In the course of a normal workweek I end up communicating with several folks at credit unions – most of which are in a managerial or leadership position in the organization.  Recently, I’ve been checking in with many of them who put a project on the back-burner last fall or early this year because of the uncertainty of our economy.  In many ways this was a very appropriate reaction:  there’s uncertainty, we need to batten down the hatches and ride this thing out.

I must admit though – that the current perspective of a good portion of these folks is somewhat surprising.  In general, the response is something like “Mike, it’s been a tough year.  We’ve closed a couple of branches, loan volume is down, collections are up and I’ve had to reduce staff to trim our expenses.  We just are not going to be able to look at any of these projects until business picks back up.”

Are we missing the boat?

Since this is a blog – and can be an opinion – please let me float one opinion that I hold.  Now is the perfect time to incorporate technology to streamline your operations and become more effective.  Let me outline a few reasons why I believe so strongly this is the case:

  1. Fewer people can accomplish more – if they have better tools.  OK, you’ve had to reduce staffing to a point that you can afford while still keeping the boat afloat.  In some situations there is less volume or activity so you really do need fewer staff.  In other situations just having less business doesn’t mean there are fewer things to do.  Point 1 is that you now have fewer people doing the work that more used to do – and they can only keep up if you give them better tools to do the job.
  2. It’s easier to implement projects while things are a bit slower.  This is one of those dual-edged sword phenomenas.  In boom times the mantra is “we can’t afford to spend the time to implement that project” and in tough times the mantra is “we can’t afford to spend the time to implement that project”.  The fact of the matter is that it will be much easier to implement a project now when times are a bit slow than it is later while you are trying to ramp up.  Not only that, you’ll get a better implementation because staff can afford to pay more attention to details now than they will a year from now.
  3. As business comes back you want to be more effective on the way up.  Oddly enough, operational problems are usually discovered and addressed at the very height of frenzy.  If you think about it though, right now you have the opportunity to retool and refine operations while you are lean and mean.  And putting in place the right tools can help you keep that operational effectiveness as your organization grows again.  When you get to the top of the curve this time you will be better prepared and it will take less resources (expense) to do the same amount of work it did the last time.

Get ready to make hay now!

There is an old business adage that is absolutely spot-on:  “Make hay while the sun shines!”  Obviously, the sun is not shining now and has not been for a few months.  But it will again …

So, what do you think we head out to the machine shed and get the equipment all greased up and ready to go?  At fiVISION, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.  Retooling our products and refining our processes to be even more efficient as the business climate returns.  Together we can make more hay this time around if we are prepared and ready to roll at the first hint of sunlight.