The Cost of Not …

The Cost of Not …

No, the title doesn’t contain a typo. Or a missing word. But it is missing something: lost opportunity.

When it comes to many strategic initiatives, financial institutions can have a case of the “nots.”

  • “We’re not going to train our staff because it cost too much money.”
  • “We’re not going to invest in branding because we don’t see the value.”
  • “We’re not going to conduct a strategic planning session this year because it’s a waste of time.”

Sometimes there are valid reasons for not doing a particular project. The investment might be too much, the timing might not be right or the project load may already be too high.

However, in many cases let’s call the “not” disease what it really is: an excuse.

When examining whether the cost is too high, the time involved is too much or some other reason credit unions and banks must also consider the cost of NOT doing a particular strategy or project.

In other words, what is the cost of NOT:

  • Developing a unique brand
  • Conducting a strategic planning session every year
  • Training your staff
  • Investing in technology upgrades
  • Changing the way you do business

Those of us in the financial institution arena are a conservative bunch. Boards, CEOs, CFOs, (even examiners) tend to frown on taking risks. While that certainly is a worthy approach when managing the balance sheet it can cause us to develop an overly conservative approach when it comes to our strategy and tactics.

In a recent situation we had a particular financial institution say they were “not going to move forward with staff training because the board just couldn’t come to an agreement on the need.” In their case, a big wad of “not” clogged potential growth. Would training cost them money? Yes. But is NOT training going to cost them even more?

The reality is you may lose more (for example, lost opportunities) than you think you are going to gain by invoking a not.

The Power of One Employee

The Power of One Employee

My colleague relayed an experience she had with a pizza delivery driver who gave her dog a dog biscuit when her husband opened the door. Her family has had pizza delivered from the same place many times in the past and nobody has ever brought a treat for the dog. In fact, nobody delivering food from any restaurant has ever brought a treat for her dog. She was pleasantly surprised and called it a wow factor.

Based on previous history with that pizza place, this isn’t a company-wide branding idea. It’s one employee who chooses to live the brand in a simply, yet extraordinary way. It’s an example of how one employee can make your brand that much more powerful.

Now let’s look at the flip side – that one employee who refuses to live the brand. How much power do you think he or she has over the brand? Research from McClean & Company indicates an employee disengaged with your credit union’s brand, costs a minimum of $10,000 a year in lost customers/members, lack of productivity, extra training and other factors. That’s a lot of negative energy being pumped into your brand from only one person.

How can you ensure that every employee is igniting your brand in a positive way?

  1. Encourage them
    Challenge each employee to develop his or her own way to live the brand (within your financial institution’s brand guidelines, of course). Different personalities have different ways of engaging customers or members. Encourage them to use their strengths or even outside interests to their advantage.
  2. Share ideas as a team
    Sometimes people are fantastic executers but mediocre idea developers. Have your team regularly share the special ways they live the brand daily. Others may be able to do duplicate that effort, or they can use another person’s idea as the foundation for something that makes them more comfortable engaging consumers.
  3. Monitor employee performance
    Some employees don’t do what’s expected unless it’s inspected. Your managers have to monitor their teams. If someone consistently resists living the brand, give them more training, put them in a different position more conducive to their strengths or terminate them. Nobody likes to talk about terminating employees, and hopefully you won’t have to. Just remember, you are in business for your customers or members. Your brand depends on employees who live it willingly.

On The Mark Strategies would love to hear about the unique ways your employees live your brand. Please share your stories by leaving a comment on this blog post.

Great Leaders Appreciate Their Employees

Great Leaders Appreciate Their Employees

This is the first post in a series about qualities that define great leaders and how you can live those qualities in the workplace.

by Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On The Mark Strategies

A friend of mine was reminiscing recently about a former “boss” of hers who always made her staff feel appreciated. It was obvious by my friend’s facial expressions and the tone of her voice that she had a great deal of respect and gratitude for this supervisor, even so many years later.

“She would leave little Post-it notes on our desks that said ‘good job’ or ‘thank you’ for doing something that was already part of our job,” my friend said. “Then all year long, she would keep a record about those things and recognize us at the end of the year. I never felt more appreciated than I did when I worked with her.”

Appreciation in the workplace matters. For many people, appreciation is a basic human need. Your employees spend more time at work than they do with their families Monday through Friday. They want to feel like their time away from home makes a difference.

Appreciation also impacts your bottom line. The Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine and Global News (among others) all report that a “bad boss” is the number one reason why employees quit their jobs. According to a report published by Bersin by Deloitte, companies lose an average of $100,000 for every employee who leaves. Interim reduction in labor costs, lost productivity, cost per-hire and the first year of orientation and training all factor into that cost. You also have to consider potential loss in client relationships and the cost of the knowledge walking out your door. That’s significant for something within the company’s control.

Appreciation and recognition do not have to cost a lot of money or take a great deal of time. Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to make your employees feel appreciated.

Say Thank You

It doesn’t get much easier than this. When an employee reaches a work goal or does something notable, say thank you or congratulations. Write them a note and leave it on their desk. Recognize them in a team meeting or team e-mail. Fill their cubicle with balloons. Make sure to do it in a timely manner before the moment has passed.

Feed Them

When your team reaches a goal, order pizza and celebrate their accomplishments. Surprise them with morning donuts or breakfast tacos. Buy (or make) a congratulations cake. In addition to recognizing them, you are a creating good memories by giving your team a chance to gather and celebrate.

Reward Them

Keep a stash of small gift cards ($5 to $10) to places your employees enjoy eating or shopping and reward them periodically for meeting a goal or going above and beyond. Or, give them special tokens they can save up for larger rewards, like a half day off work. Who doesn’t love receiving a gift?

Appreciation matters. Great leaders appreciate their employees.

Why Change Can Suck

Why Change Can Suck

This entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies

I’ll be the first to admit it — I have a problem with change. For the most part, change for me is an uncomfortable process. For example, take my recent iPhone operating system upgrade.

Apple, in all their wisdom, regularly bugged me with on-screen reminders about the system upgrade. I eventually just gave up (I think this is their goal) and did the upgrade. Thirty-odd minutes later, my phone woke up, a different animal. Gone was my traditional swipe right. Gone were my good old-fashioned power-up and power-off sounds. And gone was my revolver emoji (replaced with a ridiculous-looking water pistol).

It’s been several weeks and I’m slowly growing accustomed to this change (in advance of the next round of radical changes in a future upgrade, no doubt). And I don’t think I’m entirely alone when it comes to this resistance to change. Banks and credit unions must also consider the changes they make and how they affect consumers.

For example, sometimes core processing upgrades are a must. Bank and credit union veterans know these are a pain in the rear and take months to accomplish. But how do they affect our consumers? Are we providing them with relevant information as to how the changes, both before and after the conversion, will directly affect them? Or are we simply dumping a new system on them and expecting them to “suck it up, buttercup?”

There are many other examples to consider. Home banking systems, for example, go through regular upgrades. Most banks and credit unions do a good job letting consumers know about downtimes, but are we also filling them in on how things might work differently or look differently? The same applies to your app and the many updates that occur there. You can also go totally brick-and-mortar and consider more physical changes. Are you doing renovations that will require consumer change? Are you altering hours of operation or something as simple as re-striping the parking lot?

Change is difficult and most people don’t like it. However, change is also something we all must embrace in order to achieve and succeed. It is incumbent upon banks and credit unions, therefore, to inform their consumers about changes, regardless of how trivial we on the inside may consider them, to make the transition as easy as possible.

Four Ways to Have a Thankful Brand

Four Ways to Have a Thankful Brand

“Thank you.” They are two of the most powerful words in the English language. During this Thanksgiving season hopefully you will hear those words more often than usual. But the reality is as a society we sometimes jump from Halloween to Christmas. We don’t pause long enough to truly say thanks to those around us.

Saying “thanks” should be a key component to your brand—especially during this holiday season. Great brands focus on people and there are many groups you should focus your thanks on right now.

Here are four ways to have a thankful brand:

(1) Thank consumers. Sincerely.

Thanking people for doing business with your credit union or bank should not just be a seasonal activity; it should be a part of your every day routine. Competition for financial services is astronomical. So don’t take consumers’ business with you for granted. Sincerity in how you thank is critical as well; watch rote “thank yous” and going through the motions. Simple acts like sending Thanksgiving cards to your top depositors, giving branch visitors a piece of candy with a thank you note or having staff sincerely say “we are grateful for your business” are ways to thank consumers.

(2) Thank staff. Creatively.

No matter what your brand vision or brand niches are, it’s your employees who live your brand every day. So be sure to thank them for being the public face of your organization. While words of encouragement and pats on the back are good, brainstorm creative ways to recognize staff. Ideas include gift cards to grocery stores (people are cooking lots this time of year), a few hours off during the day to do some extra shopping and throwing a killer holiday party people will talk about for years.

(3) Thank back office. Publicly.

It’s easy to recognize that are on the front lines; the ones making the loans, talking to consumers and opening accounts. But the reality is your level of external service will never exceed your level of internal service you provide each other. So thanking those collection officers, accounting personnel and IT geeks is part of your brand as well. Some “behind the scenes” folks may not want public recognition but most would appreciate it. Ways to thank back office staff include taking their pictures and using those photos in a promotion, e-mailing the entire staff recognizing those key departments and taking them on a long, special lunch.

(4) Thank community. Humbly.

“Community” is an overused crutch word in credit unions and banks. Every institution loves the community or all about community service. We also tend to “toot our own horns” when it comes to what we are doing in the community. While that is certainly good public relations, during this Thanksgiving season take a different approach. Try giving to the community in small ways that don’t require a public service announcement or a photo of your CEO giving a giant check. For example, volunteer hours in a children’s hospital, give gift cards to the elderly at retail establishments and make an anonymous donation to a low-profile charity.

As credit unions and banks we have lots for which to be thankful. Our consumers. Our employees. Our communities. So let’s make thanking those groups in tangible ways part of our holiday traditions this year.

Great Mentors Have Three I’s

Great Mentors Have Three I’s

“You will always be a failure in marketing, Mark. You need to get out.” Those were the actual words uttered by my first boss at a financial institution. I was serving as a lowly marketing coordinator (so low, I was the one dressing up as the mascot). I was indeed struggling in that job, like spelling the CEO’s name wrong in the newsletter.

At that point in my career I had a choice to make: I was either going to be fired or transferred to the collection department (my version of Purgatory). I was recently married and wanted to stay gainfully employed so I chose collections. For the next four and a half years I served as a collection officer and eventually loan officer. I was quite good at those jobs, was making good money and on track for a management position.

And I was utterly miserable (because I was not doing what I was passionate about). Eventually a job came open at another organization for a lowly marketing coordinator. I took a significant pay cut to try “this marketing thing” again. But my boss at this new organization did not see me as a failure. Rather he poured his life into mine and taught me incredible communication, branding and marketing skills.

Terry Young changed my life. Not because he was a manager—because he was a mentor. If you supervise people, you need to mentor them.

Here are the three I’s of a great mentor:

  • Ignite—Great mentors focus on your learning. You need to teach the people you mentor. But you can’t teach what you don’t know. Mentors are lifelong learners themselves. You also need to question the people you mentor. One of my favorite questions to ask is “What is the last book you read?” As a mentor, you should ignite learning in those around you.
  • Invest—Great mentors are focused on you. You need to love the people you mentor. Even people unlike yourself. In fact, you can’t lead them until you love them. You also need to serve the people you mentor. In fact, put their needs above your own. Many credit unions and banks say they compete on service. If that’s the case, keep this point in mind: your level of external service to your consumers will never exceed the level of internal service you are giving your team. As a mentor, you should invest time and energy in those around you.
  • Inspire—Great mentors focus on improvement. You need to stretch the people you mentor. In other words, challenge and push them. Think of your favorite coach growing up. My guess is they didn’t let you stay stagnant. You also need to emotionally connect with the people you mentor. Michelangelo once said “I saw the angel in the marble and I chiseled until I set it free.” What do you see in your people? As a mentor, you should inspire vision and greatness in those around you.

Leadership matters. In fact, leadership is so important we offer a customized leadership-training program that specializes in taking your supervisors from just being mere managers to magical mentors.

Why? Because no one should feel like a failure in their careers.