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.