Credit unions and CUSOs are using their investing powers to be more innovative and entrepreneurial when it comes to technology and new products and services. Many are exploring co-investing with individuals and business founders who are looking for additional capital from credit unions. While these partnerships between credit union investors and individuals generate fresh new ideas, they sometimes face friction as the two cultures collide.

I had the opportunity to speak on this issue with Kirk Drake, CEO of Ongoing Operations and Brian Lauer, Partner at Messick, Lauer & Smith in the panel “Entrepreneurs as Co-Owners of CUSOs – Managing Different Business Styles and Expectationsat the 2017 NACUSO Network Conference in Orlando, Florida.

In a packed breakout session we discussed how credit unions and CUSOs should persuade individuals to work for their organization and how to build a bridge between two different perspectives. One of the most important things credit unions and CUSOs must do is recognize the asymmetry between a highly-regulated credit union environment and a swift, entrepreneurial culture. Recognizing these differences is the first step to understanding how to incentivize entrepreneurs not just from a financial standpoint, but from an emotional and strategic position so that you can grow your organization as a team.

Are you looking for growth? If you are like most leaders, the answer is probably “yes.” Growth is essential to every business regardless of industry, size or geography. Even if you are growing now, you must continue to grow to be successful in the future. At Capstone we believe in the maxim “grow or die” and are dedicated to helping our clients grow.

We recently had the opportunity to share our passion for growth with the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO). Capstone Managing Director John Dearing sat down with NACUSO to share our story of bringing strategic mergers and acquisitions to the CUSO world.

What’s your current position and can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

In short, we are growth engineers and I’m a Partner and Managing Director at Capstone.

Capstone helps our clients develop and execute strategic, external growth plans – investments and acquisitions, partnerships and alliances. It is my responsibility to make sure our clients are happy. I oversee delivery of client engagements. One of our measures of success is if clients come back for more. We make sure we have the right team to be able to work with clients over long periods of time. We consider it an accomplishment to have worked with some of our clients for decades. In fact, we are proud to continue working with our first client from 1995.

Read the complete interview on the NACUSO website.

Last week Capstone Managing Director John Dearing had the opportunity to attend the 2016 NACUSO Annual Conference on April 4-7, 2016.

Over 400 people attended the Las Vegas event, exchanging ideas and listening to industry experts. Conference topics included investment services, insurance services, innovation and operations, technology, member business lending, mortgage services, and business development.

Erik Wahl, an internationally recognized speed artist, author and entrepreneur, delivered the opening keynote. Wahl’s message “UNTHINK” inspired CUSO leaders to expand creatively beyond traditional thought patterns and unlock new ideas.

John Dearing attended the Conference because of Capstone’s many years of experience in helping CUSO clients grow through M&A.  “It’s an exciting time to be in the CUSO space,” John reported. “Leaders are thinking of new ways to grow and we’re finding increased interest in pursuing strategic M&A as an avenue for growth.”

Below are some snapshots from the trip:

Keynote speaker Erik Wahl presents at the 2016 NACUSO Annual Conference.

Keynote speaker Erik Wahl presents at the 2016 NACUSO Annual Conference.

Erik Wahl's artwork.

Erik Wahl’s artwork.

CUSO leaders listen to industry experts at the 2016 NACUSO Annual Conference.

CUSO leaders listen to industry experts at the 2016 NACUSO Annual Conference.

All photos taken by John Dearing, Managing Director, Capstone.

Strategic mergers and acquisitions can be a powerful tool for growing your CUSO, but much of your success depends on finding the right partner. How can you identify the right partner for growth?

The best way to begin your search is to identify the ideal markets in which to grow your organization. Once you have researched and selected the top markets for growth, you can begin searching for potential partners in that market that will help your CUSO grow!

Capstone is excited to be partnering with the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO) for an exciting webinar. NACUSO helps credit unions explore the use of CUSOs and the delivery of non-traditional products and services.

In this webinar, led by John Dearing, Managing Director of Capstone, you will learn how to use a demand-driven approach to search for the right partner systematically and efficiently. John has led a successful acquisition program for nearly twenty years, including over ten years of helping CUSOs grow through external growth and M&A.

Date: February 16, 2016

Time: 12:30 – 1:30 PM ET

Successfully executing a deal can be tricky, even if you already know the acquisition prospect. In fact, your existing relationship may complicate the deal. Acquiring a company that you’ve worked with can make it difficult to objectively evaluate the opportunity.

Bonnie Ciuffo, President of South Carolina Financial Solutions (SCFS), and John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, discussed these dynamics in the webinar “Finding the Right Equation for Successful M&A” hosted by NACUSO on June 26.

Last year Capstone guided SCFS, a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides benefit solutions, in its acquisition of long-term business partner Innova Plan Strategies. So the webinar was informed with plenty of shared experience.

“Just because you have a great relationship with the owner doesn’t mean it’s a great acquisition,” Bonnie said.

Even when it is the right decision, many pieces of the puzzle must fit together to successfully execute the deal. It’s important to understand the owner’s motivations for selling and to facilitate open communication between parties to put together the right equation.

Bonnie and John used the SCFS-Innova acquisition in the webinar to illustrate the M&A process for CUSOs and how the deal was structured to the mutual benefit of both buyer and seller.

For more information and to view the webinar archive, please click here.

Every company is for sale, for the right equation. This maxim applies to companies in any industry, including credit unions and CUSOs.  In “CUSO Consolidation Should Begin With Benefits” the Credit Union Times reports insights from Capstone’s webinar with NACUSO  presented by Managing Director John Dearing. Read the entire article here: “CUSO Consolidation Should Begin With Benefits.”


Photo Credit: Andrea via Compfight cc

How can you quickly grow a CUSO? Consider acquisition. Acquisition or external growth is a powerful tool for any organization – regardless of industry. Often, acquisition is one of the quickest and most effective ways to grow.

As CUSOs grow so do opportunities for business mergers and acquisitions. Yesterday, Capstone Managing Director John Dearing presented on “M&A in the CUSO World: A Proactive, Strategic Approach to Growth” as part of NACUSO’s educational webinar series.

John spoke on lessons in the for-profit world that the CUSO world can learn from. Capstone has experience working in both worlds having successfully facilitated deals for CUSOs and for companies in other industries. The webinar included new ideas for strategic growth, acquisition as a growth strategy, developing a strategic criteria, and tools for exploration and execution of an acquisition.

Capstone would like to thank NACUSO for providing this opportunity to share.

Last Wednesday was an exciting day at the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO) Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Capstone’s Managing Director, John Dearing, presented the talk “Entrepreneur/CEO: Mergers and Acquisitions in the CUSO World” during a breakout session at the conference.

Acquisition is one of the fastest and most exciting ways to grow a business in any industry. Drawing from Capstone’s experience with mergers and acquisitions, both in the for-profit and CUSO world, John spoke on key concepts entrepreneurs must keep in mind when considering the purchase of another company. The talk also covered trends in the credit union industry, including Capstone’s experience successfully managing business acquisitions for CUSOs.