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What I learned in my first year as a CEO - Part 1

July 12, 2019

By: Jim Struble

One year ago, I was hopping into my packed-to-the-brim car in NY after saying a tearful goodbye to my four kids and my wife, knowing I wouldn’t see them for weeks and not knowing when we would live together again under the same roof. It was going to be the longest stretch of my life away from any of them. I was headed to a city I had never lived in, for a job I had never done, with people I had never met, but I knew in my heart it was the right move to make.

Fast forward to today, and this morning I hopped into that same car to head to work after kissing the family goodbye (well the ones that were awake at 6 am anyway) and drove to work. I can do the drive in my sleep at this point. My coworkers have become family too, and I know each of them quite well. This weekend we are all getting together for a picnic and games with our families! I’m becoming an avid Blues fan (a little too over the top at times for my 12-year-old when I play Gloria), Cardinals fan, and swear Pappy’s ribs are the best on earth. St. Louis fits me, and I’m happy to be here.

A lot of changes in a year! As CEO, I’ve learned more than can be written in one blog post, so I am breaking it up into a bunch of them. At times I feel like I know what I’m doing, and at times I feel like it’s a firehose of new information coming my way. More than anything, this role has reinforced my belief that you have to be your authentic self at work to do your best. With all that is expected of my role, I wouldn’t have the energy to try to be anyone but myself. Meaning our Electro family hears these words a lot at work: family, collaboration, future, development, caring, and support. Also, the phrase, “Tell me more!

In this post, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learned about my new work-family… because really, people are what it’s all about. As I like to tell them, “I work for you, not the other way around.” I am a tool in their toolbox as we all strive together to make Electro Savings the best place to work and bank in the St. Louis area.

In the last year, I’ve made it my mission to get to know each of my coworkers as well as possible. I meet one-on-one with each staff member once a year, and these have been the most impactful meetings I’ve had in my professional life! We talk about how the organization is performing for them, what hurdles they have at work we can knock down, what makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning, and what their long-term goals are and how I can support them.

I can tell you that I’ve never worked with such an amazing team of people! They have opened up to me in many ways and shared their lives, dreams, and frustrations with me along the way. It has given me a golden opportunity to become part of their lives and support their professional and personal goals, and I am truly grateful for it. I FULLY, 100%, believe that a workplace should know about and support these goals, even if it doesn’t relate to the work at hand. We have staff who have shared that they want to become CEOs, department heads, small business owners, better parents, home-owners, and retirees. We have a staff member who wants to live in a specific town in a specific state that isn’t Missouri or Illinois, one who wants to travel the US in an RV, and a one who wants to become a better public speaker. We will support each of these goals; the best we can and believe the credit union is better for it in the end if we do so.

To help support our Electro family, we have made many changes in the last year.

  1. I meet with every employee one-on-one annually for “Stay Interviews.”
  2. We implemented a 90-day survey for new hires. Feedback is the breakfast of champions!
  3. We created a Professional Development Award program for staff who have not had the opportunity in the past to go to a learning conference, sending staff to Washington DC, Colorado, and other great locations.
  4. We tweaked policies to provide more branded clothing to staff and to relax the dress policies.
  5. We created zero-interest employee loans for professional dress and technology and created employee discounts for our various loan products to help ease the pressure we all feel with finances.
  6. We implemented a bring your child to work day and are about to have our first family picnic.
  7. We started a program specifically for implementing employee ideas that won a national award for employee engagement.
  8. We included more staff into incentive programs and even created new incentive programs to include positions that haven’t before.
  9. We started a Training Department, so everyone has a chance to develop and be successful at work.
  10. We defined what our culture is, and we make sure we live and model it each day.

I can’t promise that is everything we have done to help support our Electro family (I know I’m going to post this and think of ten more), but I can promise that we aren’t stopping after just a year. Our goal is to become the best place to work and bank in St. Louis. There is more to come, and I am already excited to look back in July of 2020 and be even more proud of what we have accomplished together!

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