I chose that blog title because I want CEOs to read this. And I know what most of their objectives are today because I frequent the speaker circuit, read the trades and generally feel the pain. We need to grow!

Well, there’s a case study now, that has ROI and everything. But first I’d like to share (from my own experience) what not to do.

I first met Ray when he opened an Umpqua Branch across the street from a credit union in Eugene, Oregon (where I was working at the time). We had never heard of this bank. What a weird name, right? And get this, their tag line, “Pretty cool for a bank huh?”

Ray’s goal was to get our members. HA! We are a credit union – our members are loyal! They will never ever go the “dark side.” We were wrong.

You see, Ray gets modern marketing. It’s not about trying to be all things to all people. It’s about having a vision and the discipline to stay the course. He was inspired by two Northwest companies (Starbucks and Nordstrom) to create a retail experience second to none.

The Eugene Credit Union (where I was the training coordinator) thought they were in the service business too. The credit union down the street KNEW they were in the lending business. Assets of these two credit unions were neck and neck. Why do I know this? Because it was the only ruler we measured with. So this little bank from Roseburg, Oregon moves in (at the same asset size incidentally) and we summarily dismiss them as competition. Instead, the lean mean lending machine (that was our CU competitor) started offering “loan steal” incentives to their highly trained sales staff. Again, our focus (or so I thought) was service. We sent every employee through a one-week very expensive breakthrough leadership program. Our HR gal had been to the Disney Institute. We had just launched the most expensive campaign in the credit union’s history to tout our service experience. I mean, over-the-top television commercials with the tag line “SELCO (let’s call them that) – Why didn’t you say so?……and the music begins to the play and balloons drop from the ceiling…you get the idea.” But we got impatient and took our eye off the ball. We started competing on price too. I’m here to tell you, you can’t do both.

I left Eugene shortly after that. Started my own business a few years later, moved around for 5 years and finally back to Portland (my hometown) where, guess what? There was Umpqua Bank. Serving their own blend of coffee (the Umpqua Blend), putting out the doggie water dish (Umpqua Brand) selling Umpqua t-shirts and mugs and giving their customers free quarters to plug the parking meters. Customers were surfing the web, watching TV (not your lame ads on the plasma screen) – generally hanging out like you would at a Starbucks.

Ray has just released his story. Leading for Growth: How Umpqua Bank Got Cool and Created a Culture of Greatness. He shares his secrets to success to the world. In the first chapter he spells it out:

“Leading for growth isn’t necessarily about getting bigger just to be bigger. It’s about getting better, stronger, more agile, more customer focused, and becoming a relentless competitor. And companies that do that do get bigger – but it’s a result, not an objective. You cannot grow your business if all you are doing is worrying about your numbers.”


Just to review: In 1994 all three institutions in a three block radius in Eugene were around $140 million in assets. Today the Eugene Credit Unions are $730 and $807 million in assets. Umpqua is $7 Billion in assets.

A couple of years after I left Eugene, the credit union hired a new ad agency to come up with a new tag line……..this was it: “Serves you right.”
Enough said.