Cooperative Business Design 101

Grand Rapids, MI – July 6th, 2011
As part of its 20th Annual Leadership Conference, CU*Answers CEO Randy Karnes discussed taking the strategy for taking traditional credit union Communities, and building them as a Cooperative.

In delivering this strategy, Karnes talked about the differences between “cooperation” and a true cooperative business design. He said that one (cooperation) is about getting along, while the latter is about leveraging and maximizing a business design to get ahead. He went on to present that there is a distinct difference between the social and the economic specifics that define a charter. For instance, Karnes said that while cooperation is based around being socially acceptable, a cooperative model is instead designed to gain competitive advantage for a credit union’s membership.

He questioned how passionate credit unions often are about the cooperative design. He presented that for the past 40+ years, the day-to-day mission in running a credit union seems to have drowned out the vision and decision to have organized our firms as cooperatives several generations ago, and that today it’s not uncommon for credit unions to foster a been-there, done-that attitude – and believing that today’s consumers “just don’t care”.

However, as Karnes stated to attending CEO’s, we are not talking specifically about consumers…but instead, talking as stakeholders challenged to design a robust business, and constantly seeking new strategies to ignite enthusiasm needed to propel your credit union into the future. He then went on to describe several steps in how credit unions may re-ignite this passion for developing a cooperative spirit and advantage.

For more information about CU*Answers 20th Annual Leadership Conference, download Presentation Materials and Conference Handouts at