04 March 2008

What Credit Unions Can Learn from Brett Favre

Brett Favre announced today that he's retiring after 17 amazing seasons in the NFL. Likely to be considered among the top 5 or 6 quarterbacks to ever play the position, Favre finished his career with 160 wins, 442 touchdown passes, 61,655 yards, three MVP awards, and a Super Bowl ring. His stats speak for themselves, but what is truly amazing about number 4 was his ability to appeal to the masses. Young or old. Rich or poor. Packer fan or not. People love Brett Favre.

Here's why: he's part superman, part human; half American icon, half guy down the street. He looked like a guy who loved what he was doing. He was a real person with real talent, real success, real strife, and real failures.

I believe there are 4 great lessons credit unions can learn from Brett Favre:

1. Have fun
From his rookie season to his 17th, you could tell Favre was having a good time. Watching him run down the field to give a teammate a hug, a high-five, or a laugh showed that he was truly doing what he loved to do. The public can tell. The public is drawn to that. When members see that you enjoy fulfilling your mission as a credit union employee, you have become a magnetic force in their lives.

2. Take Chances
Favre threw into double coverage. Favre tossed shovel passes in heavy traffic. Favre threw on the run, off his back foot, with blitzers in his face...it didn't matter. Sometimes it worked great, sometimes it didn't. I would argue that a more conservative quarterback in Favre's shoes wouldn't have been nearly as successful. To achieve amazing results, you must take amazing chances. I hear too many credit unions talking about growth, and not enough talking about the aggressive (read: risky) steps they are taking to achieve such success.

3. Be Up-Front, Honest, and Speak Plainly
Favre was not perfect. He threw many game and season-ending interceptions. He fathered a child out of wedlock at the age of 18 (he married the mother, Deana, 7 years later). He had a well-documented bout with prescription pill dependency. Each and every time, Favre candidly accepted responsibility for his actions, resolved to do better, and followed through on his promises. To top things off, Favre spoke like the guy down the street. He spoke plainly and unabashed, no matter how hard the topic may have been.

"If you're going to tell your story, don't go halfway,"
-Brett Favre

Credit unions are human organizations. Sometimes we mess up. The more open and honest we are with our membership and the general public about the times we fall short of their expectations, the easier the pill is to swallow. To err is human. To gloss over, sweep under the carpet, or avoid responsibility is disingenuous.

4. Perform
At the end of the day, Favre was a winner. He had the toughest job in sports to perform, and he did it magnificently. Credit unions have a tough job too. Our members count on us to offer real solutions to real financial needs. We must make sure that we continually examine and improve our portfolio of personal finance solutions so we can win the battle of ideas. We all know that it feels better to be associated with a credit union than a bank, but at the end of the day we must make sure that we are meeting the public's financial service needs.


Jeff Hardin said...

Matt - Great post! On point number two - Favre was a gritty, tough competitor who worked his tail off no matter the situation.

In the same way, credit unions have a GREAT opportunity to step up for members now that the economy is worsening. Look at the bank's response to the credit crunch - they're squeezing consumers so they can cover losses and make profits.

This bank response is normal, natural and in their DNA. Credit unions can step up and perform now and "put some points on the board" with people who may not know about us.

Best wishes #4 - and let's go CUs!

Kent Sugg said...

Matt - I love this post. I am a fan of the NFL, but not a specific team, this year I found myself wanting to watch Green Bay play every week. Favre had an amazing attitude, he had fun, and he led by example.

His relation to CUs is phenomenal. He has definitely made some mistakes, he has had some problems, but he always came fighting back through.

What made Favre fun to watch: He had fun, he took risks and he turned the ball over but instead of getting conservative or more careless, he learned from it, and he would take a similar risk the next drive and it would work.

When you are the underdog, as CUs are, you have to take appropriate risks, it isn't always about if you succeed or fail, but when you fail it is about how you respond...

Dan Veasey said...

I love what you wrote here!

I saw Favre play once and I'll never forget it. It was Packers vs. Redskins in DC. I was with my brother-in-law who is a die hard Packer fan. Favre dropped back looked left, then looked right and WHILE LOOKING RIGHT, he threw the ball left! The completion went for a first down. You could read the minds of the 80,000+ fans at fedex field thinking "How'd he do that?"

I hope I can be as creative in my job as to make our members/fans say "How'd they do that?".

aebell said...

I"m a Canadian CU employee/member and an NFL fan (have trekked to Lambeau Field) -- what a great analogy.

Although it ruins your elegant allusion to Favre's jersey, I'd add a fifth point: It's never too late to learn something new.

One of the things we loved about Favre was his passion/risk-taking. But sometimes -- often, perhaps -- those risks did NOT pay off.

In his last season, Favre enjoyed a bit of a renaissance. Why? Because he changed the way he approached the game. He didn't rely solely on the long ball -- we saw more short/medium passes, less passes thrown in double-coverage etc. It took them to the playoffs.

A credit union can't rely on the same old things to drive their success -- esp. when the market around them is so volatile. Sometimes, they may need to make significant changes to the way they play their game to achieve success.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@aebell You are so right! I think I could even throw in a 6th point. Not only did he change his approach to the game from an X's and O's perspective, I think he learned to trust his players a little more. The Packers were the youngest team in the league last year. Favre's success hinged on the performance of his young teammates. Favre needed to learn to trust these players, and capitalize on their unique strengths.

I was lucky enough to be named to the Filene Research Institute's 30 Under 30 Group to investigate how credit unions can better attract young people to the movement as employees, volunteers, and members. I've been able to see first-hand the amazing amount of young talent we have in the industry. We, like Favre did in 2007, need to cultivate the talents of this group. With them on board, we will succeed. If we choose to treat them like insignificant outsiders, we will fail. Simple as that.