Success for your credit union depends on this one mindset

Junkyard dogs worry about accomplishment. Show dogs worry about appearances.

This year there are only two types of credit unions: junkyard dogs and show dogs. The difference?

The junkyard dogs of the credit union community are those misfits and mavericks, renegades and rebels, innovators and improvisors who believe that traditional wisdom is more tradition than wisdom. There’s no room for “that’s what way we’ve always done it.”

Lee Iacocca – after being credited with introducing the Mustang to the world – was fired from Ford and happily went to work at Chrysler where he rescued the company from extinction by introducing the US and the world to the minivan. Years later, he continued his junkyard doggedness by asking Chrysler’s head of engineering to build a prototype LeBaron convertible to use in a TV ad. The “show dog” engineer told “junkyard dog” Iacocca just how much work and how many months it would take to design one. A true dog of the junkyard, Iacocca smiled and said, “Just get a LeBaron and cut the top off. I need it tomorrow.”

A few months ago we were all forced to be junkyard dogs. When the time came for many credit union CEOs to close their branches in a matter of 24 hours and figure out how to serve members, innovation and problem solving were forced upon credit union leaders.

But what do you do when it’s not a forced? If you had scheduled the strategic planning session for your credit union and I suggested you had to close all of your branches with 24-hour’s notice and figure out how to serve you members, I guarantee the majority of credit union leaders would play the show dog and talk about how difficult it would be and how many months or years it would take to accomplish this. Yet, you did.

Focused on outcomes rather than process, junkyard dogs are messy. Junkyard dogs worry about accomplishment. Show dogs worry about appearances. When the weather is calm and the water is smooth, the show dog owns the show. But when the storm is raging and it’s sink-or-swim time, the junkyard dog is the one you want – your credit union needs – steering the ship.

The wild ride of 2020 continues, and if you’re not in junkyard dog mode, preparing for the unthinkable, and pivoting your messaging, service channels and product lineup, the junkyard dogs will eat your lunch. As messy as the process might be, outcomes are the objective – they’re trained on them.

Dive deep into these concepts during your strategic planning journey. Adopt your unique junkyard-dog mentality.

Need a starting point? We’ve developed a free resource, Ask A Freaking Question, to help you ask the right questions at your credit union’s next strategic planning session. Fill out the form below and download it today to share it at your next leadership meeting.

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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