable.

In closing, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has served.  I know I never could.  I wouldn’t make it past the first day.  I think that is why I understand just how special those who do serve are.  They are a rare, selfless breed.  They embody all that is courageous and noble.  They are the true heroes who will never hoist a trophy or say, “I’m going to Disney World.” Nope.  Instead, they do the very opposite.  They push their body’s and mind’s to the very brink and then they go off and do things that nobody else wants to do.

Thank you is not enough, but it is all we have.

*Note* The picture above is of my Grandpa Roth and Cousin Zac.  Grandpa finally received his diploma at Zac’s graduation.  I was there and I will never forget how proud he was.

Love ya gramps.


You Call That The Vulcan Neck Pinch?

“What the h#ll are you doing?”

“The Vulcan Neck Pinch??”

“No, no stupid, you’re doing it all wrong..” -Spaceballs

There are plenty of social media advocates and probably as many or more naysayers in the finance industry.  I’ve witnessed all sorts of different viewpoints and honestly, I respect them all.  Some people have valid points about ROI being difficult (or imposible?) to measure, others claim it is just a waste of time and money.  I agree.  ROI is difficult to measure.  ROI may very well be nonexistent.  Credit unions may be wasting their time and money on social networks and new media.

The one thing that is constantly overlooked is the fact that the vast majority of financial institutions that are engaged in some sort of new media campaign are “doing it all wrong” like Lonestar in Spaceballs.  The fact remains that most of the chatter about these issues is taking place on the very communication channels that are being called into question.  I’m still trying to figure that one out…

So when is new media pointless and when is it priceless?  New media is priceless when it is social.  It is often called “social media” but most of the time it is anything but social.  The advent of Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Google+ (insert other platform here) occurred because people became sick of being talked at and wanted to have their fair share in the conversation.  This fact is too often overlooked.

When I see a credit union or any other business talking about how great they are all day and offering nothing of substance, I cringe (I cringe a lot.)  new “social” media isn’t about your business, it’s about the people who keep you in business.  It’s about people interacting with each other and sharing information, laughs and insights.

The next time someone says, “Social media has no utility in the finance industry” I encourage you to think, “Is this really the case?”  Are the communication platforms being used to facilitate dialogue or are they simply internet billboards?  New media isn’t for everybody and I will never say that it is, but when it is done correctly it is priceless.  With the proliferation of smartphones, businesses that can remain relevant and add value to their Fans and Followers have the ability to be with their members/consumers everywhere they go (who really leaves the house without their cellphone?)

 You WON’T build a following overnight, but if you continually do the right things, your following will grow.  Too often marketers are focused on getting a “Like” or follow and have no clue what to do after initial interest is expressed.  Getting someone to click a button is easy, keeping them coming back is not.

It would do us all well if we focused more on the engagement and conversations to come in the future rather than a persons sometimes random impulse to click a button.  Conversation is key.  If you are using new media to talk about yourself (business), you are wasting your time.  If you are interacting daily with your Fans and Followers, you will see the return.  New media is unconventional.  Traditional measurement techniques do not work.  You wouldn’t weigh a rock with a thermometer, so please do not try to gauge the importance of a social exchange with a spreadsheet.

What are your thoughts? Am I nuts? Am I genius?  Are you bored yet?  Let’s talk.

Without wax,