ANAHEIM, Calif.-At the age of 23, Nancy Lublin came home one day to find in the mail an envelope. Inside it was a check for $5,000 representing an inheritance from a grandfather.
Lublin took that check and, rather than spending it on herself, founded the non-profit organization Dress For Success, which provides women with interview suits, career development and training. She helped oversee growth to 10 countries. And then, she left.
Lublin moved on to take over DoSomething.org, overseeing growth in what was a debt-ridden organization into a successful, web-based organization that helps provide grants to young people seeking to make a difference.
Lublin, who spoke to CO-OP Financial Services' THINK Conference, is a passionate believer in the power of not-for-profit organizations, including credit unions. She is also the author of "Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business. How to Accomplish More with Less."
"I started Dress for Success in 1996. I was a miserable law student, which is the best kind. I had the epiphany about Dress for Success," said Lublin. "It grew to 120 cities. I then left, because I think that's what founders should do." Lublin said she takes pride in having grown two organizations with few resources. "I think in the non-profit world we work harder and get better results when we start with nothing but purpose."
In both of the organizations Lublin has helped to grow, she said they were built around the four elements of a strong brand: simple, unique, consistent, relevant.
Simple: "At end of day the value proposition...is very simple. Those things require thinking about your customer and what they want," said Lublin. "So in crowded places with limited funds, you can still figure out that proposition."
Unique. "We beat the competition not by out-advertising them but by having an actual, unique value. Were we first, the only, faster, better or are we cheaper?"
Relevant: "We exist for the public good. We have members on our actual board. When you do that, you remain connected to your purpose and relevant to the people you serve. The best way to stay close to the customer is to trust them is to treat them like you actually like them. It seems so simple, but so many people work for so many companies who seem to disdain their customer. I love the people I serve, and I think it makes me much better at my job."
Consistent. "This means providing the same high quality service and doing it without mystery, which seems basic and expected, unless you've gone to a for-profit bank. When you are driven by purpose the quality of that product becomes higher and stability more important than margin. There is something to be said for staying focused on that original purpose."