If you haven't stretched for a few years, you're not going to be able to suddenly do ninja backflips.

Stuck at OK? Push for Amazing.

So there you are, doing… OK. Marketing is ticking along like a well-oiled machine, same budget as last year, you’re a little under budget, and you’re on track to pretty much meet your modest growth goals for the year, just like you did last year, and the year before that, with the same old familiar products and policies. Yawn.

Anything wrong with OK? After all, thousands of credit unions, including lots of really big ones, are doing OK, so OK must be… OK.

OK is not OK.

One problem is complacency – if you’re comfortable just hitting the same numbers in the same way year after year, you’re not paying attention to longer-term threats. For example, if the average age of your members is rising by a year every year, you’ve got a youth problem getting ready to bite.

And what’s your plan if there’s a big unexpected challenge? What if a large employer leaves town, or a new bank moves in? After a few years of OK, everyone gets very good at routines, but not at flexibility, innovation, and general Amazingness. If you haven’t stretched for a few years, you’re not going to be able to suddenly do ninja backflips.

Plus, OK is forgetful. OK gets comfortable very quickly, and forgets that the only reason the credit union exists in the first place is to be amazing, different, and exciting. OK loses focus on the big picture, forgets vision and direction, and can’t stand the thought of risk.

More importantly, OK is the enemy of Amazing.

Amazing gives you breathing room

Close your eyes and imagine you have to cut 100% of your marketing budget. Disastrous, right? Now open your eyes and think about what you would need to exceed your targets by 100%. Tough, but do-able – if you can be Amazing enough.

Credit unions are incredibly lean – there’s very little to cut without doing serious damage. Conversely, there’s no limit to potential growth. In other words, the upside always has far more potential.

But one hallmark of OK credit unions is that the first reaction to a threat is to do the opposite — slash budgets, suspend marketing, tighten up on lending, hunker down, limit the damage.

Amazing credit unions, on the other hand, throw themselves into the problem. They respond, create, invest, change, innovate, disrupt, and find the opportunities even when they’re unexpected.

Remember the banking crisis in 2008-2009? Amazing credit unions saw the opportunity, pounced on the floods of disgruntled bank refugees, took them in, sponsored a national switch day, found new ways to serve their members, and posted double-digit growth. Not to mention the millions of rabid new CU fans they gained.

Amazing is for everyone

Creativity and innovation don’t just belong to “creatives”. Creativity is problem-solving, and problem-solving is part of every job description and personality type. Creativity is the core of Amazing, and it’s needed everywhere.

You have to feed Amazing

Even with plenty of Creativity floating around, Amazing is a muscle that needs to be fed, exercised, and stretched with higher expectations, more resources, investment, flexibility, and tolerance for reasoned risk. And Amazing needs to be admired and rewarded. Not to mention recruited, promoted, and mentored.

Amazing doesn’t just happen

If you just let things happen, what you get is just OK at best. Amazing requires deliberate and constant vision, effort, and action, guided by a long-term focus.

Brian Wringer

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