Yes, it’s that time of year again – spring training baseball! This past weekend, the first of the “Cactus” or “Grapefruit” League pre-season games were played. (Teams spend the spring in either Arizona or Florida, hence the nicknames.)
I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of pre-season games and, truth be told, I enjoy these games better than regular season games. There are a few reasons for this: more affordable ticket prices, free parking, the crowds aren’t as big, there are fewer obnoxious and drunken fans, etc. The stadiums aren’t tagged with corporate logos, don’t have luxury sky boxes, and you can actually sit behind home plate for way less than $300. A typical spring training facility will seat anywhere from 5,000 – 10,000 people, a more intimate setting so fans feel “closer” to the action. I am a lifelong New York Yankees fan. As much as I would love to take my family to a regular season game at Yankee Stadium, I have a hard time swallowing the fact that I know that before I leave the house, such a sojourn will have already cost me $400 or so. There are no more $40 seats to be had. Then add the tolls to get to the stadium, the parking fees, the extraordinarily overpriced food and beverage costs…..you get the picture.
So how does all of this tie into credit unions? Credit unions remind me of the spring training model in baseball. For one, credit unions are not controlled by corporations. We are smaller and friendlier than our big banking competitors. We don’t nickel and dime our members. We don’t cower in the face of large corporate stockholders and big business. We want to have more intimate and beneficial relationships with our members.
Spring training season also has its share of pressures. Players need to earn their spots on the major league roster and their performances in pre-season often determine who will fill those slots. In short – the players have to prove that they are good enough and worthy of playing in the big leagues. In a similar manner, credit unions must work harder than ever to prove their worthiness and relevance. We still have to aggressively market our services, appeal to potential members, nurture relationships with current members, provide solutions that the marketplace is demanding, keep up with technology, train employees, and realize that the business model for credit unions has changed. Credit unions cannot operate in the same manner as they may have 20, 30, or 40 years ago.
Credit unions should be looking for top-notch employees – people with a passion for excellence. They need leaders and directors who aren’t afraid to “push the envelope.” They need management that is not satisfied by the status quo. Many credit unions are setting the pace for the industry by changing mindset by doing things differently as well as by creating messages that resonate and appeal to a new and younger generation of members.
I love it when I hear the two words that the umpire shouts to signal the start of the game. You know the ones…..
Credit unions need to “PLAY BALL!”