SHREWSBURY, N.J. -- Industry leaders employ a variety of methods and techniques to position their organizations for success. Wendell V. Fountain's new book, The Credit Union World: Theory, Process, Practice Cases & Application, attempts to hone in on some of these practices to give credit unions the edge to succeed.
First some background on the author. He is president and principal consultant of Fountain Associates, Inc., a business and management firm. He has considerable credit union experience from the boardroom level. From 1982-2007 he served on the board of VyStar Credit Union, holding various offices. Since 1996, he has pursued post-doctoral studies at Harvard Business School, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and Wharton. He holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, a master's in human resources management and a doctorate in business administration (D.B.A.).
Fountain begins the book with a historical look at credit unions here and abroad. He introduces the forefathers of the industry and explains their contributions to what we know today as credit unions. Fountain does a good job illustrating what factors helped create the credit union philosophy.
Once the historical foundation of credit unions is established, Fountain turns to strategy. He focuses on the elements that he believes ensure a credit union will thrive in the future, and the everyday methods for maintaining a successful institution. He delves into everything from board/management relations to human resources and marketing. While some of the information will be common knowledge to those from within the industry, Fountain touches on nuances of human nature that may negatively affect management situations. As a board member at VyStar Credit Union for 24 years, Fountain's strategies for directors are given with a sagelike eloquence. He illustrates what areas board members should intervene and what should not be on their radars, sticking to the established theory of boards setting the policy and management working day-to-day to carry it out from an operational standpoint. Fountain offers ways for a CEO to work with board members and take their advice, while explaining which elements of the credit union the board members should focus on and which ones they shouldn't--a very delicate balancing act. The fictional situations at the end of each chapter offer a way for credit union professionals to take a step back and determine what methods are effective and what should be avoided.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Fountain's ability to interject the effects human nature can have on the way a credit union is operated. He offers up seemingly obvious management scenarios where the course of action appears clear, but counters with logical accounts of how a situation can quickly turn because of human nature.
He shows how essential elements of a credit union, such as marketing and branding, can easily fall by the wayside if the marketing staff can't make their case strongly enough or the CEO is unable to show how these areas are critical to the overall success of the credit union.
And while his book definitely touches on ingredients that may be left out of the creation of a successful credit union, at times, Fountain's own opinion wasn't strong enough.
Fountain struggles with the nonprofit, people-helping-people nature of the credit union industry versus the need for credit unions to operate using proven business practices from the for-profit world. He never actually decides whether credit unions are an industry or movement, always referring to it as a "movement-industry". But at the same time, he encourages credit union professionals to take advice from for-profit businesses and other industries since most goals are the same: customer/member satisfaction; larger customer/member base; and offering customer/members services that they want, need and demand; etc.
For both new and seasoned credit union industry members this book recommends ways of running an institution that could be beneficial for solving already existing problems or preventing common problems from arising. Fountain often forces the reader to see things they might not have noticed before and to look at situations in a different light--something that can benefit all credit union leaders. --firstname.lastname@example.org Please request copies from Fountain Associates, Inc. Single copies are $79.95 plus $5.75 shipping and handling. Call (928) 542-3760 or (928) 542-3612.