The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

SLCCU Gets My Vote for ‘Marketer of the Year’

On October 26th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

Advertising Age is a trade publication for those who work in the world of advertising and marketing.  It’s a typical trade pub in that if you don’t work in the specific industry cited, you would have no business nor interest in the material contained therein.  But I like to read everything.  So I’m perusing the pages and stumble across a great article with the following heading: “Who Will Be Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year?”  I’m a huge fan of the “best of the best,” so I proceeded to read with great interest as to who had a shot at such a prestigious title.

Five big companies find themselves in the running.  The winner will come from one of the following:  Amazon, Hyundai, McDonald’s, Lego or Walmart.  One of these behemoths will be invited to the dais to bask in the glory of being recognized by their peers as the “cat’s pajamas.”  (Cat’s pajamas is another way of saying “all that and a bag of chips” – which really means “you da man.”)  What I’m trying to say is…get out the big #1 foam finger cause somebody’s going to walk away with the title of “winner.”

Check this out.  Amazon is being considered as Marketer of the Year for the manner in which they have focused on developing supreme customer service. Their marketing is emphasizing how nice a job they’re doing in service.  Okay, SLCCU can relate.  We do that, too. 

Hyundai is getting recognition for what is described as “bold assurances.”  Reading a little deeper in the article, they are getting recognized for “confronting the recession head on.”  SLCCU is good with that, as well. If you mean Hyundai is not “piling on” the consumer by charging more during tough times, then they’re a contender (along with SLCCU).  Our rates and fees are some of the best in the region.

McDonald’s is getting “big ups” for creating new products that bring value to the consumer.  That is straight out of SLCCU’s playbook.  In conjunction with the start of the recession, our management team proceeded to get busy with new products and services that help our members.  The count (to date) is eight new products – with many more to come.

Lego is getting recognized for always listening to their customers.  Okay…us too.  And Walmart, well they’re being seen as the “recessionary resource.”  That means they are holding (even cutting) prices at a time when consumers need it the most.  Good for Walmart.  We practice the same compassion for our members. 

These five big companies are all recognized for doing one thing great.  This small (by comparison) Credit Union is doing all five of those things…1) supreme service; 2) working with our members and not “piling on;” 3) creating new products; 4) listening to members’ needs and wants; and 5) holding and cutting prices.

I’m casting a write-in vote for St. Louis Community Credit Union. Seriously, we’re the “cat’s pajamas” times five.

Dreams Can Come True – If You Follow Through On Your Plan

On October 19th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by 1 Comment

A plan without execution is like Sonny without Cher, Laurel without Hardy, Abbott minus Costello, Peaches less Herb and (a personal favorite) peanut butter without chocolate.  The plan is just half of the equation, yet it is where so many great ideas lie in wait.

Seriously, a good plan is nothing without execution.  Ever have a plan that never makes it out of the gray matter between your ears?  You birth the plan, and think it all the way through over and over again; you know it’ll work.  Unfortunately, it never gets done because the steps necessary to move a dream to reality – a plan to implementation – just may be the widest abyss you have ever encountered.  What causes the gap and how to close it becomes the $64,000 question.

First, keep your plan simple and concrete.  Don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once.  It’s impossible.  Little bites make your plan seem achievable.  Lose two lbs. before five.  Save $20 before $50.  Pay off one credit card at a time.  Be pragmatic.  Don’t speak of abstract ideas and platitudes.  Think in terms of reality.  “I will save $50 this month if I bring my lunch two days per week.”  Good plan – now execute.

Step 2…your plan becomes reality if you understand your priority.  What matters most?  Is that $2.50 per day you feed the vending machine really that important to you?  Or would that $2.50 per day, times 20 working days per month, times 12 months, be better served as a $600 “surprise” weekend trip to Chicago’s Miracle Mile with the love of your life – complete with an exquisite dinner and an all-day shopping spree?  One of these ideas makes you fat, and the other makes you “PHAT.”  Priority, baby, priority!

Lastly, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.  Your plan has a number of benchmarks that need measuring.  Sit down and assess your progress.  Say to yourself…“self, how’d you do this past week?”  You set out to bring your lunch two days…yep, good job.  No vending machine activity.  Good progress is made.  At the end of next week, do the same.

Plans become implementation…dreams become reality…good ideas become a good deal more when you practice three simple steps: 1) Keep your plan simple and real; 2) Understand what is priority; and 3) Actively manage and measure your progress.

I’ve always wanted to write on this subject.  I’m glad I finally followed through on my plan!

Even The Best Can Drop The Ball On Occasion

On October 13th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

Have you ever “dropped the ball?”  Haven’t we all at some point in time popped ourselves in the forehead with the palm of our hand and muttered some monologue under our breath about how stupid we were?  We’ve done all we could…we tied a string around our finger, put a message in Outlook, placed sticky notes on the fridge and, lo and behold, somehow, some way, we still fell flat on our face.  The ball lay on the ground and, as a result, we have an empty look only outdone by an empty feeling.

In the recent history of St. Louis sports, there has never been a more public, painful and untimely “dropping of the ball” than that of our beloved “rent-an-outfielder,” Matt Holliday.  The world saw it live, then it was replayed a zillion times on a zillion channels to the same zillion people in order that we could all see that it really happened.  Sure enough, the man “dropped the ball” – literally.  Nobody felt worse than him – guaranteed.  That’s a sign of character.

I’ll bet you that most of us (when we gathered ourselves) quickly forgave him.  Yeah, he should’ve had it, but he didn’t.  Truly, his is a case of bad things happening to good people.  I say let those who live in glass houses cast the first stone, or something like that.  Be honest.  We’ve all dropped the ball – probably more than once.  The feeling is gut-wrenching.  At least when you and I screwed up, it wasn’t in front of a nationally televised audience.

Admittedly, as good as St. Louis Community Credit Union is, we “drop the ball” on occasion.  We hate it.  It makes us look bad.  We practice being responsive, accurate and considerate of our members’ concerns at least a couple of million times per year (that’s how many transactions members complete with us on an annual basis).  We know that you count on us not to “drop the ball.”  That’s why you give us your money – we’re a trusted source. When it happens, it puts a whole bunch of us in a really foul mood.  Thank God nobody sticks a microphone in our face 20 minutes later to ask us how we feel.  We’re really fussy.

I’ll bet you Mr. Holliday has caught thousands of fly balls in his life.  I’ll bet he catches many, many more before such an anomaly occurs again.  It’s the same for us.  It doesn’t make it right, nor does it diminish the negative impact.  Just like Matt, it hurts to screw up.  We just ask for forgiveness.

The character of a man and a company is not defined by the mistake(s) made, but rather how fast said mistake is corrected and what steps are taken to insure it doesn’t happen again.  We are of extremely high character.  So is Mr. Holliday.

In the scope of things, SLCCU employees make very few mistakes, but doggone it if we won’t make one at the most inopportune time.  We’ll clean them up, we’ll get fussy at ourselves, we’ll take steps not to make them again, and we’ll set out to do better next time.  We appreciate your patience if we “drop the ball.”  Your forgiveness is always welcome.  Just ask Mr. Holliday.

Purpose Over Profit

On October 5th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by 1 Comment

I’ve said it a thousand times – a few times in this weekly blog – and hundreds of times to anyone who will give me an ear:  Purpose over profit. “Yeah, but…” is a common response to such a noble claim.  I get it.  In order to accomplish one’s purpose, one must have resources.  Good people, good market conditions and good cash flows are just a few of the key components to achieving one’s purpose.  In other words, purpose may be at a higher plane than is profit, but try achieving one’s purpose without it – profit, that is.

Yes, SLCCU makes a profit, but we return it, all of it, to our members and our community for the purpose of increasing people’s standard of living and bettering their lifestyle.  Who wants consumers and a community in pain at the expense of some profit-driven machine; a machine that left its conscience at the door of its over-the-top, opulent digs at the corporate equivalent of Emerald City in the Land of Oz?  Nobody – that’s who.

Real success is when your “give-back” is not just profit to stockholders.  Yeah, that’s part of it as a for-profit.  But when a company goes beyond the maximization of shareholder value and props up a community during difficult times, well, now you’ve found a company worth supporting with your business.  Let’s call that company “us.”

What we say loudly among the financial services marketplace is very simple.  St. Louis Community Credit Union shouts it from the rooftops on literally a daily basis: “We are a noble company with a noble purpose that produces goods and services that help to improve people’s lives.”  There’s more…we create good jobs and we provide capital through the aforementioned profits that spur improvements in our community.  Those profits show up as lower fees, higher deposit rates, lower loan rates, eight convenient offices, long branch hours, thousands of ATMs and a multitude of free services.

Some might say, “Yeah, but how much more could you give back if the bosses weren’t flying around in private jets and the executive lunchroom wasn’t serving prime rib for lunch?”  In other words, how much does the leadership of the credit union practice their “noble purpose?”  Do they walk the walk or just talk the talk?  Is the “noble purpose” mantra good for the goose?  I understand this line of questioning.  Based on newspaper reports, too many corporate leaders have been far from noble.  The trend in recent times (especially in the banking world) has been for corporate executives to display a gluttonous appetite for unbelievable remuneration.

The average Fortune 500 CEO makes 300 times that of their average worker.  They practice no restraint in the name of their so-called purpose.  So in that sense, the “noble purpose” has been reduced to window dressing.

There’s no window dressing at St. Louis Community Credit Union.  No stock options, no opulent offices, no 300 times the “worker bee” salaries, and certainly no executive lunchroom.  We warm our food in the same $50 microwave that everybody else does –then most days we eat at our desks.  It seems like the “noble” thing to do.