FAIRFAX, Va. – With deep roots in credit union marketing, Kathleen Elliott has finally made her “date with destiny” by kicking off a new credit union consulting career. After 15 years of holding executive positions in marketing, operations and human resources at Waterford, Michigan-based BestSource Credit Union, Elliott has recently moved on to become Managing Partner/Creative Expeditionary Officer at TAG, an organizational development consulting firm. She says it is a perfect fit. “I’m such an open book that when you meet me you know me,” said Elliott. “So if anything, maybe people might be surprised that I finally took this plunge.” As someone who never followed a “master plan” for her life, Elliott says she has always listened to signals as to what she wanted to do next and everything accomplished at BestSource CU has led to fulfilling her dream “to make a difference in the workplace.” Coming from a retail background with Dayton Hudson Corporation, which is now Target, Elliott started doing some marketing in 1987 for Hudson’s Employees Credit Union (now BestSource CU) and ended up expanding her role to include operations and eventually human resources from 1996 to 2002. Elliott says passion has been an overriding force in her life. “I am passionate almost to a fault,” said Elliott. “I have a passion for my family of course but also gardening, cooking, reading, hockey, and throughout my career I’ve always been very involved and have even been called `the ultimate networker’. I don’t think I ever identified what I was going to be when I grew up, but my passion has always been with people and marketing beyond promotions.” Although she has won over 40 national awards for excellence in marketing and written a chapter in a CUES book that examines the future of marketing Sharing the American Dream; A Second Look, Elliott says her greatest accomplishment during her time at BestSource CU has been building great teams. She is most proud of developing a sales and service focus at the then $40 million plain vanilla credit union. It meant a complete reorganization that is member-centric was in order. “Many people don’t understand that sales is a huge journey that goes beyond just cross-selling. It is about putting the member first,” said Elliott. “Focusing on the member means you do whatever it takes for the sale and create rewards for those doing the selling. You also have to pay for performance. That means recognizing an employee’s knowledge, motives and values and building both the actual bottom line and an incentive approach. There were times when the sales people made more money than management, but that is sometimes what it takes to get people to stop finger pointing and start working as a team.” According to Elliott with the reorganization came also a shift in the quality program to the member’s point of view. As a result each department at BestSource had to participate in the quality meetings. Eventually the team focus just became a part of the now $134 million credit union. “I think where marketing goes wrong is that if you do a good promotion then the department is viewed as a success, but the real success is integrating marketing throughout the whole organization,” said Elliott. “The actual marketing promotion is only 10% of the job, the rest has to do with communication, creating an understanding of each person’s role and everyone taking responsibility for their part of the whole.” Promotions had to be flexible and dynamic with every team understanding that it was a strategic part of growth. Elliott credits monthly communications on the role each person plays and the sharing of information across departments as key to bringing the marketing function to the entire organization. “What I set out to do years ago was build a fun place,” said Elliott. “To accomplish that you have to not only like your coworkers and be stimulated and motivated by the work but everyone has to also want to participate and feel as important as the next. So there is never the `I’m just a teller’ mentality.” Building on the belief that perceptions have their own reality, Elliott made sure titles captured the essence and fun of the job. For example the receptionist became “manager of first impressions” and chief operations officer became “creative operating officer” to indicate that the person should take a creative approach to finding solutions. According to Elliott the best employee benefit is the knowledge that each employee will have the opportunity to provide feedback and input to the team, organization and his or her own performance. “A lot of people who left BestSource CU for money returned for the culture.” As for the future of marketing, she says to be successful marketing needs to have a huge people focus. “The cool thing about our credit union industry is that we have a ton of great leaders and yet it is still not enough. We need to always expand our horizons,” said Elliott. “Right now it is very exciting for me to go out to other credit unions, and by playing the role of coach help them see the potential in themselves to grow and build fun, healthy, productive workplaces- that is what my calling is about.” [email protected]

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