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<p>MONTEREY, Calif. – Jason Jennings likes to stand up in front of an audience of business executives and ask how many have spent time drafting and crafting a “mission” or “vision” statement for their company. “What we do is get together now and `process’ stuff because everything has to be processed and everybody has to be given voice,” Jennings says. “So we’re processing vision statements.” “As soon as I heard about all this vision statement stuff, I went to the dictionary because I’m a stickler for words and I looked up the dictionary definition of vision: `Something seen in a trance. A spell, a stupor or under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance.’” That line was met with waves of laughter from credit union leaders – many of whom tout their own institution’s mission and vision statements – during a general session of the California/Nevada Credit Union League’s Big Valley Educational Conference held March 14-16. Jennings, a business and marketing consultant who spent 18 months researching what he described as the “fastest” companies in the world, authored the book, “It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small . . . It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow.” In his presentation, Jennings listed some of the things that set the fastest and most successful companies apart from their competition. “Fast companies have a different way of dealing with speed bumps than do slow companies,” he said. While saying that credit unions had 25 little speed bumps that they had to face, he listed four specific areas with which they had to deal. His favorite dealt with the need to not focus on a mission or vision statement. More important, he said, was to have a cause. “The fastest and most successful companies in the world reject vision and mission statements,” he said. “Successful companies have grown their businesses by having a cause.” “Do you celebrate your cause every day?” he asked. “Does the cause become the strategy and the strategy the cause? Does the cause become the culture, does the culture become the strategy? Unless it does, I don’t know what the financial landscape will look like four or five years from now. But I do know that those credit unions that are led by the leaders with a cause stand a lot better chance of being successful than those that don’t.” Jennings explained that causes are never goals, because goals can be met. Causes come from the heart, he said. “Causes do not come from a bunch of people sitting around a table processing a statement,” he said. “Causes are the leader’s view of the world. Causes are never about money because not everybody shares in the money.” He stressed that causes are inclusive, describing them as “quilts of many different colors and ethnicities.” “It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian, female, male, gay, straight,” he said. “Causes are inclusive. Causes say to everybody, `We’re going to go on an incredible journey. We believe everybody’s got something to offer. Come along on this incredible journey.’ If they don’t want to, then they have to leave. But everybody get’s invited.” Causes, Jennings said, should be short, simple and easily understood. They should also be big and bold. Jennings said another characteristic that set the best companies apart from the competition was their ability to “master the art of abandonment.” Simply put, it means giving up and letting go of old ideas, no matter how firmly entrenched. “What are the things that you’re holding onto in your credit union that you need to let go of?” Jennings asked. Jennings also said that successful companies do not believe that the purpose of business is to make money. “Truly fast enterprises understand the purpose of business if to find, keep and grow the right customer,” Jennings said. “So many businesses in their hysterics for growth think that anybody is the right customer.” Keeping and growing those customers entails keeping them not just satisfied but “completely” satisfied, he said. “Satisfaction is no longer enough,” he said. “It’s just that old conventional wisdom that gets us in trouble, that our job is to satisfy customers,” he said. “Not true. Our job is to completely satisfy customers.” To accomplish that goal usually only entails a small change. “It’s never what you think it will be,” he said, noting that the only way to find out was for companies to ask their customers. Jennings said the goal of credit unions should not be to satisfy their members, “but to completely satisfy” their members.” “That is the only way to survive and prosper,” he said. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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