Collins: Adhere to Core Values

July 13, 2010 to unshakeable core values is the only thing that keeps even great companies remaining great, author Jim Collins told attendees at The 1 Credit Union in Las Vegas Monday.

Monday's general session keynoter at the joint conference of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and World Council of Credit Unions is the author of "Good to Great" and other books.

Collins carried on the theme of credit unions' advantage by pointing to the fact that great companies remain great only when they adhere to unshakeable core principles. Thanks to their member-focus philosophy, credit unions have a natural advantage over many for-profit companies, but they can't afford to think that their philosophy will make them successful in the absence of excellent management.

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Faith in the facts characterizes the climb to success, and failure to deal with the facts breeds a fall, he said.

"Credit unions face brutal facts. They are smaller than large financial institutions which can deal with the increasing burden of regulation and take opportunities," he added.

For credit unions, a "brutal fact is that the average age of members is going up. I challenge you to confront that fact. Ask how are we going to get this next generation a part of the movement? They distrust institutions, and they require different mechanisms...but it must be done," he said.

"There is one towering, giant truth," Collins observed. "Credit unions can be trusted and they are run well. Who on earth could promise a better deal to members? But it will be up to us to communicate to the next generation if we want to survive."

Collins also outlined his five stages of decline that affect many companies, and the role leadership plays in facilitating that decline. Leaders who succeed are passionately committed to success, but that commitment must focus on the organization and its ideals. Leaders who focus on success for their own gains quickly lose ground, he explained.

The credit union philosophy helps mitigate that self interest, but requires even higher levels of commitment to achieve its goals.