If You're Making Just One '06 Resolution, A Suggestion

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If you haven't made your New Year's Resolutions- and why rush if you're still working on those 2005 promises you made to yourself? - we have a resolution for you that will be easy to implement, doesn't involve any sacrifice, shouldn't mean too much in the way of weight gain, and you'll be better off for it!

It's The Credit Union Journal's first-ever Best Practices conference.

As we were proud to announce last week, this newspaper in 2006 will host a best practices conference modeled on the Best Practices issue we published Nov. 7 that featured almost two-dozen credit union strategies, products, practices and innovations that were worthy of recognition. Having been to one or three credit union meetings myself, I'm well-aware that a best practice is often featured as a breakout session. But attendees often get limited exposure to the Best Practitioner, and it's hit-or-miss whether this particular practice could be implemented at your credit union.

Our plan is to provide credit unions with a dozen or more different best practices across a range of disciplines so that every attendee can find plenty of value and an idea that appeals to them. In our Best Practices issue, which, thanks to its popularity, we will also repeat in late 2006, the credit unions that were featured had created best practices in incentive programs, financial education, digital video marketing, reporting procedures, recruiting and retention, enhancing member convenience, training, loan processing, loan promotions, information technology, SEG recruitment, and many more.

Those credit unions have now been invited to share with participants at the meeting, which is scheduled for April 26-28 at the Hyatt Hotel in Miami, how they did it, why, and how their best practice has worked.

And we're working to deliver more than just that to attendees by striving to create a Best Practices conference that is a Best Practice itself. You no doubt have sufficiently heard enough references to that "thinking outside the box" cliche ever to hear it again, but we're going to be taking credit unions outside their box with insights on best practices from other industries. Moreover, we're going to be speaking to the very issue of creating a best practice culture within a credit union that encourages innovation, and examining the kind of roadblocks that keep organizations from realizing they are even inside a box in the first place.

Over the past eight years The Credit Union Journal has enjoyed a reputation for quality meetings, and we believe the Best Practices conference will be our best yet. We look forward to your comments and suggestions, and most importantly, to seeing you there. Resolve to watch for details on these pages in the coming weeks!

Speaking of resolutions, one credit union exec from Texas was sharing recently the story of a Lone Star State credit union that had a novel idea to use every opportunity to reinforce credit union uniqueness, beginning in the parking lot. So it had every parking place stenciled with the message, "Reserved For Member-Owners."

I've addressed numerous times in this space the unfortunate ignorance many members have regarding their ownership in their CU, and I applaud every effort made to "educate" the folks. But you can guess what happened. As this person explained to me, "I have to warn you that when you do that your members are going to park on the street and they're going to be pissed off and come in and demand to know why they can't park there. This is your opportunity to explain to them they are the member-owners."

Perhaps "Reserved For Those Who Don't Like Banks" would have worked better. Except that the lot would always be full and members would again be parking across the street.

A few weeks ago I was playing golf -or as I prefer to think of it, "networking for news in an off-site environment" - with three other credit union folks when the topic turned to name changes. One of the members of the group almost immediately began mocking many of the fabricated monikers credit unions (and the name-change firms they have retained) have opted to switch to in recent years. Laughing, he began pulling names out of the air-silly words ending in "us" and "syn"-that sounded remarkably similar to some of the real names chosen. It just reinforced the challenge that comes in creating a name that isn't so much laughed at as it is washed away in a sea of mirror-like names in the market.

Incidentally, if you're considering a name change in 2006, why not throw the competition open to readers of The Credit Union Journal. It would be free, and I'm betting there are some very creative folks out there who might have just the name you're seeking. Just e-mail me at fdiekmann@cujournal.com if interested.

Speaking of name changes, you have to give credit to the soon-to-be-former Community Credit Union in Texas for its new name-Viewpoint Bank. You wonder if this isn't a little tongue-in-cheek joke upon the members, soon-to-be-customers. After all, it all depends upon your viewpoint whether the conversion was good (senior management, board) or bad (members, employees and the community at large).

One thing you can say: if this Texas institution ever stencils the parking spaces "Reserved For Owners," darn near everyone will have to park on the street.

Frank J. Diekmann is Editor of The Credit Union Journal.

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