Thinking about how we respond to negative trends
Every quarter, we write a report to stockholders, the State of Michigan, and the NCUA (we file every 90 days and have since the early/mid 1990s) detailing our quarterly financials. One of those things that gets filed in a room or can like CTRs… (we flatter ourselves) — just there in case someone ever gets interested. In our latest, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article pointing out how we had somewhat embarrassingly missed the mark on our budgeted net income for the first quarter of our 2018 fiscal year. (We still had our second best start to any fiscal year in our history, but fell short of our projections.)
It’s been many years since I’ve had to write a report where we were off plan at the end of a quarter. And I was interested to see–would anybody notice? So far… not really. Like many firms, CU*Answers has ridden a very long winning curve up as a vendor for the CU industry and seldom publicly has to admit that it ever worries about that streak. And since the firms that are now gone from view are silent, all we hear about is streaks of good luck for the most part. We know the industry is consolidating; we know the industry is polarizing to the point where those at either end can see no relevance in calling each other peers any longer; we know that it is more likely that our industry will be redefined by others (competition, regulators, or those simply unaware of who we are and were) instead of experienced CU architects. We know a lot….but we act so little on big things.
So on a day where I am filing a tongue-in-cheek quarterly analysis of a blimp on the radar, I wonder what I would write if losing/struggling was the streak? Multiple quarters where our plan could not be reached, where our goals seemed less than bright, or where we fell short of expectations that extended our futures. What would I write? What would I change? What would I push to engage?
Quietly I wish I had kept the phone numbers and emails of CEOs that are now gone from view. Ex-CEOs that could tell me what they had wished they had done when they faced downward curves on the way to the end. I worry that lessons lost and archived outside our industry now are what is needed. What did we miss when we justified the NCUA or regulators actions to end an organization? What did we miss when no owners really dug into a vote to end a charter? What did we miss when the life-cycles of leaders and volunteers were more important than CUs needing young blood? What did we miss when we followed models based on scale that left local communities and individuals on the sidelines? What did we miss that are the keys to turning a streak back towards winning?
Some might say we missed nothing, we witnessed progress and the natural march towards an industry’s maturation. But that sounds like short term winners talking to me. Tell me why I’m wrong.