So much of a business person’s time is devoted to figuring out what they do better than their competitors. For example, a CU that spends time understanding how its financial service products compare and compete with the services of a bank. A business can become so vested in these comparisons and the effort to edge out competitors in what they do better–despite being basically the same–that their internal teams simply forget how to really focus on where they are different. And after a while those internal team members (staff, management, and board) find themselves always starting from the same base, the same foundation, and the same perspective as their competitors, even though they are nothing like their competitors at their core. And in doing so any hope for innovating on a core difference is lost. The difference that should inspire activities and ensure that the market sees you as different from your competitors is lost, and the advantage with it.
This is why we should be focused on learning, leveraging, and acting on being cooperatives. Focused on walking the talk and driving customer-owner advantages into our daily activities, into our competitive activities, and into the spirit of everything we do. This drive is one of the reasons I decided to get more involved in the cooperative business model and the groups that support its success. I hope you will consider how credit unions might return to their core and drive this difference home for the members and stakeholders. Be different, and start with the way you design your business. Be a cooperative in the truest sense of the word.