I recently wrote a post about “Three Marketing Tips For 2023.” It gives several ideas about strategy and tactics you can immediately implement to improve the all-too-critical area of marketing.
But growing your credit union or community bank will take more than just improving your marketing. And in a down economy, growth will no longer happen by osmosis. Growth will take intentionality.
So, what are credit union and community bank leaders to do in 2023? Here are three tips:
1. Invest Rather Than Cut
With the somewhat negative economic outlook, the temptation is to cut (or at least hold steady) in certain areas. Marketing. Technology. Hiring. After all, those are large expenses. It’s tempting to hunker down, delay decisions and hold off taking action.
But are those the right strategies?
They are not if you want to grow. As Apple’s Tim Cook says, “We believe in investing during downturns.” According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, "Firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest probability—21%—of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”
Many of your competitors are going to zig (i.e. slow down or cut); the best growth strategy is to zag (invest).
2. Align Your Organization
Perhaps the single greatest competitive advantage your credit union or community bank can achieve is organizational alignment. Organizational alignment is when management, operations, strategy, culture and execution fit together and make sense.
As author Patrick Lencioni says, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, any market, against any competition, at any time.” According to The Four Disciplines of Execution, only 5% of employees are aware of and/or understand their company’s strategy. They also noted that 71% of employees cannot recognize their own company’s strategy in a multiple-choice question.
You can no longer afford to put a band-aid on internal issues. The best growth strategy is to align your team and move forward together.
3. Unclog the Bottlenecks
Every credit union and community bank has them: bottlenecks.
These are things that slow down your capacity to grow. Bottlenecks are sometimes people, processes or issues. And sometimes they’re all three. Or sometimes you are the bottleneck. A great question to ask your team is, “where do we have bottlenecks today?”
Think of bottlenecks as two types: internal and external. You can solve internal bottlenecks through leadership training. You can solve external bottlenecks through journey mapping and consumer experience training.
A growth strategy doesn’t necessarily mean you are adding; it could mean you are eliminating (as in reducing your bottlenecks).
As you review your 2023 growth strategy, here is a bonus tip: invest in your own personal and professional growth. Whether you are a C-suite executive or a departmental manager of one, your team will never grow beyond where you have grown.
Let me say it another way: your team and your organization will never go beyond where you are (attitude, mindset, etc.). What business books are you going to read? What podcasts are you going to listen to? What conferences are you going to attend?
When you are dry, it’s hard to fill others’ buckets. When you grow, they grow!
Make 2023 a year of growth. If you invest rather than cut, align your credit union or community bank and unclog the bottlenecks, you will grow.