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Last year I blogged about my neck surgeryspecifically that I chose to use cadaver bones in my neck rather than have the surgeon chisel away on my hip bone. When I tell people this I frequently get the reactionSo you have some dead people’s parts in your body?” to which I replay “Yup.” Truth be told when the surgeon told me the hip chunk surgery was more painful than the neck was going to be – no brainer, right?

noble-suicide-organ-donation-death-1While I was in the hospital the nurse brought over a form from a company called Pathways.This is the middle man between donor and recipient. They invited me to write an anonymous letter to the family of the deceased. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that but Mark talked me into and I am so glad he did.

A couple of weeks ago Pathways contacted me to let me know that the donor family responded to my letter, and asked if I wanted to see it. You betcha. 

Last night I received the letter in the mail. I had Mark read it first in case it was disturbing in any way. He handed me the letter and a kleenex. Here goes:


I received your letter and I would like to convey to you how important it was to receive. You see my husband had not been ill, so his death was extremely unexpected, and quite traumatic for all of us.

My husband was a retired OBGYN doctor, and I am a registered nurse. My husband had the first test tube baby in our state in the ’80’s and loved the challenges of infertility. He spent his life helping others; even in his retirement he was a teacher and mentor to many. He lived to help folks. So even though his death was tough I knew in my heart we needed to help others, and as a nurse I know how difficult it is to donate. I know now we made the right decision, you see we have 2 teenage boys, one graduated the week before my husband’s death and our youngest graduated this past week on the anniversary of his death. You letter was a godsend. I shared it wiht my youngest, who is the spitting image of his Dad and has his heart. It was so comforting to him, he said to me, “Mom, it’s awesome, Dad is still helping people.” Needless to say I cried. 

My middle child was not happy I chose donation buy your letter sold him. It was the right thing to do. My daughter has been saying “I wish someone would write!” Her prayer has been answered. 

I am so happy you received relief from pain, and can enjoy life. It is shorter than we know, but great rewards do come to many of us.

Bless you and your family, and thank you so much for letting my family know our decision was a good one. I wish you the best in your future.

Denise M. (her name is DENISE!)

And so I leave you with this quote – which I have stuck to my fridge but often don’t live by it. But because of this letter I will try, for my donor and his family, to live it each and every day.

“The most radical act one can commit is to be happy.” – Patch Adams

I heard a great story last week. It was 1934, in Tacoma, Washington. The story begins in a stairwell at City Hall and involves a cigar box.

Wooden_Cigar_BoxIf you were to start a story with those details and be speaking to someone outside the credit union movement they would probably imagine all kinds of scenarios. But if you’re a credit union junkie, like me, you know where this story is going. It’s the formation of a credit union.

In 1934, my parents had not been born yet. There was no television, internet, microwave ovens, copy machines, email, cell phones, frozen pizza, iPads, bottled water, or air conditioning. There were plenty of banks however. And yet people felt compelled to take their paychecks out of a bank and put it into a cigar box in someone’s desk drawer. Why was that?

Common bond. They knew each other, they trusted each other.  It was a simpler time. Money went in the cigar box, and if someone needed to borrow money from the box, a group of their peers (credit committee) would decide if the purpose was provident and for productive purposes. A note was signed and the loan was made. The depositors received a reward (dividend) for trusting the system and have the satisfaction that they helped a co-worker. For decades these common bond credit unions had ZERO competition. We created credit union competitors when we adopted the community charter.

There would be no marketing department in the cigar box credit union for decades. The members were the marketers. The HR department was the ongoing new member drive. The decisions of the credit committee determined the success of the loan promotion. When it was time to formalize out of the cigar box the 1st branch was really the “break room.” Member/owners/co-workers would run the banking errand on their break at their credit union. Positive word-of-mouth was essential for survival.

Fast forward to today – common bond is all but a thing of the past. We have computers that make all the decisions for loan approval in a nano-second. We periodically have “Membership Bribes” to attract new people. We prefer members use the ATM, or online banking rather than come into a branch. There is no common bond. And don’t tell me that “lives, works, worships, in a 12 county area is a common bond.” Oh, and if you have your territory description on your website, please take it down. It’s embarrassing.

Unless your founding story has been tarnished beyond belief (Enron’s Credit Union comes to mind) I think it is our duty to tell it. To preserve it. It’s what makes us unique. It helps to remind us that we are merely the custodians of this history at this point in time.

And here’s your challenge – finding that common bond again. You need to target an audience in that vast territory that you have claimed. Otherwise you will become just another “me too” financial institution marketing with shiny happy people shlepping your 25 bp car loan advantage to people who could care less.

What is your story today? What is your vision for the future? Who will you serve? How will you make the competition irrelevant?


One credit union trend I love is the “All Staff Training Day” Taking an obscure holiday like Columbus Day – remaining closed – and going off-site to a fun place for the entire staff to learn, laugh, bond, eat and receive logo SWAG.

I have had the honor to be the guest speaker at many of these events. I’ve seen CEOs dress up like bikers, HR Directors in a Pickle Costume tossing rubber pickles into the crowd, amazing and funny videos, but most of all I get to see tellers smile.

You see, I started my career as a teller. And I loved being a teller. I loved the validation that comes at the end of every day that is the balancing of the cash drawer.  Tangible evidence of your greatness. And a sense of completion that you rarely get once you move into management.

I also remember just how much control I had over the Credit Union’s reputation.  Which is to say I had the ultimate control. And I used my powers for good – always.

Most credit union’s travel budgets look like this:


So, I’m available for your next staff training day.  I’m holding Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and MLK Day for whomever contacts me first.

Email me for more information

And if you don’t need me this year – tell your friends. Seriously, if you know someone that has access to the CUNA Training List Serv thingy – love to get a shout out.

This is the message I sent to the staff of Del Norte Credit Union last Friday.
What you Do Matters

brandyou2012.004My first job was as a serving wench for ‘Enry Beazely’s Fish-n-Chips in Portland, Oregon. My first boss was – you guessed it – Mr. Beazely. 

On my first day he told me “Denise, we are put on this earth to serve. And when you are serving others, and that can mean pumping tartar sauce in a cup, you are doing work that MATTERS.” 

From that day forward I made a vow that I would always do work that mattered. And that’s why I love credit unions – we are here to serve our members, and if we’re not directly serving them we are serving someone that is. 

Know that what you do, every single day at Del Norte, matters.
It’s been my honor to serve you.

Denise Wymore

And so there you have it. Today I begin a new journey as Co-Founder of PrincipleSix.  The name comes from the sixth cooperative principle: Cooperation among Cooperatives. I truly believe we are better together. Our market share remains stagnant because we steal members from each other – not from the real enemy – big banks.

Oh, and I found out that members DO care that we are a cooperative. They might not use that word – but when you emphasize that you are local, not a bank, don’t charge ridiculous fees, have better service and give back to your community – it matters to them.

Will everyone in your marketplace care? No, of course not. But it’s a difference we need to honor.  I have first hand knowledge of the success that can come from sharing branches, sharing advertising costs, and innovating to solve problems.

I am drunk with power, I just bought a $400 suitcase and learned that I can project Keynote from my iPad. Life is good.

Hope to see you soon.

UPDATE: Lesson learned. Just because the URL is available it does not mean the name is available. There exists a wonderful group of grocery store co-ops that call themselves P6 but registered their name is PrincipleSix. We talked with them – nice folks – and in the spirit of cooperation we have decided to not use PrincipleSix.

I am proud to announce that I am Co-Founder of 6th Story. Telling your credit union’s story using the sixth cooperative principle. Good stuff to come.

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September 2013