Plowing Forward With Experience
Janine S. Creager
January 23, 2012
Kris Mecham is driven in more ways than one. Whether in his role as president and CEO of Deseret First Credit Union (DFCU), or on the golf course with his sons, Mecham is committed to whatever is required of him.
“One of the things that golfers like to do is hit the driver off the tee,” says Mecham. But, he adds, in business as well as in golf, “It’s not how far they drive the ball, it’s how few strokes it takes you to get to the hole. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who provide the best service.”
Although Mecham travels the region with DFCU, and across the country in his additional role as chairman of the board of directors of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), he still considers himself just a farm boy from Idaho.
“I learned that sometimes, patience is far more valuable in achieving the desired result rather than being first,” he says, recalling his own anxiousness at seeing a neighbor’s field plowed before their own. “Many times my father would say, ‘You cannot rush the time of the field’ and would have me hold off a few days. Later, I learned there were many pitfalls ranging from creating more clods in an effort to groom the soil to exposing young plants to frost damage by planting too early.”
This well-learned lesson, among many others, has stayed with Mecham throughout his life and career.
At age 22, Mecham entered the credit union industry as a junior in college, when he was hired as the manager of the Atomic Workers (now Westmark) Credit Union in Blackfoot, Idaho. When graduation came, there was no place else he wanted to be.
“The credit union business has been my entire career,” he says. “I saw my job as a means to the end [initially, but when I graduated], that’s when I committed full time to this industry.” But what was it about the credit union business that appealed to him at such an early age?
“I would say that it was the personal connection to the members that was the biggest conversion for me to this industry,” he says. “I was in that branch for three years. I could have called over 60 percent of those [members] by name. My staff could have called all by name.” Even though the numbers are much larger, that sense of connecting to credit union members is still at the forefront of Mecham’s leadership.
“We have always been member-oriented and focusing on member needs,” he explains. “When things got tough, they would come to their credit union seeking information. Our credibility has increased. We have never changed who we are and what we’ve done, nor will we.”
Which takes him right back to his roots. Although times, circumstances and resources may change, those early lessons of creativity and imagination, in making do with what you have, and insuring a long-term resolution rather than a quick “bailing-wire” repair, have always paid off in the end.
“My heart will always be a farm boy,” says Mecham who visits the family farm every other month. “I’m just a Pingree farm boy [caught up in the big city life]. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I think that’s what grounds me.”