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How do You Know if You’re Serving Your Members Enough if You’re Not Learning Enough?

I’ll be getting on a red eye from LAX to IAD to attend the CUNA GAC. I’m so excited to see everyone and explore what’s new in the Credit Union (CU) world. I’ve been going to CU conferences for 20 years, yet it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn from talking to the exhibitors about new products and services that could serve members. When I was new to the industry selling advertising for a well-known publication, the exhibit halls would typically be vacant of attendees, yet every booth would have 2 or 3 people in it. I would ask, “How’s the conference going for you? Getting many leads?” That was usually a blunt segue for me to tell them that they could have spent less money and reach more people through advertising, placing banner ads, email campaigns, web seminars and other ways to reach their audience.

I’m often asked, “where are the best conferences, or where we should exhibit? My list is short here’s my top three, the CUNA GAC, CUNA Councils events, and NACUSO Network. The GAC is not just the biggest event of the year it is the kickoff event attracting more credit union executives than any other event in the country. Still, it’s common for the exhibitors to complain that they’re not getting any solid leads just a bunch of “trick o’ treaters” looking for tchotchkes, pens, stress balls or whatever free thing may be lying on the table.

I’ve stood in booths watching board member after board member, executive after executive come by grabbing a few trinkets, “for the grandkids” throw them in a bag and move on never engaging with the exhibitor or taking time to ask what it is they’re offering.
I’ve also stood with exhibitors as they tell me how great their new “bread slicer” is and how it’s runs with A.I. and integrates with Alexa ™. They never tell me what problem it solves, or how it’s going to make the credit union member experience better.

I received impressive propositions from providers of services in our industry, offering to compensate me for introducing them to the CEO of a credit union. Their typical comment is “All I need to talk to the CEO…” That couldn’t be more wrong. Most CEOs that I know rely on their staff to bring them new ideas on technology and services that will help their credit union grow and their members thrive.

Yet, how do you know if you’re serving your members well enough if you’re not learning enough? How can you discover, for your members benefit, new technologies, expanding digital banking, mobile applications, faster ways of getting loan approval, refinancing, increasing your Member Business Lending through loan participation or obtaining a lifestyle so members can give their kids dream weddings . You must be open to learning and to walking up to a stranger in a booth at a conference. Of course, they’ll try to sell you something, that’s their job, but you might find a solution to a problem your CU has. At a minimum, you will validate that your current solutions are good for now. Yet, ask yourself are they good enough for the future?

If I was a credit union executive and I was sending one or two of my staff to a conference in Orlando, DC, San Diego or Las Vegas, I would expect them to come back with information, something they learned about systems, software, or services that they didn’t know before they left. I think it’s great to provide as a perk for a volunteer board member to go to an event as a reward for their service. They are ultimately approving new products and services that the credit union may use. Should they not also learn something while they’re there. And if you’re an executive or board member going to a credit union conference with no intention of going into the exhibit hall other than to eat breakfast and use your free drink tickets you should think twice about going. Lastly, I would highly encourage the credit union to engage their younger employees under the age of 30, to join The Crashers (aka The Cooperative Trust). They’ll learn about what more they can do to advance in their careers and what they can bring to the credit union to really embrace the potential for growth and the community that we are all so happy to be a part of.

I’ll see you all in DC, if you want to meet me prior to the Grand Opening, I’ll be a Brasserie Beck, Sunday afternoon, eating mussels with a pint of Belgian beer! Or send me an email and we’ll find some time to connect.

References
CUNA GAC; https://www.cuna.org/Events/CUNA-Governmental-Affairs-Conference/About-CUNA-GAC/
CUNA Councils; http://www.cunacouncils.org/events-calendar/
NACUSO Network; https://www.nacuso.org/conferences/2019-nacuso-network-conference/
The Crashers (aka The Cooperative Trust); https://www.cooperativetrust.com/home