It’s that time of year again: strategic planning season is entering its high gear. Many credit unions and banks use September and the fourth quarter to plan for next year’s objectives. Whether you use an outside consultant or your own executive team, planning sessions are critical to any credit union’s success.

This time last year, I blogged about “10 Questions to Ask At Your Strategic Planning Session.” While those were applicable in 2012 (and you can still use them this year), here are some fresh questions for 2013-2014. In fact, you can ask these questions in a pre-session survey of attendees (I do that with many of my planning clients).

(1)    The financial industry is consolidating. What are we going to do to ensure we are one of the survivors?

(2)    How are we going to remain relevant to consumers?

(3)    With Bluebird, popmoney and the digital wallet changing the financial services landscape, what is our strategy for payment systems going to be?

(4)    What are our member or customer pain points?

(5)    The 3 “Cs” to a strong brand are consistency, clarity and constancy. How is our brand doing in these three areas and where can we improve our brand?

(6)    What makes our credit union or bank different? Note: You have to answer that question WITHOUT the words people, community, service or member.

(7)    Once our strategic objectives are set, what obstacles stand in the way of us completing

(8)    What three words (note: WORDS, not statements) will we focus on in 2014?

(9)    What is the one thing we can do better than anyone else?

(10) When the calendar flips to December, 2014, what do we want to say we accomplished this year?

Those are a few ideas to help you kick-start your strategic planning discussion. They are designed as open-ended questions to start your executive team and board of directors thinking. You can turn the answers you develop into your 2014 plan.