Brandon Michaels

Fail forward

Success requires two steps, says Mazuma Credit Union's Brandon Michaels: Play to win and fail forward.

January 9, 2018

As credit unions prepare for the future, Brandon Michaels says success will require two steps: Play to win and fail forward.

Too often, “credit unions sit back and wait for change to happen to them before they react,” says Michaels, president/CEO of $600 million asset Mazuma Credit Union in Overland Park, Kan. “If they’re not playing to win or aren’t being proactive and failing forward, I’m not sure they’ll be around.”

Playing to win means addressing change before it happens, Michaels says. “Credit unions need to have a winning mindset. They have to stop waiting for changes to act upon them,” and they need to “fundamentally change the way they think about their business.”

Having a winning mindset requires an “obsession” with the member experience, Michaels adds.

As change takes place, credit unions must take risks, even if those risks carry the potential for failure. That might mean deciding to no longer offer a product or service, or redesigning branches so they no longer have employees on-site.

‘Stop waiting for change to happen to you.’

That risk-taking philosophy should focus on members and what they want. “You need to become
ingrained and in tune with your membership and what they want,” Michaels says.

This could be difficult, however, due to the fast pace of change, he adds. And members might not know what they want until it’s available to them.

For example, Michaels says no one really knows what impact self-driving cars, electric vehicles, or changes in the gasoline industry will have on auto lending in the future.

“Consumers are starting to figure out that just because you say ‘that’s the way we’ve done it’ doesn’t mean that’s the way that it should be,” Michaels says. “And that’s changing the way consumers view financial services. A lot of times, consumers don’t know because they’re changing, too.”

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