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

The Energy Equation

this-basic-equation-is-all-you-need-to-know-about-saving-moneyThis title makes me sound like I am a physicist or something.  I assure you that I am not.  However, I am quite in-tune with human emotions and behavior.  While I’m now in marketing, my first love has always been psychology and sociology.  What makes people do the things that they do?  Why do certain groups form?  How and why do people choose to interact the way that they do?

I think that we all should question ourselves occasionally.  Why are we putting in extra hours?  Why do we love (hopefully) what we call work?  What is the source of our motivation?  What are we trying to accomplish?  It’s cliché to say stop and smell the roses, but it’s human nature to get caught up in all of the projects and responsibilities that we have.  It’s not human nature (at least not mine) to actually take time to be a part of our everyday experiences.  I’m still working on this myself, so, please do not assume that I am speaking from an enlightened state.  Nope.  This is more of a philosophical blog.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that our lives are made up of a never-ending (well it does end at sometime) series of moments and like the saying, “You learn more from your loses than you do from your victories” speaks to, at every moment of our lives, we are either winning or losing the moment.  Since no one that I know of is “winning” at every moment (with the exception of Charlie Sheen), I think it makes sense to reflect on our experiences.  Here’s the kicker.  You can’t reflect on something if you haven’t truly experienced it.

Maybe we don’t want to question ourselves.  Maybe we’re afraid of the answers we might find.  I’m sure that I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with all of my responses, but if you don’t uncover areas you can improve on, you’ll never reach your full potential.  The lesson here is that in all aspects of your life (faith, family, social, work) we should all be striving to improve.  Personally, I’d like to be a better teammate at work.  I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that being liked is nice and being respected is even better, but how many times are we actively assessing our interactions with others?  How can we create a rapport with people if we aren’t honest with ourselves about how we are treating or leading others.

So, the question is this: How much energy are we putting into “doing” compared to the amount we put into the assessment of the things we do?  My guess is that for myself and many others, there is an imbalance in favor of the former compared to the latter.  What do you think?  Do you have any tips or tricks?  How can we better assess ourselves?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

Without wax,

Bryce

Storytelling: So Easy, Even a Caveman Can Do It.

geicocavemen2ORIGINALLY POSTED ON CHATTERYAK.COM

 

Content marketing has been around for ages, and it has been a hot topic around the marketing and advertising world for the last several years.  Now, it appears that credit union marketers are taking note (as they should) and that makes us happy.  If you’re not sure what content marketing is, you’re in the right place.  In this blog, we’ll be sharing what we know and we’ll also include some helpful information from other thought-leaders on the subject.

So, let’s get the definition stuff out of the way first.  According to the leaders in the industry, The Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined as:

 “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Sounds a lot like social media, right?  Sort of.  Social media is a great delivery channel for your content, but content marketing is so much more than simple tweets and Facebook/Google+ posts.  When it comes to credit unions, content marketing is all about solving the problems of your members.  Now, this seems like a very simple concept to grasp, but solving your members problems is much more complex than the following line of thinking:

 “Members have a lot of credit card debt on high-interest credit cards and our credit card has a lower rate.  Therefore, we should scream our {low} rate from the rooftops.”

The above is what most credit unions have reduced their marketing and advertising messages to.  Your credit union is so much more than a purveyor of loan rate loans and minimal fees.  You see, content marketing is all about telling a story that people actually want to hear.  If we continue to compete only on rates and service, we will continue to lose out to other financial institutions and here’s why: Your members care less about you and more about what you can do for them.

From the beginning of time, people have been telling stories.  From cavemen (and cavewomen) to the Egyptians, the world is covered (literally) in stories.  Bringing things a bit closer to modern times, the first true form of content marketing was created by a little tractor company known as John Deere.  In 1895, the company produced and distributed “The Furrow” a magazine designed to help farmers find solutions to the problems they faced on a daily basis.  The magazine was not littered with ads for tractors and guess what, it’s still being produced today! (Joe Pullizi tells the story way better here.)

So what does this mean for credit unions?  We think it means our industry needs to start worrying more about what our members want and less about what we wish our members would do.  In the end, it boils down to basic psychology.  If you want someone to perform a specific behavior, you need to give them a reason or motivation.  Motivation can be internal or external.  Here is an example of each:

External: If you become a member at ABC credit union, we will give you $25.

Internal: A person is so compelled by your credit union’s story or branding that they want to become a member.

While building a strong and impactful brand is much more difficult than doling out $25 for each new person who walks through the door, an externally motivated member’s affinity toward your brand will be much weaker than someone who saw/heard what your credit union has been doing and sought out membership on their own.  Taking things a step further, if you build the foundation of your membership on externally motivated individuals, it will be much harder for your credit union to get those members to understand the cooperative mindset and you will likely remain in the rut of competing on price rather than value.

In 2014, choose to build value!  Rediscover your credit union’s story and tell it from a perspective that resonates with people (members or not).  Maybe even checkout 6th Story to see how they can help you with your credit union’s story.  Remember that people don’t want to hear from organizations that consistently talk about how great they are.  Get into the practice of demonstrating the value you offer and create compelling stories (content) that you can share via social channels, on your website or in your newsletter (if you still do one of those).  Think about what your credit union does every single day and repurpose that information.

What are your thoughts?

Without wax,

Bryce

The Next Top Credit Union Executive: Takeaways

thankyou“I’ve got a pretty good idea what children are, and we’re not children. Children can lose sometimes, and nobody cares.”
― Orson Scott Card, Enders Game

First of all this is not a blog about losing.  Please do not let the quote fool you.  I just saw Enders Game (one of my favorite books of all time) in the theatre last week as it has now been made into a movie.  This blog is really about learning.

Most of you reading this know that I was blessed enough to take part in a competition that started with 141 candidates and I made it to the Final 5.  Things didn’t shake out the way I wanted them to, but in the end, the credit union industry has gained another driven, progressive and energetic leader and Next Top Credit Union Executive 2013 in  Amanda Brenneman from Maps Credit Union.  I was fortunate enough to spend several days with Amanda, Chad Huseby (@HUSE59), Zac King  and Rob Carabelli (@MHFCURob) this past week and I can tell you with 100% certainty that we all share the passion and desire to make an impact in the lives of the members we serve and the industry we love.

I would be lying to all of you and myself if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I left San Diego, but the saying goes, “You learn more from your loses than your victories.”  After 24+ hours, now I need to focus on what I can learn and how I can become a better credit union advocate, young professional and leader.  The Next Top Credit Union Executive Competition has taught me countless lessons about time management, presentation skills, networking and working hard while also completing my daily responsibilities.  I’d like to thank the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES), DDJ Myers  and Currency Marketing for making this opportunity available to young credit union leaders.

I’ve learned a ton about myself and one thing I can’t help but reflect on is how much amateur and high school wrestling has taught me about being a successful young professional and good person (my own opinion) in general.  The only way to make it to the Final 5 is to have self-discipline and that is most certainly required of anyone who has wrestled, had to cut weight and complete their studies while depriving themselves of their favorite meals.  In this case, it wasn’t about not eating delicious food, but I had to really pick and choose when I was able to participate in leisure activities and when I needed to write a blog, brainstorm for videos (Thanks to Jordan Destree for his professional video editing skills) or practice my presentation (58 live run-throughs, btw).

One on one.  When you wrestle, you compete to help your team score points, but essentially you are out there on the mat and whether your hand gets raised or someone else’s does, well, that’s all on you.  I think the same goes for public speaking.  When you’re on that stage, it’s your job to perform, present your message and “win” the crowd.  There are plenty of other similarities, but I think that you get the gist.

Last and certainly not least, I couldn’t finish this blog without thanking everyone who has supported me through the entire process.  I will undoubtedly leave someone out (not on purpose) but here goes.  I need to thank Jane Anderson for thinking enough of me to send in my first nomination.  Jane, you’re faith in my abilities and my project has meant the world.  Kevin Ralofsky, my friend, mentor and colleague also deserves special acknowledgement.  Kevin took a chance on me a little over 3 and a half years ago and to this day, we work together as a team and I learn something new from him every single day.  Kevin and his family have become a part of my family and I think that it is safe to say that I have become a part of his.  I’m not sure about what gave him the inclination to take a chance and hire a twenty-something with no knowledge of credit unions, but I am thankful that he did.

My parents.  My parents have always been a driving force in my life.  I think most children are always seeking ways to make their parents proud, so, I’m really no different than anyone, but not all children are fortunate enough to have parents who raised them to understand the importance of working hard for the things that you want, being respectful and willing to learn from anyone you can and being open to “losing”, but at the same time never making excuses.  I don’t really believe in luck and some people will say, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”, but I believe that everyone should work hard at everything they do and the better person you are, or, said differently, the more you give of yourself, the more blessings you will find come your way.

Friends and family.  My friends and family have been amazing.  For the last several weeks, I have been the most annoying Facebook “friend” and Twitter users that ever existed, yet people have rallied behind me.  People have spent their own time sharing things about me and doing their best to promote my efforts for the Next Top Credit Union Executive title and I can’t help but think, “Why?”  Their (your) efforts and the time you gave benefitted them (you) in no way and yet they (you) did it anyways.

I thank you all for what you have done for me.  Please know that I am grateful beyond any words I could possibly comprehend or type.  I intend to push forward and make this project successful and continue to develop new ideas.  Thank you for the outpouring of support and love.

Best regards and without wax,

Bryce