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As many of you know I began my career as a serving wench at ‘Enry Beazely’s Fish n Chips in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Beazely had a profound impact on how I view the world. He believed that we are put on this earth to serve one another, and if you are serving someone, you are doing work that MATTERS.

I took that servant heart to the credit union world 36 years ago this month! Happy CU Anniversary to me! And yesterday I decided to do something that matters to the community I live in. I attended my first training session to become a Volunteer Firefighter and EMS.

I live in the town of Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, population 569. We are situated 30 miles Southwest of Santa Fe. The Cochiti Fire Department covers the Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos as well as the town of Pena Blanca situated smack dab in the middle (pop. 661).

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Cochiti Lake Volunteer Fire Department

I had just completed 3 hours of classroom training that covered the operation of the Fire Trucks and the Ambulances. No behind the wheel stuff yet.

After classroom training they fed us lunch and then the rest of the volunteers showed up to clean the fire station and equipment. I offered to clean the bathroom, seeing as I was a newbie I felt I should start at the bottom. They gladly let me. So I’m literally scrubbing the toilet when the Chief comes in and says “We just got a call, wanna go?” Heck yes!! So I climbed into the ambulance on the passenger side, buckled up, and we were off. It was a Code 3 which generally means sirens and lights on. We were going only 6 miles down the road to Pena Blanca. A 23 year old woman, 5 months pregnant had a seizure.

Did you know that an emergency vehicle does not have the right to run a stop sign or red light? The sirens, lights and horn are asking “permission” to do this. Meaning, if someone decides not to pull over, and we are stuck – we are stuck. So please, if you see an emergency vehicle, please pull over. Do the right thing. Thankfully everyone on that stretch of Cochiti Highway had the good sense to pull over.

Out of respect for the young woman I won’t go into the details of her condition and cause, but it was very raw, and humbling and a bit frightening to willingly put myself in a situation of “not knowing.” You have very little information when you go out on a call. And it’s our job to get the story, assess the need quickly, and treat the patient appropriately. In her case she had to go to the hospital, and will likely be okay. And I got to drive the ambulance back to the station.  It should be noted that I excelled at the interaction with the patient and failed miserably at backing up an ambulance into a garage. I need practice.

Yesterday, at 1:00pm my radio went off. It was a Code 1 call. All we were told was a group of kids were hiking Tent Rocks National Monument and ran out of water and a few were dehydrated. So in your mind what do you see? Kids parked in the shade, waiting for someone to bring them water so they had the energy to walk safely back down.

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Tent Rocks National Monument

What we found on arrival was an 8 year-old girl, unresponsive, being carried down the trail. She was put in the ambulance immediately. We were told there were at least 10 kids still up the trail. So I grabbed as many bottles of water I could physically carry in a duffel bag and headed up the trail with another volunteer. Thankfully we found the rest in good condition, but hot and thirsty.

We rushed the 8 year-old to the hospital, and thankfully she will be okay but here’s the story. They were a group of kids in a summer program that had parents permission to go with 5 adults to hike Tent Rocks. None of them had ever been to the park before. One of the adults told me they thought they would have a guide, and they didn’t. They also thought they were doing the loop trail (short and easy) and they missed the turn-off so they ended up hiking up the steep canyon. To their credit they almost got to the summit, but, that’s when they all ran out of water and it was oven hot up there.  Here’s the story of the 8 year-old girl. She has asthma. And did not have her inhaler.

A happy ending to the story but it could have been avoided.

What I’m learning about myself as I begin this adventure.

  1. When it comes to helping people, no matter what the situation, I am a spring into action person. I am not the “What do you want me to do?” kind of volunteer. Like I said, I’ll clean the toilet.
  2. Adrenaline is your friend. Yesterday I took a brisk walk in the morning, followed by a 40 minute work-out on the eliptical. Had a bowl of pasta for a late breakfast/early lunch. So lots of exercise, very little nutrition. I was not in the least bit tired hiking up the hill with about 20 pounds of water, in the brutal heat, I practically jogged up it. Last night I popped Advil like they were M&Ms.
  3. I don’t like to make mistakes, but I have to get over it. I tried to put the gurney in backwards, I had trouble ripping the EKG paper from the machine. I forgot to plug in the ambulance.
  4. I was born to do this. I feel like I won the lottery. Living in a small remote town is not for everyone. And if you’d asked me 10 years ago if I would ever move from Seattle to the desert of NM and drive an ambulance……no way. I can never picture myself retired, with nothing to do but read or watch television. That is when you die. I knew that I would volunteer somehow. And now I am motivated to stay in shape, and do this for as long as I physically can.
  5. Pearls go with everything. The best part about the Tent Rocks story is that without my knowing it I had pearl earrings and a pearl necklace on as I hiked up that trail. Even though I work from home I bathe and get dressed every day. And I like to look snazzy. So when the call came I changed my shirt and shoes and was out the door in 3 minutes. With my pearls on!

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Some of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life didn’t pay me a dime. In fact, I’ve been told by many clients that I don’t charge enough for my services. And it’s because I would do it for free if I could. But don’t get me wrong CU people. I can’t do my consulting/speaking for free. But being a volunteer Firefighter/EMS completely satisfies my need to give back and serve. Work that matters.

Thank you Mr. Beazely.

This year I have the honor of teaching Strategic Marketing at not just one, but TWO Credit Union Management Schools. CUNA Management School at the University of Wisconsin and Southeast Regional Credit Union Schools at the University of Georgia.

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This picture says we try harder to be all things to all people. Blech!

In preparing for each class I like to get the student roster well in advance and take a look at their websites and social media efforts. Then, I like to weave in some of the best and worst examples in my teaching. A couple of years ago I had an attendee at a conference get a bit upset because I put their awful happy shiny people website on the screen. And this person wasn’t even in the marketing department. I told her that I was sorry she felt embarrassed by that but someone in her credit union put it on the WORLD WIDE WEB so it really is fair game.

I am still shocked at how many bad credit union websites are still out there. And with the average age of a credit union member holding steady at 47 it’s safe to say that the older members likely don’t care. But to attract the ever elusive Millennial? You better step up your game. They don’t know a world without smart phones and the internet. Facebook is how they get their news.  For a long time I didn’t think credit unions should be on Facebook. But as my friend Matt Davis explained to me – Facebook has become the “yellow pages” so you really should have a presence.  But here are my credit union social media pet peeves:

  1. Blatantly shlepping your “me too” products. Last week I saw a Facebook page that actually talked about “free checking” and had a picture of….wait for it…..a person writing a check. I had to check the calendar to see if it was 1995. Whenever I see a CU boasting about free checking today it’s like driving by a grocery store and seeing a banner that says “We have food.”
  2. My incredibly talented and creative friend Brent Dixon once said in a social media teaching session “If you talked to your friends the way your credit union talks in social media, they would punch you in the face.” Why must we use brochure jargon? Just talk to me. Twitter to me is like a cocktail party. Don’t be the jerk crashing it to sell your products.
  3. Shiny happy people. I looked at 45 credit union websites yesterday. Only THREE of them did not have shiny happy stock art people on them. This is shameful. Some of them even used the same stock art. This is a sure sign of zero differentiation. We are better than this people
  4. And finally, the “About Us” page. Tsk Tsk Tsk if I cannot read your history here. The majority of credit unions today have some kind of community charter or SEG based field of membership, and I get that. But what is wrong with continuing to give a nod to the pioneers of your credit union? Those disruptors to the banking industry in the 1930’s that dared to take their money out of the bank and give it to a co-worker who kept a ledger and most likely put the money in a cigar box or coffee can. That’s good stuff.

Okay – so what is a good example of credit union websites and social media done right? Well, I only have two  I’m afraid. So here we go……. drum roll please.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Excellence in Website Development goes to: ORNLFCU. Even though they dropped in a few “shiny happy people” their navigation is superb. Their history page is amazing, and the boldness of the large photos is sexy. I especially love the home page for the acknowledgement that most people just want to get to home banking – big and proud and in your face. Nicely done.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Social Media Excellence goes to……drum roll again please…….Community Choice Credit Union. I came upon this Facebook page and clicked on their newest ad and laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. I also happen to love kittens, I mean, who doesn’t?


This credit union’s brand is fun, and a bit campy and I love it.

If you would like to nominate your credit union’s website or social media efforts for the Second Annual Flying Pig Excellence awards, please do here. I just made that up and I think I might just really do it. Now, where can I get a Flying Pig Trophy?

Oh, how I’ve missed you. So many times I have wanted to check in, say a few witty things, IMG_2007leave a picture behind. I’m not sure why I said good-bye. Must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. You became a kind of diary for me. As I would wander through my days faced with challenges, observing the awkward things around me, experiencing the highs and lows of self-employment you were always there to help me make sense of it all.

Well. A lot has happened in the last year and I need to talk about it. So I’m back.

If anyone’s still out there listening – thanks. And stay tuned.

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