Building value as a bridge to sustainable growth

Originally posted on CUInsight

One truth that I share with anyone who’ll listen is how reaping the rewards of building strong relationships develops and evolves over time.

A great example of what’s possible, once the proper foundation and sales culture exists, is PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union. Serving its primary SEG, having built well-earned trust over time, it would be easy to put their business development and sales goals on cruise control. Instead, CEO Miguel Boluda, Jr. and the incredible team at PAHO/WHO FCU consistently innovate, problem solve, and try new ideas that keep relationships fresh.

I had the opportunity to join the credit union leadership team on a trip to Panama. Every two years, leaders from Pan American Health Organization’s 35 country offices throughout the Americas come together for a weeklong intensive strategic planning session. The credit union jumps at the invitation to join their SEG at these events. At the end of the week, in her closing remarks, the director thanked the credit union for not only attending but sitting in on sessions as a way to learn more about PAHO employees’ needs and challenges. For the credit union executives, it is a no brainer. Every member of the team shares the same mindset of: The more we understand PAHO, the better we can serve our members and become a better partner.

Wow! What an experience in how building strong partnerships over time helps position a credit union to take their business development to the next level. We can all learn from and be inspired by their actions. Here are just a few takeaways from my experience:

  • The PAHO/WHO FCU executives have solid relationships with executives at their SEG. We always hear about the need to push messages up, but the reality is employees are busy and overworked. To champion the credit union partnership isn’t often high enough on Human Resources’ priority list.  If executives at the SEG see the value of the partnership, it opens doors to so many opportunities.
  • They have multiple channels of communication- not just with HR. Look at the organization as a whole and how you can add value. You may be surprised by the potential opportunities worth exploring in other departments. This also includes the all-important gate keepers who can make or break your access into the SEG. 
  • Support causes that are important to the SEGs and communities you serve. Find ways to align. When a discovery meeting revealed helping the environment was an issue that mattered to its SEG, PAHO/WHO FCU launched a huge Go Green campaign about going paperless. The Business Development team took what they learned at that meeting to figure out how they could align with that community in a way that would open opportunities. The result was a banner on the PAHO internal intranet thanking the credit union for supporting PAHO’s initiative and encouraging all employees to sign up for eStatements.
  • Have some fun. In Panama we knew that the meetings were all day, every day and break time was precious. Our goal was to repeatedly engage with the leaders, and we created a sort of ranked speed BINGO game they could play during the breaks. It was a huge hit, built rapport, and was memorable. A little creativity and understanding of how to seamlessly fit into an occasion is a key to strengthening relationships. And frankly, getting invited back.

The investment in building a solid business development and sales culture infrastructure is always worth the time and effort. PAHO/WHO FCU had a record year for account openings in 2018. That’s just one of the results of patience, consistently delivering on the member experience over time, proactively engaging with members and building value into all business development relationships. It’s something all credit unions can strive to achieve.