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Success, Impact, and Longevity: 3 Key Tips for Credit Union Leaders

Cameron Madill and Katie Stone join The Remarkable Credit Union podcast

This is both an exciting and bittersweet episode. After recording 97 episodes of The Remarkable Credit Union, longtime host and PixelSpoke’s founder and former CEO, Cameron Madill, joins as a guest to share his top takeaways from his 20 years leading an impact-focused marketing agency for credit unions. Accompanying him is PixelSpoke’s new CEO, Katie Stone, who further expounds on leadership lessons she’s learned since joining PixelSpoke and how she hopes to carry them forward in her new role.

They also address this month’s BIG question:

What should credit union leaders focus on to best equip their teams for success, maximize impact, and ensure the longevity of their credit union?

Next month, Katie will be begin co-hosting the podcast along with current co-host and PixelSpoke co-owner Kerala Taylor. Stay tuned!


 

Top takeaways:

  1. Keep coming back to the WHY. Leadership expert Simon Sinek says, “Start with WHY,” which is great, but we also need to keep revisiting it. At most workplaces, we have a tendency to focus too much on the how and the what, but employees at every level need to connect to a broader meaning to feel both motivated and valued. For credit union leaders and marketers, that means continually connecting the dots between the daily tasks and the mission of the credit union movement, which is all about financial inclusion.
  2. A strong working culture doesn’t happen by default. If a company isn’t intentional about culture, it’s more likely to simply reflect the personalities of the people at the top. If culture is going to be an intentional and sustained effort, employees need to be living and breathing those core values every day, not only able to recite them on demand, but also to guide their relationships and decisions.
  3. Profit is a means to an end. In our late-stage capitalist economy, many business leaders seem to confuse profit with the WHY, when really it’s part of the how. Focusing too much on profit can actually really damage relationships and hurt the long-term sustainability of a company.

 

Read the transcript:

Cameron Madill:
Hello and welcome to The Remarkable Credit Union podcast. We created our podcast to help credit union leaders think outside of the box about marketing, technology, and community impact. Each episode we bring on expert guests from inside and outside of the industry for conversations about innovation. Our goal is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual, and provide you with actionable takeaways that you can use to grow your membership, improve the financial health of your cooperative, and magnify the positive impact that you have in your community.

The Remarkable Credit Union is brought to you by PixelSpoke, a digital marketing agency that works with credit unions to create user-friendly, high-converting award-winning websites. As a certified B corporation and employee-owned cooperative, we believe that business can and should be a force for good. I’m Cameron Madill, the founder and former CEO of PixelSpoke and-

Kerala Taylor:
Cameron, I’m going to have to stop you there. Hi, folks. This is Kerala Taylor, co-host of The Remarkable Credit Union, and also a co-owner and senior marketing manager at PixelSpoke. And Cameron, I wanted to give you a last chance to introduce this podcast, but you are actually one of our guests today. And I have some big news for our listeners. Starting in April next month, Cameron is actually stepping down as co-host of The Remarkable Credit Union and our new CEO, Katie Stone, will be stepping up. So just this once, I’ll actually be solo hosting the show and I have both Cameron and Katie on as guests to talk about our big question and that is, what should credit union leaders focus on to best equip their teams for success, to maximize impact and ensure the longevity of their credit union?

So I know you’ve already heard a little bit from Cameron, but now I want a chance to properly introduce him. He co-founded PixelSpoke with his father 20 years ago, and he just stepped down as CEO in January. Fun fact, aside that PixelSpoke’s original name Synotac actually means father and son in Bulgarian and Croatian.

Cameron’s been instrumental in building the local B Corp community in Portland, Oregon and he’s also served on a number of nonprofit boards. He’s been hosting The Remarkable Credit Union podcast since 2015. It’s a long time. And this year he is looking forward to continuing his new work with couples as a coach and retreat facilitator. Also spending two weeks in South Korea with his wife and son, which sounds amazing, and supporting PixelSpoke in his new role. He’s definitely going to continue to advise us.
And Katie is now PixelSpoke’s CEO. She’s leading the team alongside our president and former chief creative officer, David Drouin. She joined the team five years ago as operations manager, and was promoted last year to chief operations officer. And as I mentioned, she’ll be stepping up to co-host The Remarkable Credit Union podcast with me starting in April.

Katie came to PixelSpoke with 15 years’ of experience in operations and finance, most recently serving as chief financial officer for the American College of Healthcare Sciences. And a quick fun fact about Katie. She’s from a 4,000 person, no stoplight farming town in central California where her parents used to run a walnut processing plant. Katie and Cameron, thank you for joining us.

Cameron Madill:
Thanks for having us.

Katie Stone:
Yeah. Glad to be here.

Kerala Taylor:
So Cameron, you recently wrote your last article for CUInsight, which was titled, Three unexpected leadership lessons I learned during my 20 years as a CEO. So there’s a lot in there. It’s a great article. We’ll include a link in the blog post with this episode. But I’d love to spend a little time unpacking each of these lessons today.

The first one I loved, which was just to keep pushing on the why, particularly when it comes to conventional business wisdom. So I’m wondering, can you talk a bit about the conventional business wisdom that you yourself have questioned over the years, and also how and when you decided to take a different approach?

Cameron Madill:
Wow, these are big questions. All right. There was a very deep book written many years ago by Viktor Frankl who was a Holocaust survivor, and it was called Man’s Search for Meaning. And sort of a short version of that was basically the notion that as humans truly coming from the most horrifying circumstances, we can endure almost anything if we have a why. We tend to focus a little bit too much on the how and the what. And so obviously, it’s a very profound and deep book about circumstances that hopefully none of us have to come anywhere near. But I remember it sort of centered me in this just thinking about what role does purpose play in our lives?

So I think that at its core, as organizations it’s really important to think about why we exist, and there’s different ways to structure that and to continually communicate that to our team. So one of the ways in PixelSpoke where I think we’re really different is we have this really deep embedded set of core values. We love them so much that we printed them on socks and sent them to people.
I know many of us, including me, have a decal of one of our core values on our computer. And then just remembering that there’s all this focus on what you do and how you do it, and of course that matters a lot, but the glue underneath it all is more than just sort of an exchange of money for time. And to deepen that a little bit, we do something I’m really proud of at PixelSpoke called Journeys of Transformation, which is all about this idea of each year saying for each individual kind of like, “What is your why, particularly for the next year?” And then aligning that with the company’s why.

So how I think this all connects to conventional business wisdom is I think often employees are thought of, you have this functional model from the early 20th century of people are like parts of machines in a factory. And I think that’s not who we are. And I think it’s a little scary to talk about our own purpose as an organization and ask individual their purpose, but that ultimately, I think that the positive sum, the additive, the abundance, the amplification happens when those two things get aligned.
And when I think that happens is actually when a lot of the conventional business wisdom gets questioned. So I guess I’ll give one quick example, which was when we shifted into COVID, we’ve talked about this a bit with our, I love this term PixelSpoke’s Joy Team. We went from these kind of almost military style daily huddles to exchange information and share places where people were stuck to promote problem solving, to really expanding them to a place where every two weeks a different person led the huddle and had a chance to share something of meaning about themselves.

It could be pictures, could be stories, could be an interactive element. And that’s something that it’s hard to quantify how does that work if we’re going to lose another 15 minutes every day of every person’s time? But actually our finances either stayed the same or got stronger. And so I think that’s just an example of one of our core values is authenticity, and another one is enjoy the journey. And we felt like in COVID, neither of those were happening enough. And so we leaned into those core values and ultimately we got more productivity out of our team, not less.

Kerala Taylor:
I love that. I mean, just this morning our project manager, Seth Leamer, who some of you might be familiar with, shared this scientific exploration into watercolors. That was amazing and I learned so much, and that has been such an invaluable space for all of us to just share a little bit of ourselves beyond what we bring to work. It’s just, I’d say one of so many examples that PixelSpoke of bringing some humanity to work, which we’ll actually talk about a little later.

One thing that I love about Cameron is any question you ask him is going to be answered starting with a book recommendation. Both Cameron and Katie, I think read more than anyone I know. I try to keep up. So Katie, for you, I think you’ll agree with me that just one really special thing about working at PixelSpoke has been the space we make for all team members to speak up and to challenge the status quo or the so-called conventional wisdom. I’m laughing a little bit here because I’m quite sure I’ve been a thorn in Cameron’s side on more than one occasion here. But what’s an example of an area where you feel like your thinking has really evolved since starting at PixelSpoke when it just comes to leadership and business?

Katie Stone:
Yeah, that’s a really great question. And I love everything that you just shared Cameron, because I think it leads really nicely into the first thing that comes to mind to me, which is around company culture. I think before I came to PixelSpoke, I really just always assumed that company culture was something that developed just organically for better or for worse. And I really quickly learned at PixelSpoke that a strong culture really takes intentional and sustained effort.

It can be something that happens by accident, but we really do or can play a part in developing the culture we want to see within our organizations. And for me, I think it all starts with core values. I’m so glad you mentioned them, Cameron, but I think it’s about creating core values that really resonate with your staff, involving them in that process and then talking about them every day and incorporating them into your day-to-day conversations so that they can really come to life and become more than just a poster on the wall, which is how I primarily experienced core values in my previous places of work.

And then I think it’s really beyond creating those, it’s making an intentional effort to sustain culture. So by frequently asking ourselves, “How is our culture right now? Are we living our core values? Is there anything that we should be talking about that we’re not?” And I think it’s something that we all do as individuals at the company. And our Joy Team takes time every month to revisit those questions and really question how is our culture and what can we do to positively impact it?

And then finally, I think that culture is just really strongly sustained through really thoughtful hiring practices and leadership that isn’t afraid to stand by our values through times both good and bad, which I definitely think Cameron has shown us how to do and really created an environment where we lean on our core values to drive our company culture.

Kerala Taylor:
Yeah. So much of what you said there resonated with me. And definitely that vision of remembering maybe some core values on a poster on a wall, but really, really not living them every day like we do at PixelSpoke.

Cameron, the second lesson you talked about in your article was the bottom line isn’t everything. So now with my conventional business wisdom hat on, I’m going to ask you, I mean, what in the world could be more important, or at least equally as important as the bottom line?

Cameron Madill:
All right, so there’s a book called Why the Bottom Line Isn’t, but I just found that on Google and I haven’t read it. So maybe that can answer that question.

Kerala Taylor:
Add it to your list. Add it to your list.

Cameron Madill:
Yeah. I figured someone had written a book called that. So yeah, I mean obviously this is an audience of credit union professionals, so this is kind of self-evident. Coming out of college with a physics degree, I always had a very mathematical, technical, quantitative bent, but I remember kind of an unlocked moment for me was must’ve been a decade into my tenure at PixelSpoke when a business coach said to me, “Profit is no more the purpose of business than oxygen is the purpose of life. It’s a necessary precondition to survival. If we start running out of oxygen as human beings, we will do anything to get to oxygen. But in and of itself, it doesn’t make a meaningful fulfilling contribution to society or a life worth living.”

So I can see Katie rolling her eyes. I’ve said that many, many times at PixelSpoke, but that’s how I think of it of it is so important, it is the fuel for a business to thrive and do all the good work that it does, but it’s not why we exist. I also think we all know this, but you have this phenomenon in our society of short-termism, companies that are beholden to Wall Street and short-term results every quarter, and how often we see over three to five years, then those companies catastrophically fail or become greatly diminished because they’re so focused on squeezing every drop of juice out of that orange that they can, that there’s nothing left for the long term.

So I think again, this audience gets that, but particularly I think we’ve seen at PixelSpoke, we’re just always focused on long-term sustainability. And I can think of an episode back in the last decade, probably 2017, 2018, and we had this really hard situation with a client where something was ambiguous in the project, there was something that was not communicated or caught in the audit, and it was a pretty substantial probably 10 to 20% of the project cost. And it was just really hard to tell what the right thing to do was.

Probably by the letter of the contract, we weren’t obligated to do it. You could tell the client had really hard feelings about it, it was getting a lot of pressure.

And I remember we sort of meditated on it and it was very hard. It was a hard moment for us as a company, but we just went back to our values. And I remember we kind of got on the follow-up call with the client, and I could tell they were kind of tense. They were ready for me to say, “I’ve talked to our lawyer,” or something. And it was just like, “We’ve thought about it and we just think we’re just going to take care of this for you. It’s not totally clear, but this is the right thing to do and we want you guys to be really happy with the site and we’re not going to get caught up in what is or isn’t in the contract.”

And so it very much hurt profits in the short term. I mean, it’s funny because ultimately it led to probably three or four substantial referrals. And as you can imagine, a great deepening of those relationships versus probably what would’ve turned into perpetual enmity. So I think that’s just where that short-term focus on profits can really damage relationships. And obviously, relationships are at the heart of long-term… If you want to be more self-interested, like long-term high-value relationships are based on that shared trust. And when you’re always gunning for squeezing all the profit out of every moment, then people I think end up not trusting you and not referring people to you and so on.

So that’s kind of how I think about it. Maybe the last thing I’ll say, and this is a book I love this book, it’s called Finding the Mother Tree, and it’s the story about the woman who basically was one of the key people in discovering that trees cooperate, trees share resources through these fungal networks under the soil, that actually if you have three different trees next to each other, they’ll protect each other against diseases and pests even though they’re different species. And her book, her whole mantra was that cooperation is greater than competition. So what better mantra for a podcast to credit union leaders and the PixelSpoke employee on cooperative?

Kerala Taylor:
I love that. And I am a huge fan of cooperation personally. I do enjoy some fun competition, as I know you do, Katie. Like say if we’re playing a game or at sporting events, but I’ve always felt that cooperation’s so important and I’ve often felt like I’m kind of going against the grain for feeling that way. And I think even before we became an official cooperative, we’ve really practiced that value for years and years.

Back to this bottom line. Katie, you have a strong background in finance. I know you’re attuned to the bottom line as a member of the finance committee, or I guess now a chair of the finance committee and the board treasurer. I very much appreciate your attunement to the bottom line and I’m gaining more of an appreciation for it myself. But you’ve also handled our B Corp recertification, which is about making sure we’re holding ourselves accountable not just to profit, but to a triple bottom line that includes people on planet.
So I’m just curious, in your new role, how do you plan to keep holding PixelSpoke accountable to this triple bottom line? I know we improved a lot in our last B Corp score, but where do you see opportunities for improvement there?

Katie Stone:
Yeah, thanks for asking, Kerala. And just to clarify, Cameron, I wasn’t rolling my eyes. There actually is a book we could refer our listeners to and that I-

Cameron Madill:
I knew you had something.

Katie Stone:
And that’s a book that you introduced me and many of us to. And that’s Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree.

Cameron Madill:
Oh yeah, that’s a good one.

Katie Stone:
In which he said, “Profit is like oxygen. Your business can’t hold its breath very long without it.” So yes, just a nice segue. Profit is absolutely necessary. It enables us to live our purpose, but I personally really see it as a means to an end. But yeah, getting back to B Corp recertification. I love the B Corp recertification process. It is time-consuming, but one, it’s an opportunity for me to fill out a form. You can ask Cameron, I love filling out forms. It’s a weird thing for me.

Kerala Taylor:
We’re so glad you do, we’re so glad.

Katie Stone:
But secondly, and I think more importantly, it’s a really great way for us to not only reflect on all the ways we’re currently making a positive impact, but it’s really a way to uncover additional opportunities. I love looking through the recertification questionnaire and keying in on those things that we didn’t get points for because those are great fodder for what can we do to keep pushing ourselves forward?

And in terms of specific opportunities, I think the big ones that come to mind to me are, first of all, as a 100% remote company now, I think there’s lots of opportunity. First explore different ways to support our employees in their home offices, particularly in the way of good environmental stewardship. We’ve got a lot of ideas on how we can infuse that into home offices, and I really look forward to exploring those in more depth.

I think there’s an opportunity around expanded health and wellness initiatives, just knowing that we’re all probably a little more sedentary now that we’re working from home. And then finally, something that I’m really passionate about is volunteer and community service activities. When we were all in an office in Portland, it was much easier for us to all take a half day and go out and volunteer within our community together. And now as a remote organization with folks in four countries and all across the US and beyond, it’s a much more of a challenge. And I’m really excited to explore ways that we can continue our volunteer work, but also use it as a way to build connections with each other and our communities.

Kerala Taylor:
I love it. And you mentioned health and wellness. I know you were a part of the Joy Team at the time that spearheaded our summer walking challenge. As someone who already considered myself a fairly active person, that was personally transformative for me on many levels, and I still try to walk absolutely everywhere I can. So really appreciated that. Look forward to more.

Let’s talk about the last leadership lesson. And Cameron, I’m sure you have more than three lessons, but for the sake of not going on and on today, it was about leading with love. I know it sounds kind of corny and I have to ask, I mean, do you really think love has a place at PixelSpoke, has a place in most companies? A lot of people love to say, “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” right? So what do you have to say about love?

Cameron Madill:
Yeah, that is an interesting phrase. When someone says it’s not personal, it’s just business. I’m always feels pretty personal to me. But anyway yeah, I mean, I don’t know, maybe it’s corny. I don’t think it’s corny. I think there really is a place for love in business, and I think it’s something that I suppose to think about why it matters, you have to get to what does it really mean to love someone?

And so what I think it means is to stay curious, to want to see the whole person, to not freeze them in time. I think it’s to really care about their dreams and aspirations and to legitimately want to see them come true. And then I think it’s to be there for them in difficult moments and to be willing to think differently about what it takes to help someone kind of come out of a valley that they’re in.

And then lastly, I think it’s to hold them accountable, to expect them to be their best self. And I think it’s something that, this is kind of what I always tell people my personal take is I think it takes more work and I think it’s actually more efficient. It’s like, “Oh God, it does take a lot of time to really get to know someone.” I mean, our whole team knows at least, we have a very thorough hiring process and it just takes a lot of time. And I’ve had people be like, “Isn’t that a waste of time?” Or, “Why do you take all that time?” But then I look at the quality of our people and the length of our retention, and it’s like, “Well, isn’t it pretty expensive? Maybe you got this really efficient hiring process, but if you’re turning a hundred percent of your staff every year, isn’t that pretty expensive? Because it takes a whole lot of time to train someone up.” And sure is. I think we all get tired if we feel like we’re always re-explaining the same thing again and again.

So I think that’s really how I look at it. I think as with probably a theme with everything I’ll talk about, is I think it’s kind of this idea that we can actually often create results that are just as good, if not better by being a little bit generous or altruistic. But that kind of implies there actually is a self-interested twist to it as well. It’s not just some hippie ideology. It’s something that done right, can be really, really powerful and still kind of meet all those business objectives.

Kerala Taylor:
Absolutely. I mean, I have worked at some places with high turnover and I just can’t fathom how they can justify that from a business perspective. It is so much time and energy and cost to continually be hiring people and getting them up to speed and finding good candidates. And Katie and I both went through the hiring process. It’s definitely time-consuming on both ends. And hiring processes are never foolproof and they’re always subject to emotion and imprecise science, so to speak. But I do think we have landed on something to really find values-aligned people who add to the team.

Katie, I’m curious how you and Dave plan to carry on Cameron’s legacy of love. It’s one of those things that just makes PixelSpoke so special.

Katie Stone:
Yeah, I think mostly through mandatory hugs, all in-person meetings. No, yeah, I think Cameron touched on a lot of the things that we hope to continue on in this next phase of PixelSpoke. But when I really think about the core, I don’t know, the root of this legacy of love, it all starts I think with our core values. And especially enjoy the journey, authenticity and everybody wins. Those are the three that really resonate with me when it comes to infusing a little bit of love in the business.

I think that it’s really easy for folks to forget that we’re all full people that have lives outside of work. And what I’ve learned in the last five years at PixelSpoke is that getting to know people on a personal level, getting to know your coworkers really makes a huge difference. It makes the time at work a lot more fun, and to Cameron’s point, a lot more productive.

This is a phrase that Cameron has said many times, but we really believe that bringing your whole self to work enriches your life and the lives of our team. And I think the most important thing that Dave and I can do is to continue to make space for sharing and getting to know one another through things like coffee chats where we jump on Zoom for a 15 to 20 minute chat with one of our coworkers, through our team lunches. Every quarter we send folks DoorDash gift cards and ask them to have lunch with one another over Zoom. And our retreat, which we just got back from recently. I just think that that’s one of the most important times for us to really get to know one another on a deeper level and create those really strong bonds.

And those are the things that really get me excited to come to work every day. I love PixelSpoke. I love our purpose. I love the work we put out. I’m tremendously proud of it, but most of all, I really enjoy the folks I get to work with every single day.

Kerala Taylor:
Absolutely. And I’ve loved seeing newer team members kind of move from being very reserved to just opening up. Obviously, we’re not asking everyone to share their deepest, darkest secrets at any given time, but just them understanding and realizing that they’re in a safe space, a brave space, a space where they can open up and not be attacked for it or not have that held against them later. I think I might win the prize for the team member who’s cried the most in front of her coworkers. I don’t know if that’s a great prize, but hey, definitely bringing way more of myself to work than I have in any other job.

So Cameron, I have to admit that when you first announced you were stepping down as CEO, my first reaction was just one of extreme anxiety. I mean sadness, but also I know from personal experience, and I’m sure there are listeners who can relate to this, that a lot of leadership transitions just end up going incredibly awry. And there’s just this kind of hard balance between keeping the essence of a company’s culture intact, but also leaving room for future growth and evolution.

Now of course, in the credit union space, very few credit unions are founder-led these days. There are a few, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face leadership transitions that might be similarly daunting. So I don’t know. We’re on the other side of what I would actually deem a relatively seamless succession process. I don’t know how you guys feel. But I’m curious, Cameron, what advice you would give to credit union leaders when it comes to succession planning?

Cameron Madill:
Yeah, good question. Well, I mean, I’m glad to know that I nailed the extreme anxiety when I was prepping to share the news. I thought, “If I can just create just some pit-of-your-stomach anxiety, then I bet that’ll create some good vibes here.” Sorry about that.
I think credit unions have a big advantage over PixelSpoke in that we had never done something like this before. And I think anytime you do something for the first time, I do agree, I think it was almost shockingly seamless just because it’s a big change. And I think that’s a big credit to the whole team and especially Katie and Dave. But I do think we benefited. I mean, first of all, I gave the board two years’ notice. And so I think obviously, if you have to do it on two weeks or even three months, that’s pretty hard.

I think we benefited from hearing… We actually were at a conference that was mostly employee-owned companies, ESOPs, but still employee-owned. And one of our client services director, Ula, who I think many of the listeners might know, she heard a really great presentation that just kind of went through the best practices. So that’s sort of common sense, find and follow the best practices. I think we really benefited from, we see this all the time, but just going out and interviewing other companies and just hearing about their successes, but especially their failures.

I feel like we’ve typically seen over the years if we have a new initiative that we haven’t done before and we can just find three entities or people who’ve done it, kind of like usability testing, we’ll get 70 or 80% of the data. So I think we heard a lot of key insights there. And I think some of the key questions that maybe I just came up for us that were really, in retrospect obvious, but I think some of the big things are do you make it an interim position or do you make it a kind of permanent change?

And it was interesting hearing from organizations that if you’re really struggling, it seems like it can actually often be really beneficial to have an interim position because then someone’s kind of empowered to make the hard decisions and maybe not get blamed for them or not. You can have someone else be the long-term fit. Obviously, internal versus external. And we heard from a lot of folks that the big benefit of internal is you just know who you’re getting and you know their culture fit.

I think preparing really thoroughly, it’s kind of common sense. But I mean Katie and Dave and I, we had one heck of a thorough handoff and training plan. We had a succession planning committee we were accountable to every month. And then I think I did a good job of this, but I think making sure that the outgoing person steps back. I think it seems like sometimes that outgoing person is kind of like, they’re just sort of looming Darth Vader. And I think that’s my goal, of course, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to pull it off. So I don’t know, Katie, anything you would add? I feel like you obviously have a lot to offer there too.

Katie Stone:
Well, yeah, I mean I’ve really loved our approach to this transition. It has felt truly a transition as opposed to an abrupt change. And I think that’s because of all of the work we put in on the front end. I think over the last six to nine months, we’ve made that transition occur slowly. So it wasn’t a January 1 like changing of the guard, and I think that that made this change go much less disruptively than it might have otherwise gone.

So I think that that has been one of the key pieces of our success in making this transition, is just really getting ahead of it and starting to transition things early on as opposed to trying to flip a switch on a specific day.

Kerala Taylor:
Mm-hmm. And I would also just add the communication piece to the broader team. I think it didn’t feel like we were springing anything on anyone necessarily. I mean, maybe at the very beginning when it was announced, but I think we made an effort. We had one-on-ones with everyone who wasn’t on the board, and just really feeling like we were bringing people into that process.

So Cameron, I know you’ve learned a ton about leadership with your experience as CEO for 20 years, but I also know you’ve learned a lot about leadership from hosting this podcast. This is your 98th episode of The Remarkable Credit Union. I was almost like, “Oh, maybe you should just host two more to get to a hundred.”

Cameron Madill:
So close. Yeah.

Kerala Taylor:
Yeah. So close. But I’m just curious how the guests that we’ve had on this podcast have helped you deepen your understanding of what leadership means and just of the broader credit union movement.

Cameron Madill:
Boy, good question. I mean, I have really loved hosting this podcast. There are so many amazing folks in the credit union space. I think it has taught me and helped me to think really deeply about what is my role in society? What does leadership look like? Who are our stakeholders? I’ve loved hearing all these different folks sharing how they think about their stakeholders. I’ve loved hearing the different ways in which people think about how impact and financial results can kind of travel together, whether that’s lining up grants to support meaningful programs or creating a multi-sided model where you have a group of often low-income folks who need loans and can you pair that with high savings folks, but in a way that creates that natural connection.

And maybe I think something that I think just maybe isn’t talked about enough, which is just how special and how important the credit union space is. I think even a credit union that may not feel like it’s doing anything particularly remarkable is in and of itself a remarkable entity. It is a cooperatively-owned institution that is transforming through its existence, access to financial products. I really think if we remove the credit union system as a whole and you remove that kind of competitive pressure on the for-profit banking sector, we would have a dramatically worse landscape as far as access and affordability.

And so I think just sort of celebrating that. And I just think of all the times that PixelSpoke, when I was really down on myself, I felt like we were very unremarkable, I felt like we were struggling, whatever it might be. And just sort of similarly, just remembering how special it is to have a group of people out there fighting for a different set of principles and fighting for a group of people who really don’t have anyone to represent them in the financial sector and just how important that is, and how good I think everyone who works at a credit union should feel just for being a part of that.

And I think I’ll borrow one last piece here that I really admire about credit unions, and it’s something that I think I first learned in the B Corp space, which was when we first became a certified B corporation, sort of similar. I was like, “Oh, we’re this tiny company. We just certified. And here I am in a meeting with Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s, these big companies that had this really shiny marketing and really clear social purpose in addition to financial purpose.” But ultimately, those companies have tons of problems and inconsistencies and places where they’re not living up to their purpose or their values. And what’s special about them is that they keep trying.

And I think credit unions are the same way. And I think that’s just sort of that commitment to values and purpose and just saying, “Every day, I’m going to keep trying. And you know what? If I blew it today or if I didn’t try today, I’m going to try again tomorrow.” But coming back to that is really just so special and so rare. And so I think that’s to be celebrated and it’s how I try to live my life as well.

Kerala Taylor:
Oh, I love that. I’m going to transition real quickly to some rapid-fire questions. I know we’re running up on time here. So Cameron, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Cameron Madill:
Dude, I have no idea. But the one that pops into my head, I love this. This is from our technology director, Fitz Ryland. And he was taught at a young age, apparently from I think his stepdad that relationships matter. And I learned this at our most recent retreat. He follows this so much. He has a tattoo that says, “Relationships matter.” And indeed, relationships matter.

Kerala Taylor:
I did not know that. I’ll have to try to…

Cameron Madill:
Fun fact.

Kerala Taylor:
[inaudible 00:33:19]. Fun. All right, Katie, equally deep question. What is your life slogan?

Katie Stone:
I would have to steal this one from PixelSpoke. It’s got to be enjoy the journey.

Kerala Taylor:
Incidentally, which is what we had printed on our socks. We call them our Enjoy the Journey Pixel Socks. All right. Cameron, you have traveled a lot. What is a place you’d like to visit that you’ve never visited?

Cameron Madill:
I mean, the answer is anywhere. I haven’t been already, but I’ll pick one that I’ve always wanted to go to Mali and visit Timbuktu. And they’ve had a lot of really challenging circumstances there and it just hasn’t really been safe. But I was a history major and it just has this mythical, amazing allure to it for me of just kind of one of the epic cities of human history.

Kerala Taylor:
Great. And Katie, what is a song you’re most embarrassed to admit you like?

Katie Stone:
I have no embarrassment over this, but yeah, there’s a super poppy song. You guys might know it. Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind. When that came out, I was in college, and so I printed out the lyrics and learned all of them. And it’s just a really pop-forward song, but it gets me singing along every time.

Kerala Taylor:
Well thanks, Katie. Now that’s going to be stuck in my head the rest of the day. All right, let’s do our final take. As a reminder, our big question today was what should credit union leaders focus on to best equip their teams for success, to maximize impact and ensure the longevity of their credit union? Definitely a big question, but in just a few sentences, can each of you sum up your thoughts? Start with you, Cameron.

Cameron Madill:
All right. And I see why we call these big questions [inaudible 00:35:01] answer. I think my thoughts would be remind your team constantly of the why and remember that the magic is in the trying.

Kerala Taylor:
I love it.

Katie Stone:
Yeah. And for me, I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it just all starts with your core values. Take the time to make sure that they really resonate with you and your entire team, and then commit to them and live them every day.

Kerala Taylor:
Well, I feel like I could continue this conversation for hours, but thank you so much. And, Cameron, thank you for 98 amazing episodes. We are going to miss you.

Cameron Madill:
Well, you can always invite me back. But yeah, thank you for having me. And it’s been real special doing this with a special team at PixelSpoke and a special community in the credit union movement.

Kerala Taylor:
Wonderful. And, Katie, we’ll hear from you again in April.

Katie Stone:
Looking forward to it.

Kerala Taylor:
Take care.
All right. It’s time for our three key takeaways. As usual, it’s really hard to distill all that good stuff we just talked about into a few bullet points. But here goes. Number one, it’s concept of continually coming back to the why. I bet many of you are familiar with leadership expert, Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. And that’s great and important, but we also need to keep revisiting it.

At most workplaces, we have a tendency to focus too much on the how and the what. And I loved what Cameron said about work being more than just an exchange of money for time. Employees at every level really need to connect to a broader meaning to feel both motivated and valued. And specifically for credit union leaders and marketers, we all know it’s important to get new members in the door. We got to increase account openings and loan applications, but we also need to keep connecting the dots between these hows and whats and the broader mission of the credit union movement, which is all about financial inclusion.
Secondly, a strong working culture doesn’t happen by default. If a company isn’t intentional about culture, it’s just more likely to reflect the personalities of the people at the top. And sometimes that can mean a positive culture, but it tends to be more volatile and subject to change as leadership shifts.

So both Katie and I have worked at places where core values have been a little more than just a poster on a wall. And if culture is going to be an intentional and sustained effort, employees really need to be living and breathing core values every day. They should not only be able to recite them on demand, I can assure you that every team member at PixelSpoke can do that, but they should also be using them to guide their relationships and decisions on a daily basis.

And lastly, let’s all remember that profit is a means to an end. Cameron’s business coach told him that profit is no more of the purpose of business than oxygen is the purpose of life. What a great way to frame it. But in our late stage capitalist economy, it just seems that many business leaders seem to confuse profit with the why, and it’s really part of the how and sometimes the what. So yes, profit’s important. We all know that. But focusing too much on it can actually really damage relationships and hurt the long-term sustainability of a company.

Well, thanks for joining us today for another great episode. And I have to say a somewhat bittersweet one. I just want to thank Cameron one more time for all he’s done to shape and evolve this podcast over the years. Katie and I have some big shoes to fill, we know. The Remarkable Credit Union is brought to you by PixelSpoke, a digital marketing agency that works with credit unions to create user-friendly, high-converting, award-winning websites. As a B Corp and employee-owned cooperative, we believe that business can and should be a force for good.

You can learn more and check out our work at PixelSpoke.coop. That’s PixelSpoke, all one word, dot C-O-O-P. Until the next time, I wish you the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.