Crooked Little Credit Unions Save Themselves from the Sawmill

bent gray tree vs colorful healthy tree illustration

Two trees in the forest
One was crooked, one was straight
Crimson bark and emerald needles
Growing day by day
And though they looked so different
They enjoyed the rain the same
Side by side

I recently heard these lyrics on a beautiful fall day on the Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, Tennessee. It was the Pilgrimage Music Festival, and Molly Tuttle was on stage. Before she started singing, she shared the story of her inspiration for this song, coming from words she heard from John Prine about being different and standing out as a musician.

Even though I had disconnected from work to enjoy the music fest, I couldn’t help but relate this song to my credit union strategic planning work. I’m often asked by prospective clients and others in the industry, “How are your clients getting these great numbers?” Tuttle’s lyrics are very similar to how I started out.

There are two credit unions. One was playing it safe not taking any risk, playing it straight. The other looks very different, daring to be unique and manage risk, not avoid it. They both endure the same rain (COVID, lack of vehicle inventory, the great resignation, etc.).

A chickadee had told them
Of a darkness on the land
Spinning blades that came to visit
Carried by a man
And every other tree would see them
Cut down where they stand
By and by

Those credit unions that playing it safe, following the straight and narrow path of so many before them, may look great from the outside. But the lack of risk in credit union strategic planning and doing will eventually get them cut down.

Oh, can’t you see?
A crooked tree won’t fit into the mill machine
They’re left to grow wild and free
Oh I’d rather be a crooked tree

Those crooked credit unions though, they’re still standing. Often as I describe the formula for success that our credit union marketing clients have found, there’s a gasp of, “Oh, we would never do that!” That statement is usually fraught with fear of change, of doing something different – fear of becoming a crooked little tree. Remember, crooked trees don’t fit into the mill machine.

People say I’m different
My way of life seems strange
I took the road less traveled
Twists and turns along the way
But like the crooked tree
I’m growing stronger day by day

It may look strange to many. It may not fit into the mold that some feel credit unions should fit. But if you want to see success, you need to break out of the safe places and take some risks. Dare to be different, even a little crooked. It could save you from the lumber yard.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”Steve Jobs

Take A Risk, Ask A Question

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Reh Harvey

Vice President of Digital Strategy

Reh Harvey, our Vice President of Digital Strategy, leads with diligence and fervor. Having previously been a member of Team YMC, he is excited to return to such an amazing culture and even more amazing people (his words)! Through his experience in the marketing world, he’s found the key to success is to stay on the cutting edge and to always keep evolving.
Although originally drawn to marketing for its lack of math, Reh now finds himself doing more math than he would’ve bargained for. But his self discipline and positive attitude make it easy for him to laugh and take it in stride. Hoping to one day visit Japan and enjoy some premium Sushi, Reh lives life by his creed: Be a good human. Do good work. And above all, just keep going.

Hailey Madej

Graphic Designer

As YMC’s in-house Graphic Designer, Hailey possesses an eye for detail and a drive to innovate. It’s no surprise though since being creative runs in the family! Inspired from an early age by her mom’s work as a Graphic Designer, Hailey is a seasoned expert whose talents bring vitality and accessibility to every project. As a UX/UI designer, she expertly blends the intuitive and the creative for all to enjoy.
In addition to the occasional freelance project, Hailey also lends her abilities to supporting art initiatives within her community, such as the Belleville Mural Project. Her favorite aspect of joining the YMC team is the friendly, uplifting culture and breadth of design tasks. When it comes to marketing, she believes in pushing boundaries and maybe breaking some rules to capture her audience’s attention. Her advice to those just starting out? “Always seek quality over quantity.”

Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Living life by his motto to “Do good even if the world is unfair,” Dexter would also advise his younger self, “It’s hard, but you’re doing good!” Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche


Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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