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I named one of my dogs Dexter Morgan Wymore Sadowski. And I realized today that I seldom call him Dexter. In fact I only refer to him by his formal name when I introduce him. Here’s what I generally say:


Buddy boy!

Big Boy!

Buster Brown!

Dookie Howser! (when he poops in the house)

My Buddy Bear!


Is this normal? Do people do this with their human kids?

My goal is to return to work next week. But I cannot do it without new brown sandals. So naturally I went to (on my iPad) this morning – and bam! Zappos has an App – for free. Installed it. Just when I didn’t think they could make spending money any faster or funner – they did.

Search by shoe.
Size 8
Sort by most popular (cuz that’s important to me…LOL)

And there they are! The perfect shoe. On sale.


Add to cart.
Where would you like to ship? (all of my previous shipping info in there)
What credit card would you like to use? (again, all my information stored from previous purchases)
Where should we bill this?

And then the most magical thing happened…..the shipping information. Little gold “VIP” coins started dropping from the sky (the iPad sky) filling the screen for a second and then the reveal. Because I am a VIP (spend a lot of money on shoes) I get free overnight shipping! Yay!

Complete purchase.

Now I just wait for the UPS guy. I’m on the front porch as I write this.

So – what can credit unions learn from this?

#1 – For god’s sake – didn’t I already GIVE you that information? I have a car loan with you, my mortgage, I’ve been a member for over 15 years and you STILL keep asking me who I am – where I work, live, etc…….why not take a page from Zappos and elegantly have me confirm that nothing has changed.

#2 – Reward my loyalty for crying out loud. Celebrate it! Thank me for my contribution to the co-op.

#3 – Give me my stuff now. Like my debit card and PIN. If I move my checking account (and all the baggage that comes with it) to your credit union at the very least I should walk out of there with an activated debit card. The chances that I will actually take the time to reset all of my bill pay, automatic deductions and most importantly my direct deposit – greatly increases if I don’t have to wait two weeks for my access device.

#4 – Give me an app for that. We live on our smart phones – and if I have to access your big ugly clunky website on my iPhone – fuhgetaboutit.

Processor that is. Although I feel like I’m being held hostage by my “core” since I had major abdominal surgery two weeks ago – ouch. But enough about me already.

Tansley Stearns posted a great comment on my blog last week and she got me thinking about the biggest excuse credit unions use for not innovating. Our core processor does not have the capability.

I’ve heard it for 32 years. Before we had computers all of our member data was in a ledger. Everything we did we did manually. We typed up documents – in triplicate with carbon paper on an IBM Selectric. We filed things. We had “ticklers” that was no more than a recipe box turned relationship builder. We remembered people’s names and their kids’ names. We had loyal members that helped us grow with positive word-of-mouth.

Today we get a great idea about how to reward our members (for example) but someone will remind us that our core processor has the intelligence of a door knob and we all shake our heads and give up.

Besides your compensation, budget and facilities, what is the third biggest annual expense at your credit union? No doubt your data processing bill. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on what? Keeping you from doing great things.

How many of you have had to purchase OTHER systems – for major transactions (like loan processing, home banking, bill pay) because your “core” can’t do it – or rather won’t do it?

And this is perhaps the most absurd of them all – because we have so many ancillary programs – we often require our employees to re-enter member information because – you guessed it – our core won’t talk to strangers. At least when we typed documents in triplicate we only had to do it once!

The solution? I look to the folks at the shared branching networks. They have somehow made it possible for credit unions all over the world to talk to each other.  I can walk into a credit union in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in real time withdraw money (or deposit) to my account in Portland, Oregon. Pretty amazing.

I have no idea how they do it (I’m in marketing) but to quote Steve Martin from Born Standing Up:

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete’, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” 

So here goes. I picture a CUSO that is dedicated to ONE thing. Developing a common language among credit unions. We have a universal core that sits in a cloud. We innovate together. Dare I say we cooperate?  If I am a member of a credit union – I can transact with all credit unions. I can P-2-P and A-2-A with any member. We drive our own payment systems. We create our own e-wallet and with $1 trillion in assets we become a force to be reckoned with.  We share expense and revenue based on our usage.

We need to fight the REAL enemy – our core processor. By trying to do everything ourselves – alone – we are losing small credit unions, we consider “other credit unions” to be our competitors. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, etc. are still alive and well because of the “convenience” they offer. As of March of this year there were 7,163 credit unions. Only 1465 of those are over $100 million in assets. But if we could safely say we have over 10,000 credit union locations (branches) we are one big ass convenient bank. Bank of America has 6, 233 branches. Boo yah!

Who’s with me? What am I missing? How do we get this party started?

Police tape. Tape that says “CRIME SCENE. DO NOT CROSS.”

It’s tape – that’s not even sticky. It’s more like a party streamer. But it keeps people out.

Can you imagine seeing “construction site tape” on the highway instead of those big orange barrels. Um, please don’t drive in this lane anymore – sometime today an overpaid highway worker is going to be standing here.

That was more than 140 characters so I am glad I didn’t Tweet it.
Carry on.

I’ve been on a gazillion business trips in my adult life and pride myself on being a pretty good packer. In fact, if all my laundry is done, I can pack for a seven day trip in less than ten minutes. Oh yes, I’m that good. 

But what to pack to take to the hospital? I was not allowed to wear any make-up or jewelry or even nail polish when I went in for surgery. I knew I’d be put in one of those awful gowns that tie in the back. So I just had to figure out what to wear as I left the place.

Being the smart ass that I am I chose my favorite t-shirt:


It’s from the Broadway play Monty Python’s Spamalot. Hands down the best thing I ever saw on Broadway.Twice.

Anyway – little did I know going in that that shirt would be so true. The “service” I received (and many times didn’t) wasn’t life threatening but it was horrible. St. Vincent’s (St. Victims) to their credit, called me last week to inquire about my stay. I gave them an earful, named names, she was very thankful. 

But it got me thinking about the service industry. America is a service economy now. We manufacture very little on our soil. So most of us will wind up serving others for pay.

And to quote Ken Blanchard in Raving Fans: “Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and no one else is doing any better.”

So to all the naysayers out there that say you cannot differentiate with service I say “Hooey!” There’s only one hospital in Santa Fe but I could’ve driven to Albuquerque where there are three to choose from. There’s competition. Unfortunately I didn’t hear any thing great about ABQ facilities so I went for the closest to home. 

Not unlike our members. Convenience continues to be a key driver of selection – and NOT because service isn’t important – for the most part it doesn’t exist. 

As many of you know, I’ve been a Net Promoter Score advocate for years. It asks that simple question “On a scale of 0 to 10 how likely is it that you would RECOMMEND the credit union to a friend, family member or colleague?” And then the equally powerful “What is the primary reason for the score you gave?” 

It’s shocking to me how many credit union members will easily give a 10 – the highest possible score – with the reason “I’ve never had a problem.” Validation of how low expectations are. They are loyal because you haven’t screwed up – yet. 

Or – in the case of my hospital stay, “I’m not dead yet.” I guess I’m a promoter. Thanks for not killing me.

So imagine if you did the unexpected? Wowed them as they run their weekly errand that is banking? Not only would that change their loyalty reason it would create word-of-mouth – the most powerful marketing tool there is. 

Since I am primarily confined to a bed right now, I’ve been reading a wonderful book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer. I have unlocked the secret to creative thinking and can say with certainty that we do everything humanly possible to make sure we never have a creative spark in the office.

And here’s why. My top five reasons credit unions can’t innovate – in their current state.

#5 – THE PROBLEM: Our offices, board rooms, meeting rooms, lunch rooms are dumps. In my 32 years of working with credit unions  I was lucky enough to work for First Tech CU – where we got it – we needed creative spaces. Our board and meeting rooms were state-of-the art-not-in-the-basement-no fluorescent-light-magic. My marketing department had a play room with bean bag chairs and toys and fun things on the wall. We were allowed, no encouraged, to play.

But most credit unions I’ve worked for or visited have dismal, depressing, cramped, smelly meeting spaces. The most shocking revelation – no natural light. Why do we put our meeting spaces in the basement? The most precious real estate of all – and we hide it in the dungeon?

When it’s time for our weekly meeting the trolls descend to the cave. Now let’s innovate!

THE SOLUTION: Move someone out of a “C” suite and get rid of tables and chairs – bring in a futon and comfy chairs. Paint the walls a bright color. Do a mural of the credit union’s vision. Have some fun!

#4- THE PROBLEM: Agendas, or lack there of. Most meetings I’ve attended as an employee have no agenda. It’s just on the calendar – we need to meet. And so we go around the room seeking the lowest common denominator of a problem and try to solve it. We plan to plan and meet to meet. We “table” things or talk about them offline. The most productive part of any meeting is when it ends. Because then there’s the “meeting after the meeting” (usually in the hallway or bathroom) where the real problems get discussed, but no solutions, no action. Just bitching.

THE SOLUTION: For executive management, the ONLY agenda item for regularly scheduled meetings should be the vision of the credit union. Big and broad and beautiful. Your BHAG. What are we doing right now, tomorrow, this month to work towards our vision?

#3 -THE PROBLEM: An HR professional that views their job as protecting the credit union from an employee filing a lawsuit. We’ve all worked with them. Paranoid watch dogs that scrutinize every piece of clothing, personal item on a desk, internal email, etc. The employee is the enemy and not to be trusted. They dehumanize the staff and break them down to a cog in the machine – one that must obey. They empower with boundaries. They praise with complicated incentive plans. Nothing negative is communicated unless it is documented. Then annually they coordinate the Christmas party or company picnic and wonder why attendance is so low.

THE SOLUTION: Fire them. Get a person in there that truly values people. The whole person. Understanding that the more you truly empower people and make them feel valued the less likely you WILL have a lawsuit. Adolph Coors successfully kept his brewers from every forming a union by simply treating them like human beings. He gave his men time off to be with their wives after having a baby decades before it became law. He paid them well. Quite simply he understood that Coors was nothing without his crew.

#2 THE PROBLEM: Mistaking action for progress. Years ago I was working for a credit union in Eugene, Oregon. Home of the University of Oregon – Go Ducks! I was walking down the hallway to go to the bathroom and I noticed the VP Marketing was just sitting at her desk staring into space. She saw me out of the corner of her eye and snapped to attention. And keep in mind, I was a minion at this CU -not her boss or even her employee. Just a gal that had to pee. She apologized to me for not “working” and joked about her daydreaming. I’ll never forget that – you SHOULD be daydreaming or, creating, or thinking at work. Especially if you’re in a creative position.

I think too often we mistake activity for progress. I mean look at the things we measure. It’s all about volume, output, numbers, results.

THE SOLUTION: Naps. Quiet the mind. Shut down Outlook. According to the book, most innovative CEOs will admit they get their best ideas in the shower. It’s the only time of the day when they have no distractions. They cannot check their iPhone for messages. Can’t be online. Don’t see the piles on their desk. And really can’t be disturbed. Plus the warmth of the water, the clean scent of soap…..ahhhh…..

I was in a brainstorm session with some potential partners last month. We were hitting a creative wall. I excused myself to go to the bathroom (I drink a ton of water). While in there I had an “Aha!” moment. I came back and shared. A few minutes later another person excused themselves – she came back with another piece of the puzzle. Now we saw the pattern and demanded the rest all take bathroom breaks one at a time. It didn’t always work but it clearly showed a pattern. Our minds were free to explore the solution if we were alone and could not be distracted or disturbed.

#1 – THE PROBLEM: No clear vision. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? I love that saying. But think about it. The most innovative companies have a clear vision – a target audience – they know their enemy (their true competitors) and through innovation have made them irrelevant. Apple. Starbucks. Target. Southwest Airlines. Just to name a few.

A clear sign you have no vision. At your last strategic planning session when the facilitator asked you to list the threats to your organization and you said “Banks, increased regulation, and the economy.” You have no idea what business you are in. No clear vision. No target. No point of differentiation.

THE SOLUTION: Hire someone outside of the credit union industry to facilitate your next planning session. Someone who knows a TON about innovative business models but knows nothing about financial institutions. Someone who cannot read your financial statement. You look at that thing every single day – you know it inside and out – why would you spend precious and expensive time rehashing your numbers? What is your purpose?

As the late great father of management, Peter Drucker would say: The only purpose of business in society is to create and keep a customer. Not to make a profit.

Profit is not the explanation, cause, or rationale of business behavior and business decisions, but rather the test of their validity.

The first step to creativity is to understand why you exist in the first place. How will you create and keep a member?

A few words in support of controlled substances. We’ve all been given them whether it was for wisdom teeth removal, super bad cramps, minor surgery. They put you in a kind of fog……you really don’t care much, you sleep often, your motor skills are delayed, your speech a bit slurred. The warning about operating heavy equipment is to be heeded.

I read somewhere (on the internet so it had to be true) that these meds may get in the way of your recovery. Because, well, you CAN’T operate heavy equipment while taking them so how will I ever get back to work? There’s always one zealot in the crowd that says “Drugs are bad.”

So on Tuesday I decided to stop taking my pain meds. After all, the pain wasn’t that bad and I could not accept the doctor’s “sentence” of six weeks to recovery. I was on day five and thought I was going to go crazy. There are only so many movies you can watch. So many reruns of Chopped and House Hunters International. I had trouble walking across the room I was so groggy. I was sleeping all the time. LAZY. I’m a doer. I’m not a couch potato.

Big mistake. The pain got ahead of me. I was no longer in control. And fight as you might, when your body says “You are going to slow down bitch because you have just had major surgery” your mind will lose that battle.

Today I am back in the fog. I am going to embrace this sabbatical by exercising my mind. My dear friend Matt Davis sent me the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. I’ve been told I’m a very creative person. This book is basically a guide to honing that skill and becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist in creativity.

I’m only on chapter three but one of the things the books reveals is this: creativity or the “Aha!” moments that spark innovation happen during idle times. Not when you are surrounded by data, in a basement meeting room with flip charts on the wall, fluorescent lights hissing, bad coffee pouring and some facilitator’s reminding you of the rules of brainstorming.

I’m going to blog my Aha moments – on drugs – in the fog. And then when I’m on the other side – we’ll see if we have something.

Stay tuned and stay on drugs!


I was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital (nicknamed by the locals St. Victims) for major surgery last Friday. They have a surgery check-in entrance. It was lovely. Very New Mexican architecture, clean, nice music, good lighting – which was important because it was 6am and I was instructed to not wear any make-up. Everyone that is having any kind of surgery that day is queued up with a number. I was assigned lucky number 13. Not kidding.

I was by far the youngest person in the surgery waiting room. You could tell the outpatients by their giant parking passes. Lucky number 13 didn’t get a parking permit – I was there for three days.

They called my number and I went back to the surgery prep area. Eventually all the waiting room people were separated by curtains as we disrobed, donned our gowns that tie in the back, our booties and hats. We met our nurses, our anesthesiologists, and finally our surgeons. Any questions? Nope. Number 13 was ready to go. The actual surgery room was very clean – they had rock music playing – dare i say it was festive? Let’s do this. I knew, from all my friends that have had surgery that you won’t remember a thing beyond those first seconds so just breathe deep and go.

Recovery room – like a bad dream – coming out of a fog writhing in pain. The first question they ask, on a scale from 1 to 10 how bad is the pain? I gave it an 8. I got a big shot of morphine. Back in the fog.

Coming out of the fog again and this time I was in another world. Another building. Another planet. I was in the bowels of St. Victims. Actually I was in the maternity ward – which is ironic since I was in there for a complete abdominal hysterectomy. My doctor was kind enough to arrange a private room – so she put me in maternity because apparently St Victims wasn’t birthin’ no babies last week-end.

There was a tiny television anchored too high on the wall. There were two vinyl chairs for guests – one with a giant rip down the center. The hospital bed was ridiculous. They showed me how to work the controls (up and down buttons). Some idiot built these to rest on the side of your elbow. So let’s all do this together. Lay down and pretend you’re in a twin size bed. Oh, and you have no abdominal muscles – and you need to sit up – now tweak your arm around so you can press a button that is resting up against your elbow. Go on. I’ll wait.

For the first 24 hours I was on an IV with a morphine pump. They handed me a Wii like control and when the light was green I could push it and get a nice rush of drugs. It took about 10 minutes for the light to go green again. For hours this is what I waited for. Death grip on the controls – and push – ahhhhh……

Day Two: I haven’t eaten anything for two days. Only water. But I have no appetite. Plus, the cliche’ about hospital food started at St Victims. They brought me in my prison tray last around 6:00. A black tray with a black plastic mug of broth (instant cuz i saw the gooey powder residue in the bottom) a plastic cup of green jell-o (every kids favorite) a banana popsicle, slightly melted, hot tea and apple juice (also in a plastic jell-o cup with a foil lid). I passed. They brought in the same tray for breakfast but the tea was iced. No thanks.

Then it happened. So quickly I barely remember it. A very large nurse, no smiles, almost like this was the favorite part of her day, said, “Okay, the IV needs to come out'” Before I knew it, her large girth was squashing my belly as she ripped the tape off my arm and unleashed my morphine. This is where I met Nurse Mean Jean. My keeper. Gulp.

I was no longer in control of my pain management. I had to rely on this person to a.remember what to give me when and b. care enough to actually do it.

Let’s just say she possessed neither quality. Now my new button was the nurse button. Conveniently located next to the up and down bed buttons – see paragraph six above.

On one occasion it took three times to get her in there. This was about 1 in the morning. She was probably napping. She hobbled in, had three different pills to give me and they all came in the hermetically sealed blister packs. As she was opening the third it popped out and dropped on the floor. She grunted as she bent over to pick it up and I saw her wipe it off on her pants and hand it to me. I hesitated for a moment and then thought about the repercussions of refusing this pill. It’s like sending your meal back with a surly waitress in a restaurant.. Only at this restaurant I have to stay the night and guess what? I can’t go to the bathroom without Nurse MJ. So I took the pill.

I know, right? I weighed the options. Take it, get some horrible disease and get back on morphine or take it, nothing bad happens and I get to go home the next day alive.

This my friends is why you don’t send pills back in the hospital. Just take your medicine.

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July 2012