Never burn a bridge with former girlfriends. It can jump start a career. I stayed friendly with my high school girlfriend Maryanne who married John Unangst the President of Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union. John formed one of the first CUSOs in 1988. The CUSO provided mortgage services and data processing services to multiple credit unions. As a result of meeting John through Maryanne, I formed John’s CUSO. John became a director on the newly formed NACUSO Board and asked me to go with him to San Diego on his dime to a NACUSO Conference and play golf. My bags were packed before he finished his invitation.
In San Diego, I did a presentation to a four table conference. John suggested to the NACUSO Board that I be their General Counsel. My most attractive feature was that I was free. So began my representation of NACUSO. I thought I could handle this gig as CUSOs are essentially small businesses and I had a lot of experience representing small businesses, including being the attorney for the local Chamber of Commerce. I grew up in a small business. My parents owned two restaurants. Eventually, my practice evolved into the near exclusive representation of credit unions and CUSOs.
The part of our practice that gets my juices flowing is helping credit unions create and expand CUSOs and other collaborative relationships. How can we structure a relationship between organizations and people that will reward all participants on a personal and professional level? Collaboration is not easy. It is not altruistic. It is finding people with the right values and incentives to work together to achieve a common goal. It is a challenge but when it works, it can provide amazing results.