SAN ANTONIO — Information and technology are important to the success of the credit union enterprise but a strong, empowered service culture cannot be created by unhappy, scared employees.
Tim Sanders, former chief solutions officer (and crisis manager) for Yahoo! and now an author working on a new startup, made that point during his keynote address Monday morning to the CUNA Operations & Service Council/CUNA Technology Council combined conference.
Sanders was hired by Mark Cuban at Broadcast.com and moved with him to Yahoo!, where he helped handle some of the company’s worst crises – expulsion from China, was one example, and spent up to 300 days on the road and in the air a year.
He compared the fear that he said hampers creativity and progress for credit unions today with the spirit of accomplishment that marked recovery from the Great Depression.
A native of West Texas, Sanders spoke about the fear of poverty that his grandmother shared with him as she struggled through those times, and explained in detail how mood states have a chemical and workplace effect on people. That includes creating a scarcity mentality that prevents people from sharing with each other, including time, effort and ideas, as well as goods.
That point can get lost in the numbers of modern business, as people see market plummets and follow the recession blow by blow, and that reaction drives how they do their jobs, Sanders said.
“People are highly emotional creatures. Metrics are people, but people are just as crazy as horses. Business is a horse race and people can only be as effective as their moods,” he said.
Sanders connected his core message to his own experience with credit unions. “Our job is to manage the mood state, the spirit of our collective roots, to reconnect ourselves with 1932 and 1908, to St. Mary’s Bank in New England and CUNA in Colorado and the beginnings of the credit union movement and the courage it took to make this happen,” he said.
Sanders said he got his own start in entrepreneurship from a credit union, a $4,000 loan to start a musical instrument consignment business after he finished grad school at the University of Arizona. The CU manager taught him several valuable lessons – including to have a business plan with a premise and not show up in shorts while asking for a loan - and to take risks where others, in this case, banks, wouldn’t.
He said the same happened for his boss, Cuban, who also got a loan to open a bar that failed while he was a student at the University of Indiana. Those businesses failed, but lessons were learned, he said.
Entrepreneurship is not just for startups, he said. “Ask Kodak and Greyhound why entrepreneurship still matters,” pointing to the success those companies found in reinventing and repositioning their products and markets.