You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Amazing Women’ category.

The town of Pena Blanca, New Mexico is a census-designated place (CDP) with a population of 661. Pena Blanca’s name is derived from the Spanish term for “white rock.” The median household income is $24,063, with 80% of the population being Hispanic. There’s a rock quarry, a tiny family run grocery store and package (liquor) store and a food truck in Pena Blanca. The nearest services are 35 miles away in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Then last week I heard the news that we had a new coffee shop in Pena Blanca.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from Albuquerque and as I was slowing down to drive through the little town, I noticed a cute wooden sign that simply said: “Seed’s Art Cafe.” There was a tiny little building, the size of a “She Shack” that was brightly painted but closed.

The owner of Seed’s is an artist who bought this old adobe house on a couple of acres last year. She had a gallery in Santa Fe and COVID struck so she, like many small business owners, closed her doors and took her art online. Then she decided to do something she has wanted to do for some time. Open up a coffee shop and sell art, fresh vegetables (from her garden, all grown from “seeds” in her funky turquoise greenhouse), pastries and of course amazing teas and coffee.

She was COVID compliant on purpose because you cannot sit inside the she-shack, it’s too small, instead you can enjoy your beverage under the shade of an old cottonwood tree. There are no “to go” cups. She doesn’t want to contribute to unnecessary trash, so you are welcome to bring your own, but really, what’s the hurry. Have a seat, and she’ll bring it out in a big old coffee mug. If you order iced tea (that she brews fresh every day from her own herbs) it’s served in a Mason jar.

She invites you to take a stroll through her vegetable/flower garden if you like. She’s open M-W-F from 8am to noon. And she is committed to opening two Saturdays a month to sell fresh veggies from her garden.

Her long-range plan is to figure out how to stay open all year long. She wants to do special events like a “high tea” and live music (acoustic) under the tree. She’s even thinking about buying the old rock quarry that is right next door and turning it into a park, with a playground for kids and a stage so she can have regular live folk music concerts.

In normal times this makes some sense because tourists drive right past Seed’s to get to the Tent Rocks National Monument, Cochiti Lake Campground and the Cochiti Champion Golf Course, all about 5 miles further down the road. But all of this is closed due to COVID as it all rests on Cochiti Pueblo Land.

But that did not deter her. In fact, she said some people don’t believe that it’s all still closed so they go up anyway, turn around and stop in, happy to have at least experienced something peaceful and wonderful for their effort.

She has made a believer out of me how a business can build on Instragram. On her menu board was the instruction to go to @seedsnewmexico for updates. It’s where we go now to find out what she’s “pulling” from the garden, what special treasures await us (tomorrow it’s fresh cut sunflower and zinnia bouquets for $12.00) and if she may be closed to take her dog Peaches to the vet (she did that last week).

She has single handedly brightened up our community. Everyone is talking about it, and have become “regulars” right away. She’s been open nearly 3 weeks and business is booming. It’s where we go to gather, while social distancing, and relax and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

On paper this business model makes absolutely no sense. A classic coffee shop with espresso, gourmet tea, pastries, art and vegetable stand 35 miles from one of the top ten tourist attractions in the US (Santa Fe). The entire population of Cochiti Pueblo, The Town of Cochiti Lake and Pena Blanca is slightly over 1,500. Which would be her “target audience” because we are the only ones out here for miles and miles. If you look at the demographics of all three it doesn’t scream “Coffee house people.”

So why does it work? Carson. You’ve never met a more down-to-earth, kind, caring, truly exceptional human being than the owner. From the moment we walked through the gate at Seed’s we knew it was something special. It’s truly a gift. We know that a good member experience can make all the difference in the world, especially today when everyone is a bit on edge and our world has changed forever. It costs nothing to be kind, compassionate and empathetic but the value is beyond measure.

As Howard Schultz said of the Starbucks business model, “We are not in the fast food business. Fast food fills your belly, but a good coffee house fills your soul.”

At a time when you cannot sit in a Starbucks, and are relegated to the drive-up experience (fast food) Carson nailed it with the simplicity of the she shack on the farm in Pena Blanca. Check out her website for her story and if you’re ever in the area, stop by, I’ll likely be sitting under the cottonwood tree sipping herbal iced tea.

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. – Rene Daumel

When you think of New Mexico you don’t think of mountains and yet the view from our house is this:

See that pointy peak? That’s Tetilla Peak. The summit is 7204 feet above sea level. Every day I wake up to this little mountain and think – I want to stand on top of that.

So yesterday Mark researched it – and found that no trail exists to its summit. You have to blaze your own. So we looked at some maps and found an old forest road that ended at the bottom of the peak on the North side. We live to the West of her.

It was 95 degrees yesterday – 10% humidity and a light breeze. Perfect for hiking among rattlesnakes! Tetilla looks so easy from the bottom – like sand and shrubs. But when you start climbing you are immediately navigating large rocks. You know, the kind of rocks that critters live under. The higher we went, the bigger the rocks. The final ascent we were literally climbing – sometimes on all fours – to reach the summit.

As the picture would suggest – the top of Tetilla is not very big. Years ago when I climbed Mt. Hood I thought the summit would be a perfect cone shape.  And that we’d all have to take turns standing on it. Tetilla was not pointy, but it was the pointiest mountain I’d ever climbed. It definitely felt like you were on a peak. We could see Cochiti Lake (where we live) and all the way to Los Alamos, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

We dedicated our hike to our fathers – who have both passed away. And on the way down I realized why we climb mountains. To gain perspective. I knew what to expect on the descent. It was frightening at times (we never did see a rattlesnake thankfully). And they say that pain is fear leaving your body.

I can say with certainty I have no fear today.

WARNING: This post is kind of sappy but it comes from the heart.

Last week-end I went home. To Portland, Oregon. My mentor and my dear friend, invited me to her house to listen to Michael Allen Harrison perform live on the Steinway she bought from Frank Cady. How often do you get to sit with Mr. Drucker and enjoy one of the finest pianists in Oregon in someone’s living room!

Michael surprised us by bringing along his 18 year old stepson Tanner Johnson on violin. He’s been playing since he was 4 years old, looked every bit of 12 and when he began to play – it was like butter – an amazing experience. One of those “perfect moments.” Before you read any more, seriously click on this link to CD Baby and listen to track number two. I’ll wait.

Maybe it’s the title, “Journey Home” but it got me a little verklempt.

It’s no secret, I love credit unions. They are my family. Last week I celebrated my 30th anniversary with them. For those of you that don’t know how old I am, well, you’ll just have to know I’m older than 30.

Sarah, the host of the party, was my boss years ago. Were it not for her constant pushing, coaching and declaring that if I would just ACT like the expert, I will become one, I could not have possibly landed the job of VP Association Services for the New Mexico Association.

And so the next day I made the journey home to Cochiti Lake. I plan to retire there with my sweetie Mark.

As Tanner and Michael played that last note together I gave thanks for all I’ve been given and pledged to use the rest of my days to give as much back.

What if you had $0 dollars in your marketing budget this year? How would you spend it?

Chris Tissue, Industry Analyst for Callahan & Associates, Inc. published an article last week that showed the sharp decline in educational and promotional expenses among credit unions. The average decrease 11.4% from 4Q 2008 to 4Q 2009, with the largest credit unions cutting back the most.

Every credit union in the US started with a marketing budget of zero. Zilch. Nada. And for years they thrived by focusing those resources on building member loyalty. They built loyalty by listening to members’ needs, responding with relevant products, and recommending solutions. The members in turn bought more from the credit union and told their co-workers and family members about the co-op.

Several years ago, Diana Dykstra decided to return to those old school methods. She is the CEO of San Francisco Fire Credit Union. When she first became CEO the credit union had changed their name to SFFCU and expanded to a community based charter. This angered the loyal firefighters and their families. They felt somewhat betrayed. So, she decided to switch it back to San Francisco Fire and really crank up loyalty among them.

Her boldest, bravest decision was to refund all ATM surcharges. You see, they only own a couple of ATMs and even though they participate in the Co-Op and Shared Branch networks they knew that members hated being charged to get their money. So when it happened –  poof – charges reimbursed.

Did this cost them money? Absolutely. But guess what? It’s the number one reason cited on Yelp! that people feel love and loyalty towards the credit union.

She also does some “old school” things like giving little Snickers bars to members when they come in and she pays for their parking. I guess you could classify this as marketing dollars. And probably the most expensive thing she does – she personally responds to emails from her members. If you go to her website you’ll see the Ask Diana link on the main page. Several members on Yelp! reviews credited this unselfish act as the reason for their loyalty.

Diana won’t use her loyal members’ money to woo in complete strangers with membership bribes that promise free iPods. She doesn’t have to.

Instead, 64 members have voluntarily taken the time to review her credit union on Yelp!. She has earned the highest rating – 5 stars. The next closest credit union in her area is Patelco Credit Union with 24 reviews and 3.5 stars.

You simply can’t buy this kind of love.

For those of you that remember my precious Miss Mavis, you know that’s not possible. But, she’s a close second. Her new book, titled “I Love You More Than My Dog” takes a new and fresh look at what she calls beloved companies.

Trader Joe’s, Container Store, LUSH, Netflix, IKEA. What do these entirely different brands have in common? They are irrational. Their love of customers is irrational. From a CFO perspective, some of the things they do to delight customers makes no mathematical sense. But they cannot help themselves. They decided to love customers – every day.

Her book is centered around the five decisions made by beloved companies:

  1. Beloved companies decide to believe.
  2. Beloved companies decide with clarity of purpose.
  3. Beloved companies decide to be real.
  4. Beloved companies decide to be there.
  5. Beloved companies decide to say sorry.

Last week at the NPS Conference in NYC, Jeanne Bliss invited three people, highlighted in her book,  to join her on stage to tell their stories. First up was Christopher Zane, president and founder of Zane’s Cycles. He started this company when he was 16 years old and his love of bicycling has now turned into an extremely profitable enterprise. He believes that people are good and can be trusted. So when someone comes in to look at a bike, his store encourages them to take it for a spin. With no collateral (like wallet, car keys, etc) required to leave behind. Sure, about 6 bikes a year get stolen. But he did the math. The losses he takes for those six jerks versus the love he creates for the 99.9% of his customers by deciding to believe, makes mathematical sense.

Next up, Fred Taylor from Southwest Airlines (SWA). He is the Chief Apology Officer for Southwest Airlines. Even though SWA has consistently received the lowest ratio of complaints per passengers boarded of all major US carriers – when you employee 35,000 people that fly more than 3100 flights a day – stuff happens.

They decided to be real and to say they are sorry. They start each day with MOM. The Morning Overview Meeting. Weather, staffing issues, mechanical, anything that might get in the way of passengers delight, they are proactively working it.

I was supposed to fly through Dulles tomorrow on my way to Jacksonville. I got a text page from United that said simply “cancelled” and gave me a number to call. I called and got a recording that said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “We are experiencing crazy high call volume and can’t help you right now……good bye.”

The folks at SWA are busy responding with customized messages to those passengers that are screwed.  Their goal is to reach the customer electronically before the customer has to reach out to them to lodge a complaint. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you react to it. At SWA it’s simple:

  1. They acknowledge the situation.
  2. They apologize for the experience they have had.
  3. They make some gesture to help regain the customer’s trust.

When is the last time you proactively apologized to a member?

And finally, Wayne Peacock from USAA. USAA is a membership organization (much like a credit union) serving over 7 million members of the US military. They provide legendary service that focuses on one word: empathy. Their products are insurance and financial services. Their customers are fighting everyday for our freedom.

A big part of their culture is understanding intimately their customer’s world. So in new employee orientation, they spend a day wearing a soldier’s uniform complete with those big boots, and eating MREs – meals ready to eat. They need to empathize with their customer.

The session concluded with Jeanne donning the soldier’s gear and dining on MRE fettucini. A powerful visual and reminder to us all – to walk a mile in our customer’s shoes and ask “Do we make it easy to do business with us?”

In this economy, we’d better find a way.

A dear friend of mine once said:

The person in a relationship with the least amount of interest has the most power. 

He said this 10 years ago in reference to the power shift that was occurring with the internet. The example he used was his first home loan. Before the world wide web, the mortgage company had all the power. You dressed up to meet with the loan officer. You said “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma,am,” and did not call them – you were told “We will call you.” 

Pretty quickly you could get a mortgage loan on your cell phone while charging you dinner on your VISA card tied to your current home’s equity line that exceeded the value by 10%. Not a great idea and clearly the root cause of the economic crisis we’re in – but I digress.

In marketing – the power has shifted. And some credit unions not only get that, they are leveraging it in amazing ways. 

Two such credit unions are in the same marketplace. Seattle, Washington. Both are amazing women who have harnessed a cause and are bringing like minded member/owners together. They’re done assuming what they think their members want, and instead are letting them take control. 

I’m so proud to know Shari Storm and Jill Vicente. 

They win the Best Practice Award of the decade for Verity Mom and the simple but elegant continuing education of the 7 Cooperative Principles.

The best practice I’m referring to is Web 2.0. Making that giant leap from the electronic brochure website to providing and hosting space for others to define. They are shifting from spending thousands of dollars on printing material that quickly becomes outdated (encyclopedia/brochures) to providing that same information and saving tress (Encarta/website) to letting others own it (Wikipedia/Verity Mom). 


Now that’s cooperation!

julie_and_juliaIt began with a call from my mother-in-law Julee. She had just returned from seeing the Julie & Julia film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. She was gushing. We just HAD to see it.  A few days later she called again to see if we had seen it yet. She forgets how hard it is to drag her son to a movie.  He is Netflix’s target audience. Nothing is so good you have to leave home, stand in line, pay too much for popcorn, and sit in the dark with a room full of strangers. 

After the second call I googled the movie. Found out that it was based on two books. Julia Child’s My Life in France and Julie Powells’ Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

I love to read. Always looking for a good book to wrap my mind and arms around so I downloaded both at that moment on my Kindle

I clicked on the final page of the second book this morning. Wow.

I’ve never second guessed my mother-in-law’s super powers or her subtle way of suggesting. But these two books are exactly what I needed to read right now. I feel like I’m living a parallel-virtual-time-traveling-life. 

Julia Child had just made a major move to a foreign land because of her husband’s job. 


She was in a foreign land, with time on her hands, looking for some meaning. 


This economy has taken me off the road and plopped me down in a tiny dark office in the back of our rental house on a Dead End street – which I vowed I’d never live on because of it’s connotations. 

Which brings me to Julie. She decided to take on a huge project. To cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child – in one year. She lived in Long Island City in a tiny apartment with her sweet and patient husband.

Sort of ditto.

Definitely ditto on the patient husband part and Long Island, although not the city. My huge project right now is writing a book/workbook/recipe for developing your credit union’s 2010 marketing plan. 

Julia Child partnered with a friend and worked long distance to publish her first cookbook. 


I’m partnering with Jim Jerving to write this marketing cookbook and we’ve only met once and now virtually meet once a week to go over our progress. We don’t always agree on the ingredients and have changed direction about three times but I think we can see the end now. 

Julie chronicled her journey on her blog.


She had days early on when she thought no one cared but she continued to pour her heart into this therapeutic medium. And lo and behold the readers began to respond. Their comments inspired her to keep on going. She discovered the real purpose of blogging -a  sense of community and purpose.  

Look for the 2010 CU Marketing Business Plan Cookbook – seriously, we do not have a name for this thing yet – please help! – to be available for purchase soon. 

Disclaimer to friends and family: Mark and I are not married, per se, but according to common law and certain documents drawn up by attorneys for all intents and purposes are legally bound. Until it makes sense for us financially – we probably won’t do it – much to Julee’s chagrin. Hey – he’s a number’s dude – what can I say?

juliaChildHave you ever heard someone say that in a meeting? A planning session? Or worse yet, a brainstorming session? 

If everyone felt that way – you try something once, it fails, it cannot be done – we wouldn’t have airplanes, electricity, telephones, post-it-notes or the Food Network! 

I just finished reading Julia Child’s My Life in France.

She didn’t set out to become a highly rated televised cooking show, she had a passion for French cooking. She wanted to teach American housewives, who did not have servants, to master the art of French cooking. She spent 10 years writing her first cookbook. The manuscript came in at over 700 pages. 

Her first publisher, after giving her an advance, told her there was no audience in America for something that detailed. The TV dinner had just been introduced and that convinced the folks in charge at this publishing house that no one was interested in cooking anymore. The American housewife was looking for fast and easy. That may have been somewhat true – but not everyone was looking for that. Could there be a niche for French? Maybe you could be successful by not appealing to the masses? Interesting thought. 

Luckily someone at Knopf publishing shared her passion for French cuisine and was able to convince the company to take a chance. 

The notorious James Beard was actually the first person to be televised cooking. He had no real camera presence. He was an artist – not a great communicator. So it was concluded by many that “No one wanted to watch someone cook on television.” 

Think about it – today we have an entire network, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that is devoted to watching people cook. One of the highest rated shows in a season is the Next Food Network Star. 

So the next time you hear someone say, “You know, we tried that once – it won’t work.” You may be hearing an idea so great its time has finally come. You may have finally found your true differentiator!

Question everything. 

The first time I met Carol Schillios I was 19 years old. I was a teller at a government employees credit union in Portland, Oregon and I actually got to go to Seattle to a conference! It was to be the first of many road trips in my life. But at the time I didn’t know it.

Carol spoke about Member Service. At the time I wasn’t even really sure what a credit union was. Seemed like a bank. Our branch was kind of ugly, the head teller was always hunched over her desk smoking Salem menthols and running tapes on checks. 

She did have one member service training moment. It looked like this: “Hey ladies, when a member comes up to your window, you need to put your cigarette down while you wait on them.” The expectations were pretty low.

Carol oozed member service. I’ll never forget the passion with which she spoke about ownership and people helping people. She had and still has this twinkle in her eye when she talks about helping people. She believes with all her heart that we are put on this earth to serve. It you are serving someone, you are doing something that matters. It changed my life. That day I remember thinking “Some day I want to be like Carol.” 

Carol has gone on to help people in ways that I have to admit, I don’t think I have the guts, the conviction or the stamina to match. She’s currently camping on top of her shop in Edmonds, Washington until she raises $1 million to make a difference in the world. 

Carol received the coveted Herb Wegner award two years ago for her work in Africa

Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Estes Park meeting that formed CUNA. 

“Seventy-five years ago, an extraordinary group of credit union pioneers held a ‘meeting of the minds’ in Estes Park, Colo., about a national association that would enhance the movement throughout the land and help it become self-reliant,” said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica.

There were 52 delegates from 21 states and the District of Columbia that traveled to this historic meeting. Can you imagine what the conditions were like? There were no cell phones, no internet, airlines were in their infancy, and no air conditioning!! 


Carol has a cell phone and is blogging from the roof – but she is taking showers from a sun warmed bag of water, she is relying on friends to bring her food and she’s braving summer elements, bugs, cramped living conditions – I can’t even imagine.

Today I can think of no other way to celebrate the people who have helped so many people than by honoring Carol Schillios. 

If you are willing to collect a buck from your fellow employees for a birthday cake or pizza, why not for Carol’s cause? 

She’s given so much to us – let’s get her off that roof!

slide.001That’s how many people are attending the Southwest CUNA Management School this year*. A three year management program on the campus of Texas Christian University

Last night my dear friend Janine McBee, Director of the school, invited me to Tweet with her class in a first-ever-loosely-based-on-BarCampBank-iProxy-Twitter event. Or as she put it in her email to me:

The gate has been left open and the animals have escaped. No turning back. Goal is to mix up expertise, geography, asset size and help facilitate students learning from each other.

Who would have thought that I’d be leading a charge to help build the business case for social media?

And so we did – in 140 characters or less. Contributed from Washington D.C. to L.A. to NYC! It was great – I even participated on my iPhone in my car! 

I applaud Janine’s courage! There’s not dipping her toe in the social media water. Dabbling is death – sometimes you just gotta jump in the pool and make a big gigantic splash. And she sure did! (Check out the #SCMS on Twitter!)

*I’m not sure exactly how many “characters/people” are attending this year, but it made for good copy. They DO limit their classes to 50 people for maximum interaction though so my math may be close.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 993 other subscribers


June 2023