Is your credit union in need of new members? Is your career in a funk? Don't just stand there stewing and ruminating. Instead, reinvent your credit union and yourself.
While transformations are often easier said than done, there is no shortage of books and consultants eager to help you part with your money in exchange for helping you be a change agent.
A relatively inexpensive way to accomplish this is by reading Shift: How to Reinvent Your Business, Your Career, and Your Personal Brand. Peter Arnell, who has been involved in many business and personal transformations (including losing 256 pounds), has written a helpful, and occasionally entertaining, guidebook on how to change your organization or your life.
Arnell contended that while focusing on one's own or organization's brand can appear at first glance to be self-centered, the reality is more complicated than that. He wrote that while "branding yourself is a very personal act, in the end it is intended as a gift you give to others, who will make your brand your own."
He advised that one way to do that is to constantly think "why not?" and not limit yourself or "get stuck in the boxes that others build for you."
That's a valuable suggestion but doesn't go far enough. It's not just that others build boxes for us, we often do a great job of it ourselves. Arnell doesn't devote enough time to talking about changing the mindset that causes certain negative patterns to become ingrained. The focus of many organizations and individuals on what they have always done can be a major obstacle toward change.
When people utter phrases such as, "We've always done it that way and that's what our members expect," and, "Everyone in my family has food issues," they are all-too-often just making excuses for keeping the status quo.
Much of Arnell's advice is obvious, but he jazzes it up with many metaphors and examples from his childhood. When discussing how to find opportunities, he notes:
"Some people are surprised by my sudden changes in direction. I see them asking themselves, 'Why is he jumping around so much?' 'Why is he suddenly shifting the direction of the conversation?' The answer is, I am going where the fish are," he writes. "Life's short. You have to go right at it and go big, because people care about big ideas, not small ones. You have to be where the action is."
Arnell also argued that people and organizations should not be timid when crafting their messages. The goal is not to ask people but to make your case so strongly that you compel them. He recalled that when he worked with McDonald's to help the company appeal to younger customers, they hired Justin Timberlake to write and perform a song tied to the "I'm Lovin' It," slogan. By using that approach, the restaurant chain "pulled in a younger, hipper audience, and compelled them to see McDonald's in a new way."
But if your credit union doesn't quite have the ad budget to bring in Timberlake or the Jonas Brothers to tout its virtues, you have plenty of other options. Focus advertising and public relations campaigns on encouraging people to join your brand, not just buy your products and services. And, Arnell advised, go for the "wow factor."
Arnell's advice is commonsensical and he presents it in an easy-to-read manner that shows more often than it tells. That's why Shift: How to Reinvent your Business, Your Career, and Your Personal Brand will be helpful for credit union executives trying to help their institution adapt to the changing financial services marketplace. And buying the book is cheaper than hiring a consultant.