All Good Business Starts with People

A good friend of mine has great advice for dealing with people: “Forget yourself and meet them where they’re at.”

In our world of distractions, regulatory roller coasters, and an economy in flux, keeping our eyes on the people we serve can be more difficult than we’d like. We sometimes find ourselves asking questions that skip over the people we’re trying to affect altogether.

In developing strategies, we ask: “How can we get more loans?”

In creating employee policies, we ask: “How can we make them care more?”

In investing in technology, we ask: “What do the latest tools do?”

But are those the right questions? Using loan growth as an example, what if we ask a whole new set of questions?

Why do our members need loans? Where are they at in their lives? Are they buying their first clunker-of-a-car or a brand new Statusmobile? Are they having a baby? Getting married? Did a family member pass way, leaving it up to them to handle the arrangements? How do they feel about taking out a loan? Is it easy? Hard? Are they anxious about the process? Confused? Apathetic? Excited?

Changing the questions changes our perspective. Answering these questions introduces member-centered context into your financial products. And context gives way to meaning and emotional significance. These aren’t just loans, they’re big explosive changes in people’s lives.

Starting with people allows you to challenge your own assumptions and opens up the door for new insights. It allows you to see things differently, and, because of your new perspective, allows you to do things differently.

When you draw your inspiration directly from people’s needs, creating products and services people are driven to use becomes a lot easier.

In other words, sometimes the best way to save yourself is to learn to forget yourself.

Great technology is like that. It disappears in the background and meets you where you’re at. I love my cell phone the most when I forget it is there (which is rare, because I use AT&T and drop every other call). The best phone in the world allows me to focus all my energy on the person at the other end. Leaps in technology like the iPhone 4’s FaceTime bring more attention to the people, not the phone.

Location-based media like Foursquare and Facebook Places have seen rapid adoption because, literally, they meet people where they’re at. They blur the lines between technology and real life. They fit in the context of any situation.

The best technology, the stuff that changes everything, makes it easy to be ourselves.

In two weeks James Robert Lay, the supercharged founder of PTP New Media and CU Swag, and I will unpack some of the most disruptive and exciting technologies to shake the market. But we’ll take each new trend a step further and explain how it will impact your members’ lives and what that impact means for your credit union.

Can’t wait to see you there.

Brent Dixon and James Robert Lay will speak on the topic of Emerging Technologies in an engaging and interactive general session, at the 2010 Convention and Annual Business Meeting. To register or for more information visit: www.waleague.org/convention

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