"Stop planting flowers in people's yards who aren't going to water them.”
One of my mentors shared this curious quote with me several months ago. I wrestled with the words at first, but eventually grasped the truth they contained. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t help a client. What do I mean by that?
Picture this scenario:
You hire a personal trainer and tell her you want to lose 20 pounds. She lists out the steps you should take to lose the weight: “Stop eating at McDonald’s. No more soda. No more Krispy Kreme. Hit the gym for 30 minutes every day.” You go the gym a few times a week, but you’re still eating a whole pizza and a dozen donuts every night. Three weeks later you raise hell with your trainer because you’re spending a ton of money with her, but you’re not losing the weight. “Your plan isn’t working! This is a waste of money!”
Wrong. You paid an expert to share knowledge that could help you, but you chose not to take their advice. You did it your own way and failed miserably. And, in the end, you wound up blaming the trainer for your lack of success even though you ignored her instructions. The absurdity of this example is obvious. Nobody would blame the trainer for dropping a client like that. So why do those of us in the business world tend to hold onto clients who behave in a similar manner?
At YMC, our culture is unique. We seek out team members who are not only great at what they do but also demonstrate a strong sense of mission and accountability in their work. Hiring people of this caliber isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. However, deciding to operate with a smaller core team limits the number of clients we can effectively support at any given time. Because of this, we need to be as selective in building our client base as we are in building our team.
My mentor pointed out that a handful of clients who were keeping me up at night were those paying for our team’s knowledge and assistance but wanting to go it alone. We were spending valuable time and energy pushing them to succeed, but it was never going to happen. “Stop planting flowers in people’s yards who aren’t going to water them.” After debating with myself for several weeks, I knew it was time to suggest to this small handful of clients that there might be someone out there who was a better fit for them.
Fast forward several months, and that handful of openings was quickly filled with new clients eager to water the flowers we planted in their yard. Our YMC family is stocked full of growing credit unions who value the partnership they have with our team. This fresh enthusiasm is clearly seen in the words of a new client after we conducted a planning session with their board of directors and executive team, “Our credit union won’t be the same. From this day forward, we’re green and growing and making the tough decisions to better serve our members and our community.”
What can your credit union learn from our experience? You too should stop planting flowers in the yards of people who aren’t going to water them. Invest the time to develop a clear profile of your ideal customer, learn how you can best serve them, and prune any “dead branches” to make room for new, healthy growth in your credit union.