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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