Lori Gallegos, executive vice president/chief operations officer of $429 million asset First Credit Union, Chandler, Ariz., was named Professional of the Year at the 2015 CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council Conference.
She discusses the credit union's efforts to expand its sales and service culture.
CU Mag: What was the driving force behind your decision to expand your sales and service culture?
Gallegos: We realized that a structured approach to deepening member relationships was going to be essential to our future growth.
Our members deserve the consultative conversations that are the foundation to our sales/service strategy: We’re working with our members to establish the best combination of products and services for their financial success.
CU Mag: What steps did you take to do this?
Gallegos: We started with a five-year review of historical transaction data to create a baseline of our product use when our member service approach was more about “order-taking” fulfillment. With that level of detail, we could establish realistic goals for each branch that drove product/service delivery.
At first, tracking was manual, but we now have a program that’s integrated directly with our core, which follows product/service delivery through the sales cycle.
It documents the member referral through the sales process to a “booked” product, giving applicable points to each employee involved in completing the process.
CU Mag: What has worked for your CU and employees?
Gallegos: Establishing a structured training curriculum that builds layers of knowledge over a period of time has been valuable to our staff. They are excited to attend the next phase to continually build their knowledge and confidence.
Our sales and service culture has brought a fresh approach to leadership, growing our managers in their roles as coaches—along with providing the data tools for product delivery analysis.
We’ve also built a network of peer-mentors throughout the organization who keep the culture thriving through packaged/consistent team activities.
CU Mag: What was the biggest challenge your CU faced during this process?
Gallegos: Over the past 12 years we’ve had many challenges, from an economic meltdown in Arizona and several branch location closures to a core conversion, which is operationally disruptive.
We never suspended our sales goals or incentive structure. Maintaining our focus on the culture was a constant: We never wanted to stop the momentum of training and coaching for positive member engagement.
CU Mag: How do you measure the success of the transformation?
Gallegos: Our products per member and cross-sell percentage are strong indicators, along with improved new-account onboarding to broaden product engagement within the first 90 days.
It’s great to see our employees having success in goal attainment. We’ve built a structure that isn’t “cookie cutter” and allows our staff to be consultative in solving our members’ financial needs.
CU Mag: What does the Professional of the Year Award mean to you and your CU?
Gallegos: I feel so fortunate to receive this honor—I share this recognition with our operations management team for their contributions in evolving our sales and service culture.
We have a fantastic staff that continues to embrace our focus on creating first-class personal solutions for our members and ultimately a standout level of member service, or "Financial Sunshine," in the communities we serve.
CU Mag: What one trait has proven most valuable to you as a leader?
Gallegos: The unwavering commitment to our culture—while building an environment of trust through consistency and honest communication—has been invaluable.
CU Mag: What’s one of the top qualities a successful manager must possess?
Gallegos: A positive attitude toward the future and ability to shift as strategies evolve.
Leaders must be solutions-focused.
CU Mag: What’s the best advice you ever received?
Gallegos: Lead, follow or get out of the way!
CU Mag: How do you unwind after work?
Gallegos: I enjoy time with my family and watching sports, especially football!
CU Mag: You can have dinner with one person from history. Who would you choose, and why?
Gallegos: It would be fascinating to talk with George Washington—his vision and humility are timeless lessons of leadership.