The Answer to the ‘Most Important Question’ Should Be Steering Your Strategy

business man standing in shadow with a lit question mark in front of him
Jeff Rendel, CSP Photo
Rising Above Enterprises

3 minutes

Read what key questions other credit union leaders are asking themselves, then consider what question will best aid your own direction.

Albert Einstein is credited with stating, “If I had an hour to solve a problem…I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.” What’s the most important question your credit union’s leadership team is asking about the credit union’s future? And, what answers are steering your strategic plan?

More than 50 credit union CEOs, from numerous asset sizes and locations, shared their “most important question.” A dozen general themes emerged, each with its own series of questions. Read what other leaders are asking of their credit unions; and, consider if several help you find additional focus for your strategic direction. 

  • Think about the credit union three years out. Knowing what you know and what’s really conceivable, what possibilities exist? Where are the greatest gaps and how might they be filled?
  • For continued success in membership growth and revenue, what products, services, or markets are necessary to refine, expand or introduce?
  • We can’t be all things to all people. Where should we focus our energies? What is our core market? 
  • Trade-offs are necessary for strategic focus. Where should we invest, continue service or do more ourselves? What should we slow, cease or outsource?
  • What is our capacity for growth? Can we grow organically or should we seek partners? Are we better for our members as a merged credit union or can we still serve and grow as a standalone organization?
  • The member experience is vital to success. What next levels of friction-free marketing, service, delivery and technology will be necessary for member engagement?
  • Our members own the credit union. How do we best engage them as owners, continuing to deliver, increase and confirm value? What makes us the obvious choice?
  • Differentiation is required for success in financial services. How do we continue to stand out in the community, with our brand and as a local financial institution?
  • What measures of success are most important to gauge our strategic progress? What are optimal levels for revenue generation, service, efficient operations, profits and capital?   
  • How do we—as executives and board members—remain relevant for the members we serve and represent? Do our staffing and board compositions reflect our membership?
  • Does our culture match our brand and are we equipped to deliver the kinds of products, services and experiences that our members value most?
  • Who is disrupting our business? What value are they providing to members? Can we compete? Can we partner?

Conventionally, credit unions hold strategic planning sessions each fall. In reality, it’s always planning season. As you develop, expand and refine your strategic plans, consider some of the applicable questions above. While several will be immediately beneficial, others will spur conversation and your own sets of “most important questions.” Often, asking is the most challenging part of handling a question. The answers provide the whole of your credit union’s next strategic steps in serving the long-term needs of your members. 

Jeff Rendel, CSP, and president of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners. Reach him at 951.340.3770.

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