HAUPPAUGE, N.Y.—Business needs to be intentional and purposeful. That thought continues to guide the thinking of Robert O’Hara, VP-strategic alliances with Groovecar, who also finds a principal espoused by Sir Richard Branson to be the foundation for his management philosophy.

Below, O’Hara shares his thoughts on management and leadership as part of CUToday.info’s “The Corner.”

CUToday.info: What intangible of leadership is most difficult to convey or prepare for?

O’Hara: I find the quote by Jack Welch, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion,” perfect for the mission being carried out here at GrooveCar. As an organization, GrooveCar is passionate about providing superior benefits and value to credit union members through integrity. An intangible of leadership in a world which thrives solely to serve the bottom line, I would say integrity in the business process can be difficult to prepare for. We may find ourselves in a position of ignoring the inner voice that knows what a good business practice is over one that simply could bring an organization down or tarnish an industry through less-than honest dealings or short term gain.

CUToday.info: Are you a fan of a management books or books? If not, why not. If so, which have resonated with you and why?

O’Hara: There are several management books I can think of but one that specifically resonates with me more than others and has impacted my management style is “Jack: Straight from the Gut,” by Jack Welch.  Considered by many to be “The Manager of the 20th Century” covering 20 years at General Electric (GE), where he reinvented GE on numerous occasions by embracing new and innovative methods into its many lines of business.  I found this book to not only explore how big businesses can succeed and fail but also how to push to get the most out of yourself and your team.  Currently, I am following the founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. His blog provides a fresh perspective on business growth and being of value to your company, employees and those you do business with. We are all entwined and one of his blog postings summed it perfectly, “If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business—it’s that simple. Money should never be a solitary driver in business. If you don’t care about your product, and its purpose, you will fall short of your expectations.”  As I engage with my team and create opportunity for our credit unions I keep this principal in mind and put them first. Business needs to be intentional and purposeful.

CUToday.info: Innovation: four syllable getting all the attention. Deservedly, so?  If so, can you really drive innovation? Or is it coming at the cost of implementation and delivery?

 O’Hara: Innovation is a term many companies like to use when describing their business practice or offerings. However, many fall short of embedding it into their organization because they are solely focused on bottom line projections instead of recognizing that it is critical to engage the end user by further satisfying their needs and expectations.  Embedding a culture that focuses on innovation is what drives businesses to remain relevant while also becoming a leader in their industry.   

For instance, at GrooveCar, we have three distinct end users – credit unions, auto dealerships and credit union members.  We recognized early on the trend towards mobile friendly websites. We knew having a mobile responsive site would impact purchasing so we immediately embraced this innovation of bringing our auto loan tools useable on all formats. A current trend addressed with innovation is the buying power of millennials. Sixty-four million millennials are expected to purchase a car in the U.S. over the next five years. Driven by technology this group grew up on-line and continue to spend much of their time on technology. GrooveCar recognizes this group will be very important to our success and that is why we are further enhancing our site to exceed their expectations. 

Our new website launch, coming this year, will be geared towards further enhancing our ability to capture this group. The innovative ways to create auto loan business continues to change; this creates new opportunity for growth. We want to reach and influence the auto buying consumer and meet their needs, innovation helps to achieve that.

CUToday.info: If you could go back and talk to: You on the First Day on the Job, what advice do you share?

O’Hara: Is a veteran of the credit union industry, having worked as VP of lending and operations for over 10 years, I understand the highly competitive loan market, specifically auto loans. I witnessed the emergence of changing technology and how it interacts with the consumer to bring them the services they need at a faster pace. Understanding the relationship between the credit union member and valued services is important. Being one step ahead of trends and member preferences helps us to achieve our goals of being responsive.  My credit union experience led me to value relationships and integrity, so on that first day I would go back and tell myself to really value what you learn here. What you learn today will follow and guide you on many levels.

CUToday.info: My Keeps me up at night concern is? Why? And My Let’s me sleep at night optimism is?

O’Hara: What keeps me up at night… our new baby! Our second son was born almost a week ago. From an industry perspective, I will have late night thoughts about what is working in our industry and what is not and how to stay ahead of the trends.  You should always aim to be in your prime and to constantly focus on growing your business.  That is easier said than done since the road to capture that growth can vary tremendously from one company or industry to the next. 

Staying ahead and growing the business comes down to understanding how consumers want to be reached and serviced, to meet their needs. That being said, you need a plan that delivers on that commitment along with a team that is passionate and driven to success and one that can execute.  In that same approach, I want to make sure our story is being told correctly through the right channels, especially since we have three different end users. Effective communication is such a dwindling commodity; the methods to reach people are diverse and changing. The consistent message needs to be conveyed and sometimes I see there are too many options through the digital channels eroding the one-to-one relationship. 

Recognizing these points and implementing them throughout our organization is comforting but we can never be satisfied with what we have done, tomorrow is another day. 

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