About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture.

On Saturday I visited Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. The only guided tour into the cliff dwellings still open (for the season) was Cliff Palace.  We paid our three bucks, drove the 30 miles up a windy road and met Ranger Wolf.  To get to Cliff Palace you had to navigate some pretty steep steps down, and on the way out three ten foot ladders through a tiny crevice in the rocks. I was a little unsure if I wanted to do this (truth be told my knees are still aching) but I am so glad I sucked it up and did it.  Check it out:

photo-4

The lives of these Ancestral Pueblo people was focused on food, procreation, survival.  To get food and water they had to climb up the cliff, often with a jug of water balanced on their head and baby strapped to their back while doing it. Women lived to be around 24 and most died hemorrhaging in child birth. Men hung around to about 33 but often died with compressed spines and arthritis from the daily beating (literally) of making bricks and building and farming and hunting. This is  Colorado so winters are fierce. It’s not unusual for the temperature to dip below zero and stay there. This cliff dwelling kept them alive. Imagine spending six months with your relatives in a “house” the size of your living room? That’s what they did every winter. To survive.

Here’s my Tuesday:

This morning I worked out on my Octane Elliptical Trainer while watching last week-end’s episode of SNL on my Apple TV via Hulu Plus.

I got a little miffed at the speed of my internet connection – the show buffered once.

For lunch I nuked some left over spaghetti from last night.

Last night I opened a jar of spaghetti sauce, dumped it in a pan with some ground beef and boiled some noodles on my Kitchen Aid gas range. I put the dirty dishes in my Bosch whisper quiet dishwasher.

I just had to put on a sweatshirt because my radiant heat is programmed to shut off at 8:00am and my home office got a little chilly.

I’m listening to KINK FM radio (a Portland, Oregon station) on my Internet radio while I write this.

I’ll probably live to be 70.

I just noticed I could really use a manicure.

I stopped watching the news about a year ago. Sure, it keeps me in the dark about a lot of things local, political, musical and Miley Cyrus. I like it that way. I can’t start my day with a barrage of news about things in which I have no control. It only adds to my frustration.

2769-1-boston-baseball-news-red-soxGiving up the news is somewhat like giving up carbs, or meat. When people ask you if you “Saw that horrendous thing on the news last night involving dead children and puppy abuse?” you have to explain to people that you don’t ingest that. That response is often met with disdain. One person went so far as to say I was irresponsible for not keeping up on current affairs. Really? I wanted to say “Tell me one thing I should know about that makes me responsible?”

I get all of my news from The Daily Show and SNL’s Week-end Update. Keeps me informed, just enough, often makes me laugh and seldom makes me want to crawl in bed and cry.

Now about America’s other past-time. Baseball.  I can honestly say I have never ever been to a game or watched a game on television (in its entirety – I mean I’ve been in bars where it’s on – but wasn’t there to watch it).  I know how the game is played (thanks to my mom forcing me into softball in the second grade – hated it!).

But this year I have made an exception – for the World Series only – because my niece married a Worcester, Mass boy. And I adore him. If you’ve ever met a born and bred Boston fan – well, you have to root for them.

Here are my observations about baseball. And how it relates to working for a corporation.

1. There are so many games (meetings) that most of them don’t really matter or keep the general public’s (employee’s) attention.

2. During a game (work day) there can be hours where nothing really important happens.

3. The scores (against an opponent) usually happen based on an error. Not on anything outstanding happening. So the competition screws up more than you and you win.

4. You don’t always have to have the appearance of being horribly fit to be on the team.

5. It appears you can take a break and just shoot the sh*t whenever you feel like it.

6. There’s tension watching a game being played. The activity comes in bursts and depending on the outcome can be replayed and replayed until you can’t take it anymore.

grab7. Continuous spitting, nose blowing (out a nostril onto the ground) and adjusting of body parts is not looked at with disgust. Okay – there thankfully is no parallel in the corporate world – it’s just WHY do they do this on National television???

So there you have it. My take on America’s past-times.

Go Sox!

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:

Denise,

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?

Again.

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:

travelbudget.001

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 denise@6thstory.com.

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.

keepitcoopHave you ever planned a really big event? Something you’ve worked on for months? Lots of moving parts, lots of meetings, many calls, legal crap of course, but tons of fun stuff too?

And then that day comes.  You wake up with butterflies in your stomach. You’ve dreamt about everything that could go wrong – you’re surprised just how organized you are.  It’s in the universe’s hands now.

And so was that day for me – last Wednesday. The first annual Keep It Co-Op Community Concert at the Santa Fe Railyard starring singer/songwriter Craig Carothers and Grammy Award winner Don Henry.

This moment was actually years in the making for me. Without boring you with the details I was able to combine three things I really love into one perfect moment:

1 – Craig Carothers – see Chapter 3 of my first book for the backstory on why I love Craig so much.

2 – Santa Fe, New Mexico – the first time I ever visited the City Different I made a vow – I would retire (aka die) here.

3 – Credit Unions – I am so proud of what I’ve helped build here in Northern New Mexico with our Keep It Co-Op! Campaign

And so I give you…..the perfect moment. Oh, and picture a light summer breeze…sitting in a lawn chair…….and this happens.

Mark turned 50 earlier this year and I had no idea what to get him to celebrate the big day.

After all, I got a cordless Dyson on my 50th, so the pressure was really on.

My friend Matt suggested I buy him the “Up” band by Jawbone.  It’s kind of like the Nike fuel band, but a little tougher looking.  Mark’s a gadget guy so it was the perfect gift. And to make it even more meaningful I got a matching one. We were going to get fit together.

Jawbone-UpThis thing is like Santa – it knows when you are sleeping, it knows when you’re awake – seriously. It tracks heavy (snoring) sleeping, light sleeping, when you get up in the middle of the night to pee. How long it took you to fall back to sleep after getting up. It was crazy.

You can set it to buzz after so many minutes of being idle. A subtle reminder to get off your fat arse and move around. You can log in your food intake. You can invite other people to watch you sleep.  It tells you when the battery charge is getting low – three days in advance.

It’s the most annoying thing I’ve ever owned – and one morning when it kept buzzing/bugging me I ripped it off and tossed it in a bathroom drawer. And there it sits. Alone, in the dark. Wondering what I’m eating.

I think the reason I hated the Up band so much was the dependency of the thing. The same reason I chose to not have children. They always want attention – you have to keep feeding them (so I’m told) and make sure they go to bed on time, etc. Who needs it?

Mark on the other hand LOVES his Up band. Just one more gadget to watch instead of talking with me. Mark has two iPhones, an internet radio, and a weather station on his night stand and sleeps with the UP band around his wrist. He knows precisely the temperature and humidity level outside, and how heavy the morning traffic is on the Edens.

We have an Octane Fitness elliptical trainer in our home. Mark works out almost every day on that thing. He has also entered into a competition at work through Nuvita. He wears a heart rate monitor while working out so he can reach his target cardio level,  the eliptical tracks calories burned so that can be charted, and then he logs in his minutes, uploads his steps on the Up band. It’s his Nirvana and he looks great.

I think I”m going to strap on my sneakers and go for a walk.

As many of you know, I live with a CFO.

I know.

But he has taught me a lot about how the financials of a credit union work. There are a lot of moving parts to say the least. But what always strikes me as absurd is in observing trends in financials and – well that’s it. Just staring down the numbers.  Too often credit unions only keep their eye on the scoreboard – and never pull their head up to get in the game.

One of my favorite quotes from Peter Drucker:

“An enterprise’s purpose begins on the outside with the customer…it is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.

I think there is still some belief that we can control volume with the rate. Up or down, our products will increase or decrease as we will it. Not so anymore. You can’t have the best rates in the market anymore. Let me explain. 1.99% vs. 2.49% is not enough difference anymore, and loyal members are figuring it out.

My latest obsession is what I call “Reputation Risk.” If the customer/member is determining your profitability – how are you measuring how that member feels about their experience with your product? The obvious solution is Net Promoter Score – and you know I’m a huge fan.

But I’m diving a little deeper and seeing some trends that may sound the alarm on reputation risk.

Potential Alarm #1 – Your loan approval rate.  How many people do you say “no” to?
Potential Alarm #2 – The average age of your BORROWER. It’s likely 2-5 years older than your membership
Potential Alarm #3 – The percentage of fee income to total income. Watch out for “bad profits”

I’m going to be speaking on September 10th for the new CU Watercooler Talks about this exciting new project. Come join me!

Here are the facts:

2011 marked the beginning of retirement for Baby Boomers

Many Boomers borrowed from their 401(K) plans to get them through the recession

Many Boomers were led to believe home prices would more or less double every decade, a belief that many baby boomers to neglect retirement savings.

Jane White, author of “America: Welcome to the Poorhouse,” explains that many boomers will still have mortgages and home equity loans when they’re ready to retire – something past generations didn’t have to worry about.

But this is something credit unions do need to worry about.  For the first time in credit union history the largest generation IN US history is going to die with enormous debt. And unless they are insured, that debt goes to their estate – which most won’t have – so it will go to your charge-offs.

Did you know that the average age of the credit union borrower is 2-5 years OLDER than the average age of their entire membership?

Why is this?

your-credit-scoreBecause we live and die by the bloody credit score. I personally hate FICO.  It’s not logical, almost impossible to decipher and until you have one, you are nobody. And who’s the idiot that decided the number wasn’t enough – let’s attach a grade to it. A, B, C, D……….sound familiar?

You can’t un-see a C credit score.  We are so conditioned to judge people by that stupid number we’ve stopped hearing their stories. In this economy a lot of people – good people – struggled with their debt.

But let’s talk about the group that is seriously discriminated against. Those with NO score. And how do you get a score? You have to get credit. Somewhere else……

That’s why Team 2 of the FIlene’s i3 program decided to subvert FICO by literally gaming it.

We have recruited 20 young adults with no credit score, approved them for a $500.00 VISA card and in six months, the person with the highest score wins $500.00! But more importantly, they will all be on their way to being somebody.

We are off to the races!

www.delnortecreditrace.com

www.dupacocreditrace.com

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