“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

—Lin Yutang

The above quote starts chapter one in Greg McKeowan’s book Essentialism. While the book deals more with how you handle your multiple responsibilities, there are plenty of business applications as well. Especially for banks and credit unions.

The way of the essentialist is “less but better.” McKeowan asks a searing question: “are you investing in the right things?” Think about that for a minute: is your financial institution investing in the right things? My guess is there are several non-essential initiatives you need to eliminate.

There are multiple areas to consider applying the essentialism principle to your credit union or bank:

  • Marketing—Your bank or credit union is probably marketing A TON of products. But are they the RIGHT services? It’s the same with community involvement. There are probably multiple events with which you are associated. But are they the right ones? Your marketing will be far more effective if you cut the clutter and focus your message.
  • Branding—One trap many financial institutions fall into is trying to be all things to all people. However, the most successful banks and credit unions focus on a niche. As Seth Godin says, “the way you break through to the masses is to target a niche.” Your branding will be far more effective if you narrow your target audiences.
  • Planning—Nowhere is setting priorities more important than in your strategic planning process. Your strategic plan should not look like some giant “To Do” list. In fact, we recommend following “The Power of 3” concept when it comes to strategic planning. Focus on three key initiatives. Your planning will be far more effective if you choose a few strategies.

Let’s go back to the post’s title and focus on a couple of action items:

  • Eliminate—There are things in your marketing, branding and planning you should STOP doing. What are they are? Make a list and eliminate them. We tend to add and add and add. We never eliminate projects, people or processes. Maybe it’s time you stop adding and start eliminating.
  • Non-Essentials—There are initiatives your bank or credit union are doing that are not essential to the core of your business. Think about your website and branches. How many non-essential products (from outside vendors) are you promoting that bring you very little revenue and have nothing to do with your financial institution? Maybe it’s time you conduct a review and determine what is most important.

Eliminating non-essentials is hard work. It’s far easier to say “yes” to everything. However, if you want your credit union or bank to perform at high levels, do some trimming.