Amidst all of the opinions, perspectives, and ideas that bombard the mind during the first few weeks of a New Year, it’s often difficult to know what to listen to and what to ignore.

One thing seems certain at this point: The year ahead will bring challenges and opportunities for credit unions.

But no matter what unfolds, there are a few key fundamentals that must make your focus list:

1. Convenience…driving consumers yesterday, today, and tomorrow…if you can find a way to make it more convenient than others who seek to provide the same service and you can do it consistently, you will emerge as the winner in the mind of the consumer and in your target market. If you can’t, you will never be the provider of choice, no matter how great your products and services.

2. Collaboration…working together has never been more important to credit union success…building new relationships with members, suppliers, peers, and even competitors will define credit union success more and more in the years ahead, and it should be an easy step for an industry built on cooperation.

3. Connections…building strong connections with members using every available channel is no longer an option, it is a mandate that must be followed…finding ways to leverage your past to define bridge to your future by sharing member stories and inviting members into the conversation needs to be very high on the to do list.

4. Creativity…searching for new and different ways to do things is an imperative in an increasingly uncertain world…it’s about more than just getting out of the box; it’s time to create new boxes where the old rules don’t apply, where the rules are negotiable on a one-to-one level between all of the relevant players, and where things are done in new ways that may completely redefine your credit union’s role in the marketplace.

5. Culture…instilling a strong culture within your credit union is a critical pathway to success…newer employees don’t have the same perspective or background regarding what makes a credit union different and better, and they can’t possibly give the members knowledge, insight, and understanding that they do not have.

6. Compassion…challenging times can lead employees and members to behave in unfamiliar ways…recognizing that external factors may be responsible and finding ways to provide support and understanding in the midst of the personal crises that arise in the year ahead may go a long way toward building and maintaining your reputation for member service.

7. Change…living with constant change that is both unfamiliar and occurring with increasing speed has become the norm…finding ways to help employees and members come to grips with change and making it easy as possible for them to make the inevitable transitions that are required must become part of the conversation every day.

8. Channels…increasing diversity of members forces the use of multiple channels of service delivery and communication…there is no longer one right way and relying on a single channel for anything will guarantee one thing: failure with everyone who doesn’t use that channel as their primary means of interacting with your credit union.

9. Clarity…managing uncertainty increases the need for clarity in everything that you do…review every member touch point to ensure that you have clarity from both the member’s perspective and the employee’s perspective, and look for ways to make things as simple and as fast as possible to meet the needs of stressed consumers.

10. Content…creating strong content that helps members succeed financially is a must today…become the go-to-source for financial management tips, tools, and tactics for your members by creating bite-sized lessons that help them learn the things they need and want to know to take full advantage of the teachable moment brought about by the current economy; find ways to deliver the content online, in-person, and one-on-one.

11. Communication…listening has never been more important and must replace talking as a means of interacting with members…asking questions, hearing the answers, and acting on the information is the key to building member relationships that last, and it can only happen when credit unions make it easy for the member to enter the conversation by setting it up in the format they want.

12. Community…expanding your credit unions presence in the community is a must in a world where people are desperate for solutions…reach out beyond the traditional pathways you have always relied upon and make sure your brand is known, not only to those who are eligible for membership, but also by those who influence those who are eligible, as well as community leaders, peers, and competitors.

ACTION ADVICE: Share this list with your leadership team, your Board, and your employees. Look for ways to take action in these areas in the year ahead and prioritize the ones that need your attention first. Chances are you’re already doing many of these things, but take a closer look and identify small things you can do to improve in each area…it will pay off in the form of stronger member, employee, and business relationships that will support your long term growth and success!