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Coffee and the kitchen table

January 18, 2010

I spent this morning drinking coffee around the kitchen table with 4 young individuals from Oregon and Maine credit unions. It was great to hear their enthusiasm for the credit union system. They had concerns but they also saw that it took work and effort to effect change and help move the credit union system towards some fundamental goals. We compared notes and saw that a lot of our membership comes from referrals from members and people who know about the credit union in the community. That word-of-mouth event is key. There is no manual or how to here. It is plain and simple. The cooperative culture that is set in the branch is noticed by the membership to the point of telling others about the credit union. You can’t can this stuff. It won’t pickle. It just is.

The problem starts when the growth button gets pushed to the detriment of the  cooperative culture. There is a fine line here. Everything will grow. Vegetables grow. You can add fertilizer and whatever else to make them grow bigger and faster but there is a limit. If you push it too hard you vegetable is something else. This seems to be also true for an organization like a credit union. It can grow naturally or you can push it until it becomes something else. I am pretty sure we know what that something else is.

There is a lot of work to consider when growing your credit union. From our discussions this morning I think the next generation of leaders understand what it takes to create a strong and healthy credit union without too much manure.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 8:26 am

    Gene,

    I think the vegetable analogy is great. (It also brings to mind a certain campaign I remember seeing recently…)

    Walk into the grocery store and look at the “normal” vegetables. Most vegetables look to be around the same size…they appear to be “the norm.” However, walk over to the organic section and you’ll realize the “normal” vegetables look like they are hopped up on steroids like a DH in the mid 90s.

    I applaud CUs that stay organic and can resist the urge to grow at all costs in an attempt to fit in with the other veggies.

  2. Brett Matthews permalink
    July 16, 2010 12:50 pm

    Hi Gene:

    I love the vegetable analogy. Or any organic life on steroids for that matter (an Olympic athlete, for example). It’s what happens when you take the cooperative principles and squeeze out the ones that really matter, like member ownership and control, or social responsibility.

    Great blog. Have you thought of writing on Wikipedia? There’s so much content still needed on credit unions there — it’s a whole frontier. As a thinker, reader and writer you’d be great at it.

    Brett

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