The Time Is Right for CUs, Says Harley-Davidson Strategist

‘If I were to open a business in 2013, I’d open a credit union.’

May 25, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +


“If I were to open a business in 2013, I’d open a credit union,” Ken Schmidt, Harley-Davidson’s brand visionary and communications strategist, told attendees of CSCU’s 2013 Solutions Conference. 
That’s because Schmidt believes small community-based businesses can grow by capitalizing on today’s anti-big business mindset among consumers.  
While this mindset is a good start, it is only a start, says Schmidt. 
To be successful, any business needs to attract and continually create demand. And for credit unions, that demand comes from what your members are saying about your credit union when they leave. 
If no stories are being shared, you’re only meeting expectations, you’re not creating more demand. 
So, says Schmidt, to create more demand and grow:
Get people to talk about your credit union and its services with passion. 
A customer, says Schmidt, is a goal or a target, but you should strive for disciples: members who believe so strongly in your credit union that, without prompting, they’ll tell others about their good experiences and your good products and services. 
After all, Schmidt says, people are most likely to instantly mimic something when there’s a visible passion and enthusiasm for it.  
Call members by name
“While I finance my bikes with the credit union, I have an account at a major bank that I go into every Friday,” he says. “Do you know what those bank employees think my name is? They think my name is ‘Next.’ Don’t underestimate the importance of using your members’ names.”  
Humanize the business
Harley-Davidson learned the hard way that if you’re attempting to use data and numbers—logic—alone to sell something, it typically doesn’t work. 
That’s because most decisions come from the heart or an affinity to something—they’re illogical. 
“Only 1 in 100 members will choose a credit card from your credit union because of a brochure you have at the front counter,” he says. “But how about having your front-line employees say to members: ‘Do you want to see something cool?’ No one’s going to say ‘no’ to that. And then your employees can physically show members a card and explain where and how your card can be used to obtain rewards or other benefits.”  
The bottom line, he says, is that when all things are equal, we choose to interact with businesses we like.  

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive