Success Hinges on More Than 'Starr' Performers

July 23, 2010

Cohesive, well-balanced CU teams prevail.

I became a Green Bay Packers fan in the heyday of Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, and company. I watched them thrash the upstart Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl. But in the six years I’ve lived in the Wisconsin tundra, I’ve learned what being a Packers fan really means.

For one, it’s not always easy. Take this year’s team, loaded with stars: a top-ranked quarterback, great receivers, linebackers, and defensive backs galore. But in week nine, a winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team defeated the Pack. Why? Because having star performers isn’t enough if you don’t have a cohesive, well-balanced team.

Even great quarterbacks can’t generate points when they’re sacked several times a game. And it’s hard to win when the special-teams players allow long returns and blocked punts, or penalties negate gains and stall drives.

In fielding a credit union team:

The board is the equivalent of the general manager (GM).

The CEO is head coach.

• The executive management team makes up the rest of the coaching staff.

•  Revenue-producing areas and functions, such as lending, cross-selling, money management, and deposits, represent the offense—whose job is to put points on the board.

•  Administration, accounting, information technology, collections, and marketing make up the defense—along with everything else that has to be done well to allow the offensive squad to put points on the board. (Without a smooth, efficient operation, the offense will grind to a halt. Then it’s time to punt.)

Compliance staff, internal auditors, human resource staff, trainers, contract managers, and the chief financial officer make up your special teams. Their mission is to put the offense in the best position possible to score and to keep it from being hindered by poor field position and penalties.

Winning coaches don’t spend much time gloating over wins. They focus on what went wrong during the game and how they can prevent it from happening again. And they constantly analyze their teams’ strengths and weaknesses.

When looking at your credit union as GM or head coach, ask:

•  Is your credit union a cohesive, well-balanced team?

Does it put enough points on the board to win?

•  Is the defense strong enough to keep the opposition from putting too many points on the board?

Can it operate without incurring key penalties that will negate the gains made by the offense?

•  What are your team’s weaknesses?

Credit union teams have a good win/loss record. But the past year has hampered most of them with increased loan losses, reduced earnings, and costs associated with the share insurance fund.

Although the economy is looking up, credit union teams are faced with the potential of many new rules—and accompanying penalties. It’ll take effort to train employees on the changing business environment and the changing rules. It’ll take more effort to create a defensive strategy to deal with these on a daily basis to minimize penalties. As football demonstrates, even with rules as old as the game itself, penalties still occur.

Identify your stars, your strengths, and your weaknesses on offense, defense, and special teams. Then go to work as a team to build on those strengths and minimize those weaknesses.

This is the only path to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Have a great season!

JOHN FRANKLIN is executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Credit Union National Association in Madison, Wis. Contact him at 608-231-4266.