05 October 2008
Partnership Symposium Takeaways
After a few days and finally a few hours of sleep with which to collect my thoughts, let me share a few of my takeaways from the Partnership Symposium hosted by Forum Solutions/Trabian at Forum Credit Union, October 1-2, 2008. This was a truly amazing conference, and I would encourage any of you that get a chance to attend next year. At a minimum, check out the sessions recorded by Brent Dixon here.
1. Be Careful Who You Vote For. I was lucky enough to be voted in as a guest speaker for this conference. I'll be the first to admit that as speakers go, I'm not particularly good. Heck, in the first 5 minutes of my session I thought I was going to pass out from nervousness. I've felt very guilty about my lack of polish since the second I walked on stage. Not that I didn't think I had a compelling story to tell - it's just that I could have told it a lot better. Hopefully, I at least encouraged attendees to reexamine the concept of promoting thrift, and how the services they offer help define what they stand for. Simple passion does not make for a good presentation, but I hope it helped.
2. Technology isn't redefining credit unions - it's allowing us to better implement our founding principles. Matt Dean, William Azaroff, Gene Blishen, and Morriss Partee all discussed how technology can help credit unions build tighter community with members, collaborate with other credit unions, and promote thrift. What was striking to me was the fact that even though their solutions were high tech, they were deeply rooted in traditional credit union philosophy.
3. Forum CU gets it. This is something that became quite clear to me after the Partnership Symposium last year - Forum Credit Union is as classy as classy gets. From the types of attendees and speakers they attracted, to the friendliness and professionalism of their staff, to their unique hosting style, it's immediately apparent that this is a credit union that is progressive, in-tune, and focused on innovation.
4. Ron Shevlin gets it. What made this year's Partnership Symposium for me was the implementation of Ron Shevlin as moderator. Ron's obvious goal was to keep speakers honest about how they presented their information, how/if their stories were relevant to attendees, and whether or not they substantiated their claims. This was no doubt a great experience for speakers and attendees, as it enhanced our presentations, better defined conference takeaways, and (for anyone like me who welcomes constructive criticism) educated us on how to improve our messages. He was seemingly harsh at times, but never irresponsibly. Those who disliked his methods are missing the educational opportunity he provided. Those who listened to his critiques, and tried to understand the reasons behind his lines of questioning, will become better listeners and better speakers.
5. Every credit union needs an Andy Janning. Employee training is an extremely difficult (and often thankless) job - especially in an industry with such frequent changes as credit unions. Forum CU's AVP of Training and Quality Service, Andy Janning, has the perfect perspective on the irreplaceable role a top-notch training program can have on your organization's performance. "Knowledge isn't power, performance is," Janning quipped. You see, he knows that the only measurable in his performance is his trainees' performance. He's not passionate for recognition, he's passionate for people - and his success is evident with every Forum employee you meet.
6. Web 2.0 is cool, but it sucks compared to live discussion. It's strange how much adoration I had for blog/Twitter friends I have never met. It's even stranger when you actually meet those people and they're better than advertised. My virtual buddies, and you know who you are, are true inspirations for me.
7. The right people are unified. I have been distressed over the past few years about an apparent shift from inter-cooperative credit unions to inter-competitive adversaries. I have always thought that we are better off working as a team against banks, than against one another. Some people don't get that...but the attendees at this conference did. This wasn't a place for competition or one-upsmanship, this was a place to learn from one another to improve the services we offer to members. Simple as that. What a refreshing change! Now let's hope it spreads.
8. I've never been more excited about the future of the credit union movement.