Guest Post

Weather the Storm Together: Associate with others to find and keep your nerve…

by Linda Keith CPA CSP

When sea kayaking in rough waters, paddlers spread out and struggle to stay in their boat. It is human nature to hunker down in a storm, but the experienced paddlers understand the value in staying close and are always looking ahead to understand the now and spot the next.

I keep my nerve by gathering with well-chosen professional colleagues. I apply the fruits of those relationships to my business: consulting with financial institutions on lending guidelines and training lenders to find and make good loans.

If you have been to a professional conference of late, have you noticed the positive energy? Yes, attendance is down. The National Speakers Association annual convention was at 80 percent of usual attendance. The CUNA Lending Council Conference was about the same.

But who are the 80 percent? The serious players. I have seen more collaboration, more action-oriented brainstorming and more generosity in the last year than in the previous five years.

Conferences are an important part of my strategy to
• keep my nerve (and find it if it tries to get away),
• create relationships for collaboration and brainstorming,
• sift through good ideas I can apply to my business,
• learn more about whatever I am actively working on, and
• focus on NOW and NEXT to improve my business

As I leave conferences, I am invigorated and armed with new ideas and variations on the tried-and-true. I have run my own new ideas past trusted colleagues and made them better. Realistically, I work on implementing less than half of the ideas I thought I would. Probably less than 1/8th of those worked the way I thought they might. But some of them worked.

Example One: My client industry, banking, could easily vie with auto dealers and South Florida real estate brokers for the injured-industry-of-the-recession contest. Lender training workshops are cancelling due to tight training and travel budgets. I have traditionally offered a set fee to banking associations who host my lending workshops on 'Tax Return Analysis in a Tough Lending Environment'.

Idaho Bankers Association and I came up with a no-risk way for the association to offer the workshop. Using a revenue-split, I take the downside risk that we do not meet our enrollment targets but participate in the upside if enrollment beats targets. This win-win-win (the association, its members and me) would not have happened in the business-as-usual pre-recession. We are a go for next week.

Example Two: We are offering 'local' trainings in cities over an hour from our usual venues in the bigger cities. The bank or credit union offers meeting space and the local bank and credit union chapters co-promote, creating another way to bring training to lenders who need it.

Some of these ideas are so good we will continue with them well after the recession is over. We are finding better ways to do what we do…for us and for our clients.

Linda Keith CPA CSP consults with banks and credit unions on business lending guidelines and trains lenders to say "yes" to good loans.

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