Focus on Your Core Strengths

Are you successfully engaged with core product and service offerings?

June 4, 2012

My lawn mower has a malfunctioning self-propeller. Replacement of the part or lawn mower is currently No. 748 on my priority list, so I tolerate the inconvenience and the challenges of starting it each time.

My brother decided that I needed a lawn mowing tutorial given the various defects of the mower and my own strength limitations.

 “Put your foot on the mower pan for leverage, reach down for the pull cord, and let it rip,” he explained. “Don’t be a wimp about it. Then, engage your core and move that thing!”

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

I followed his advice. The mower roared to life. “Let’s run over some rocks and branches on purpose so you’ll know how that surprise feels,” he shouted to me.

So he threw rocks and branches in my path. The mower and I forged ahead, and I successfully finished the job, confronting these obstacles while concentrating on core strength.

Are you self-propelled in your credit union’s daily operations? Are you successfully engaged with core products and service offerings?  Does meeting basic member needs strengthen your relationships with members, and even lead them to use additional services? 

Consider your “core engagement” as you review this week’s research findings.

Is the grass greener over there?

“Private student lenders are stepping up their game to compete directly with government loans,” says BloombergBusinessweek in “Private Student Loans are Becoming More Competitive.”

“Now private lenders are introducing loans fixed at nearly the same rates as some federal products, seeking to nab a bigger piece of the student loan market as outstanding debts balloon to more than $1 trillion.”

How does your student loan portfolio compete?

Are you fit for the future?  See “Is Your Company Fit for Growth?” This strategy + business article says you can determine this and stay relevant in the marketplace by answering three questions:

1. Have you defined priorities based on growth to drive investments?

2. Are available resources dedicated to these priorities?

3. Is your organization strategically aligned for achievement?

Consider these social media lessons available from a study by the IBM Center for the Business of Government.  “Working the Network: A Manager’s Guide for Using Twitter in Government” outlines strategies for effective use and monitoring of Twitter. It’s a tool that you can use effectively to involve large numbers of citizens, the study points out, “and create conversations with an engaged, networked public. The outcome of these conversations can be new insights and even innovations in the public sector, in response to suggestions on how to make government more effective.”   

More news on effective connections is found in “Leading Through Connections: Insights from the Global IBM CEO Study.”  “In speaking face-to-face with 1,709 CEOs, general managers, and senior public sector leaders around the globe, leaders confirmed that our new connected era is changing how people engage.”  Findings focus on how CEOs respond to these connections, and center on empowered employees, engaged customers, and innovations developed through partnerships.

Could simply asking consumers to try your offerings work to your advantage?  That’s what “Life Insurance Providers Could Benefit by Increasing Outreach and Education,” a Deloitte survey reveals.

“A prime reason many uninsured individuals don’t have insurance coverage is that no carrier has invited them to purchase their products…Even insured individuals who are open to buying additional coverage often say that they have not been solicited by carriers,” the survey says.

“Even current buyers didn’t overwhelmingly recognize many of the financial needs life insurance can fulfill, such as a source of cash in retirement, a way to save money for financial emergencies or to help finance a child’s education,” said Deloitte’s Sam Friedman.

Are your members aware of the breadth and depth of core services you provide?

Get off the riding mower?

“Walkability” is the focus of “Walk This Way: The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.” by Brookings. A sampling of Washington, D.C. neighborhoods shows the economic benefits for areas that attract pedestrians. Residents that live in walkable areas boast lower transportation costs and higher transit access, despite higher housing costs.  “Lenders should find cause to integrate walkability into their underwriting standards…The Great Recession highlighted the need to change the prevailing real estate development paradigm, particularly in housing. High-risk financial products and practices, “teaser” underwriting terms, steadily low-interest rates, and speculation in housing were some of the most significant contributors to the housing bubble and burst…”

Can you walk that way with your lending practices?

Finally, along with discoveries of walkable neighborhoods, there’s this news: The INRIX Traffic Scorecard reports a 30% drop in traffic across the U.S. Seventy of 100 of the most populated American cities report decreased traffic congestions last year, “…where lack of employment combined with high fuel prices is keeping Americans off the roads.” The survey also provides not only insight about traffic patterns but also the economy, as municipalities with big drops in traffic also had gas prices exceeding the national average, and cities with higher growth of employment reported bigger increases in traffic congestion.

My lawn looks just fine, and I’m realizing the cardiovascular and strength-training benefits by focusing on my core each time I mow.

As Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas said about the restaurant business, “It all comes back to the basics. Serve customers the best-tasting food at a good value in a clean, comfortable restaurant, and they’ll keep coming back.”

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.