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Ep. 328 – Lisa Ginter, CEO CommunityAmerica Credit Union

Lisa Ginter began working at CommunityAmerica Credit Union in 1995 and is now the CEO. Lisa is one of three Kansas Citians to be recognized in 2019 among the ‘Top 100 Financial Executives’ by the national Business Journal network, and has been selected as a ‘Power 100’ honoree by the Kansas City Business Journal every year since becoming CEO. Joel sat down with Lisa to talk credit unions, people and Patrick Mahomes.

Joel Goldberg:
Welcome into Rounding The Bases. I’m Joel Goldberg, and hope that your 2020 is off to a good start. I’ve got a phenomenal guest today, and one that I’ve been wanting to bring on the podcast for a while. It certainly was not for a lack of interest or accommodation on her part, just a matter of her being busy, me being busy. But this was someone that I met, I think, probably back in March of 2018. Her name is Lisa Ginter, and she first joined CommunityAmerica Credit Union back in 1995. And all these years later, she is the CEO, and she also happens to be, along with being a fantastic person, a great leader, and a leader at a place where people want to be, people want to work. So I’m always intrigued at leaders that have people showing up for work, loving what they’re doing, that have a purpose to what they’re doing.

Joel Goldberg:
A little bit more about Lisa, she was, in 2019 ,one of three Kansas Citians to be recognized among the top 100 financial executives by the National Business Journal Network. She’s been selected as the power 100 honoree by the Kansas City Business Journal every year since becoming CEO. She’s been featured on the Ingram’s 250 list for multiple years running. She’s been called one of the 50 most powerful people in Kansas City, but she’s just also someone that I think anyone would enjoy sitting down with because she believes in people. And you’ll hear that in this interview. I remember the first time that we sat down and met mutual friend Brad Douglas, who’s the CEO of Heartland Credit Association, introduced us. We went to lunch and it just blew my mind that so quickly into the conversation, she said, “What can I do to help your business out? How can I help and contribute?” And she ended up hiring me to speak at a CommunityAmerica town hall, which was probably around April or May of 2018. I think we may do some things again in the future.

Joel Goldberg:
But most importantly, at least for this moment, I get the chance to share the wisdom and the truly genuine and caring personality of a phenomenal leader. Here’s my conversation with Lisa Ginter.

Joel Goldberg:
Lisa, thanks so much for joining me. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and we certainly have spent some time together in the past. But as is often the case in life, everybody gets busy with this and that. I know you have a million things going on, running the biggest credit union in Kansas and Missouri, and you’ve been here with the Credit Union for a lot of years; since, I think, the mid-90s. What do you love about your role now, as CEO?

Lisa Ginter:
Yeah, I’m actually shocked. I’ve been part of CommunityAmerica for 25 years, and I’m coming up on my fifth year as CEO. And I think what I love most, Joel, about CommunityAmerica and this industry is the love that we have for people. So we’re founded on the principle of people helping people. It fits with my core values, and I think it’s just a wonderful place and a wonderful organization to be a part of.

Joel Goldberg:
There’s so much that I want to focus on here. And we certainly … I think that a lot of people, when they have someone involved in a credit union, certainly a credit union as big as CommunityAmerica, people want to talk about the difference between a credit union and a bank. And I think a lot of my listeners would know that already. We certainly could go there, but I just think that there’s so much going on here that will be interesting to people of any industry, in terms of branding, in terms of people, in terms of relationships. And so that’s really where I want to go.

Lisa Ginter on becoming CEO of CommunityAmerica Credit Union

Joel Goldberg:
When you took over as CEO, what were your goals when you moved into that role?

Lisa Ginter:
And I’ve shared this in the past, but the one thing that’s unique, when I can clearly remember when I was interviewing for the position of CEO, my board today peppered me with a million questions. But the one question that they asked me that I didn’t even flinch on was, “Why do you want the role of a CEO?” And without even thinking it, I said, “I can tell you three reasons why I don’t want it, and that’s for the three little initials. But if those three little initials allow me to make impact with my members, with my employees and in this community, that’s why I want the job.” And I’ve held firm to that. I’ve never wavered from the fact that we are a people-driven organization. It is about making impact. It’s not about for the sake of CommunityAmerica, it’s about for the sake of people. And we want to help people thrive, and we want to help people live a good life and we feel like that is our calling as an organization, and we’re going to live our purpose out and do great things for people.

Joel Goldberg:
You know what’s interesting is that I think you’re someone that really pays attention to those … I don’t know if I want to say the little details, but in terms of just the importance of people. I know that just from the first time that I met you and we went to lunch … And I’ll share this, you said something to me, I don’t know the exact words. We didn’t really know each other. Maybe you were watching some baseball, but maybe not.

Lisa Ginter:
No, I’m a big baseball fan.

Joel Goldberg:
And you’re a big sports fan, right? But you said something as I was telling you about my speaking business, and we’d been connected through Brad Douglas, who’s, I know, a friend of both of ours, and CEO of Heartland Credit Association. And you said something like, “What can I do to help you? I want to find a way to help you.” And I thought … I remember thinking at the time, “Here’s this big time CEO that’s offering to help me, and you don’t even know me that well yet.” And you just wanted to help.

Joel Goldberg:
And it told me a lot about … If you’re acting that way just to me, what must it be like to work for you? What might it be like to be in your world? And so that told me at the time … I mean, I’m looking at a thing on your wall, there, by the window that says, “We love how you bring your heart to work.” How much of that description is you?

Lisa Ginter:
Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, I guess you’d have to ask the employees.

Joel Goldberg:
Yeah.

Lisa Ginter:
But I love the people here. And I grew up in a large family.

Joel Goldberg:
Yeah. I remember you telling me that.

Lisa Ginter:
I was the second oldest of 10 kids. So when you’re in a large family and you’re one of the older ones, I learned early on I was a nurturer and one of the compassionate siblings, because I was up helping my parents. But honestly, I … And I watched and watched them model what it is to be good to people. And it is the thing that I love most about what I do. And I think CEOs and leaders should bring their heart to their job. People will work harder for somebody that they know is working really hard for them. So I don’t look at this as … I’m not just helping the employees of CommunityAmerica, but the employees and their families. So it’s something that … Yeah, I do. I know I bring my heart to work.

Joel Goldberg:
Yeah. You know, it was a long way of me saying … One, saying thank you. I’ve done that before. But I’ve just … It was a great initial impression on my part, that it just told me that you were someone that takes the time to take care of people and someone that is interested in people. I know that sounds easier. I mean, everybody’s interested in people, but I could tell that that was something that was extremely important to who you are. It is who you are.

Partnering CommunityAmerica with Patrick Mahomes

Joel Goldberg:
With that said, I recently had heard somebody say, “Anybody that knows Lisa knows that she goes big. Go big or go home.” And then I sit there and I think about all the CommunityAmerica signs you see all over town, and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and doing some things that maybe some people might say, “Well a credit union can’t do that.” And yet everywhere I look, CommunityAmerica is everywhere around town. And you got a Mahomes name next to you, that’s pretty good, too.

Joel Goldberg:
What was the thought process in wanting to make all of that happen? Because you know how important the Chiefs are to this community, and here’s this credit union with the word Community in its name and it looks like everything’s kind of come together.

Lisa Ginter:
Well, we’ve been part of Kansas City for 80 years. We were formally the TWA Credit Union, and in the late 90s, diversified; mid-90s, they filed bankruptcy and obviously went out with American. And so we knew we had to diversify and become a community credit union.

Lisa Ginter:
So the greatest compliment that I hear … So we built branches and done all of that. But the greatest compliment I’ve heard is when I go to an event, they’ll say, “What is going on at CommunityAmerica? It’s like in the last five years, you guys have blown up,” to your point, Joel. And it is about … You’ve got to take risk. And I remember the one thing that I wanted to do … You don’t want to just continue to do the same thing that you were doing. And my predecessor who is a very good friend of mine, Dennis Pierce, he had a style .and the best advice he gave me was, “Don’t be me. Be you.” And I am a little bit more of a risk taker, you know?

Lisa Ginter:
So when the Chiefs … I built a relationship, I served on an advisory committee for the NFL 101. Got to know Mark Donovan and the whole Chiefs organization. And I remember them approaching me about this possible opportunity. And I look at it, that it’s like, “Is this a way, a platform by which to amplify CommunityAmerica’s name?” People need to know what we’re about. They need to know that we can help them in their everyday needs and help them live a good life because we care about them and we care about their families.

Lisa Ginter:
So it was a … I wouldn’t say it was a huge risk, but it was the biggest risk we probably took as a credit union. And the way I look at things is if I’m going to go in, I’m going to put my chips all in, and we’re going to become one of their best partners and we’re going to go big with this. And that happened. And then the next year the Chiefs signed a quarterback out of Texas Tech, and his agent was looking for somebody who might do a one-year deal. And I got the call, “Would CommunityAmerica be interested?” And I remember telling them that, “Well before I do anything, I want to meet the kid. I want to know what he’s like, his personality, what’s important to him, what’s his core values, because before I go sign anybody to be a spokesperson for our organization, they have to fit the same values as CommunityAmerica.”

Lisa Ginter:
So I remember meeting him down at the power and light district and he’s my kid’s age.

Joel Goldberg:
Right.

Lisa Ginter:
Right?

Joel Goldberg:
Right.

Lisa Ginter:
And I just remember the first thing out of his mouth was like, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” And in his raspy, cute voice, he was like … He starts talking about his family. And he starts talking about his little sister Mia, and she was playing soccer at the time and his brother Jackson. And then how his girlfriend’s into fitness. And he goes on and on about family. And I was like, “Okay, he’s speaking my language, family’s everything.” And I knew at that moment that this could be a great partnership.

Lisa Ginter:
And so not only did we sign him, one of the first to sign him. I know we were probably one of the first to sign him for a multiyear deal. So we love the relationship. To me, it’s about relationships. I’ve gotten to know his family very, very well. And much like CommunityAmerica and the Kansas City Chiefs, I feel like we’re a family. I feel very much part of the Chiefs family. I feel very much part of the Mahomes family, as well. So it’s a perfect union.

Joel Goldberg:
I’ve only met … I mean, I’ve met him at the baseball stadium. And sort of shaking hands and said hi a couple of times, that’s it. But I feel like I’ve been around this business long enough and covered a lot of NFL for the years that you just know who the real people are. And to me that’s always interesting. I mean, as a sports family, root for wins and losses, but I think I’m … And maybe it’s the same for you, too, that when you get closer to it, it becomes more about, again, the relationships and the people. And I tend to want to pull for the good guys, the good people even more. I don’t wish bad on anyone except for maybe the Yankees or something like that. But he’s an easy guy to root for. I mean, put aside the fact that he’s doing things that we’ve never seen before that make your jaw drop, but doesn’t that change things, at least for you being so close when you … It was like was the same way. Salvador Perez, you just can’t help but root for them to do anything well in life because they’re good people.

Lisa Ginter:
Yeah. You can’t help but love him. I mean, honestly, he is such a great kid. And I think, just so grounded and humble. Yeah, he’s done some marvelous things and spectacular, like especially moving on in the postseason to the AFC West championship. That comeback was unbelievable. And that was because he believed in the team and the team believed in themselves. And then here he goes on a 24 nothing deficit to go on and win the game. So it’s that confidence, but also that humbleness of who he is.

Joel Goldberg:
And I’ll just say that this is, I believe I’m going to be releasing this a week from when we’re recording it. So we are January 13th right now. So this is … We’re less than 24 hours after one of the most thrilling wins, maybe the most thrilling win in the history of Arrowhead Stadium. So who knows by next Monday when this is released, if you’ll have another one, hopefully you’ll have another big win to talk about, we will all, on Sunday. We shall see, but I know that you’ll be there enjoying it. Well, maybe. You got-

Lisa Ginter:
Oh, I’ll be there.

Joel Goldberg:
Okay.

Lisa Ginter:
I’ll be there unless my second grandchild decides to come into the world.

Joel Goldberg:
That Sunday.

Lisa Ginter:
That Sunday.

Joel Goldberg:
Maybe the middle of this week would be good, or whatever. As long as it’s healthy, that’s all that matters.

Lisa Ginter, CommunityAmerica, on Leadership

Joel Goldberg:
Just one more followup and then I want to move on. What have you learned, in terms of leadership? I mean, it seems crazy, right, an accomplished CEO? Although we’re always learning, we never stop learning. But it’s maybe a little bit rare to learn from someone that is that young, yet this is one of the great competitors now, and leaders in the world. I mean, if you were at the stadium, I was watching on TV; to watch him on the sideline firing everybody up, not the first we’d seen it, there was a calm to it, there was an energy to it in the face of adversity. I mean, it had leader and leadership 101 written all over it. What have you learned spending time around him, his family, because you know he has that it factor?

Lisa Ginter:
Oh, he definitely has the it factor. I think for me, it’s just … I mean, his success has come at such a young age that it could get the best of you. And Jim Collins’ book, Level Five Leader, he is definitely a level five leader. And so reporters, people are wanting to get to know him, and he’s got multiple mics in his face. And the thing that he continues to say is he references we; his team.

Joel Goldberg:
Mm-hmm.

Lisa Ginter:
This isn’t about Patrick. This is about the team. It’s about the Chiefs. It’s about what they’re on this mission. It’s just like an organization. We have this vision and we’re charging toward this visionary goal. And they have that. But you need somebody to make them believe in what they can do, and that we can do this together. And I think that’s the thing that, for somebody so young, it is unbelievable to see, to witness, to be part of, to hear him. It just unbelievable.

Lisa Ginter on standing out in a saturated market

Joel Goldberg:
Well, let’s get back to the world of banking, credit unions. And what’s interesting is, I think, and I’d have to go back and look at the numbers, I’ve probably spoken to more banks, credit unions, associations related to this, to your world than any other industry. And I don’t have ideas of why. I mean, I do think that the world is changing so much, and with all the different … And this might not apply as much to you … the banking mergers out there, and the way that millennials will bounce from job to job; just a different world than what we grew up in. The world’s changing fast and everybody wants that culture and everybody wants to find that fit, which I feel like you guys have here. I feel like people seem happy here. People seem like they enjoy working for CommunityAmerica. How do you compete? How do you stand out in the crowd in a world that is very crowded?

Lisa Ginter:
Sure. And it is crowded. And Kansas City is a very saturated space with financial institutions. And I think, Joel, it really comes down to staying true to who you are and building on something that’s been built here, even before my time, and continuing to evolve the organization to be about people. And if you stay true and not disrupt what we’ve got that’s good, if you’ve got a great story to tell internally and you make people feel like they’re part of it, much like what we just talked about with Patrick, if you make people feel that they’re part of this extension of your family, in my case, my big family, then they become the ambassadors outward in the community to their family and friends. And it does become something special.

Lisa Ginter:
So I know we can go out there and we do have the big audacious goals and I have all the confidence that this organization is going to attain it, because we’ve already got the foundation built here that we could just continue to build upon. And if you keep people at the forefront of what we’re doing, and everything we do comes back to people, you’re going to win this. You’re going to win this game. So that’s how I look at it.

Joel Goldberg:
How many employees now, at this point?

Lisa Ginter:
We have about 750, I believe.

Joel Goldberg:
And again, everywhere I look, whether it’s at Arrowhead, over … My son gets on the ice to play hockey, and I look over and on the side of the boards it says CommunityAmerica. I mean, there’s stuff everywhere. How much room do you have to grow, in terms of that branding?

Lisa Ginter:
You know, I think you’ve got to keep the brand relevant and in the face of the consumers. So it’s where you want to put your money and where you want to spend your money. I want to keep our brand strong and alive for many years; well beyond my years here at CommunityAmerica. So I don’t think it’s one that you can put out there and then take it away. So we’ll be very committed to evolving our brand and being strong in the community. And then playing off that a little bit from a community standpoint, another big area where I want to put our dollars and our chips is in the philanthropy. I think that is so important because it’s the community. When the community can thrive, everybody thrives. And it’s taking those one one step at a time and one movement at a time, creates a bigger movement and a bigger impact. So philanthropy will always be … And that’s another place we put ourselves. It’s not about the big fat checks that we write to the different organizations; it’s really about putting your heart in those organizations. We give our employees time off to get involved and we match their personal donations. And I mean, it is a whole big community.

Rounding the Bases, Baseball-themed Questions

Joel Goldberg:
Okay. Let’s get to our baseball-themed questions. First off, what’s the biggest home run? I tell all my guests, you can’t say your husband or your kids. Those are, hands down a home run. Professionally speaking, CommunityAmerica, what’s the biggest home run that you have hit here?

Lisa Ginter:
You know, I would have to say, Joel, the biggest home run is people are talking about CommunityAmerica out there because of our brand presence. And I think that that has probably been something that … We’re not a secret anymore. We’re out there and we mean business, and we want to take care of your business. So just the fact that our name is out there in such a big, big way, I think that’s a big homeroom.

Joel Goldberg:
And for anyone listening outside of Kansas City, around the country or the world, you can’t go anywhere in this city without seeing the name CommunityAmerica on billboards, at sports venues, grocery stores, wherever, beyond. Biggest swing and miss you’ve taken, and what did you learn from it?

Lisa Ginter:
Oh gosh, I’ve had a … I mean, I’m not going to lie. I’ve had swings and misses my whole career. I don’t know if I could put one on the biggest. I think it’s one of the greatest learnings as a leader is when you swing and strike out; what you learn from that and how you get yourself back up. I mean, I’ve started things that maybe I didn’t think through the implications, but I’ve learned from them, and it’s what’s allowed me to grow as a person in my role. So yeah, I’ve had many.

Joel Goldberg:
the best swings and misses are the ones that you learn from. If you don’t learn from them, then I think that they truly are misses.

Lisa Ginter:
Yeah. I think the other thing is owning. Owning the fact that … Excuse me. Owning the fact that it was your strike out. It’s not that of others.

Joel Goldberg:
That’s a great point, too. I’ve seen that from the best of sports leaders that … when it’s the team … You talked about this a little bit. When it’s positive, you always hear from a great athlete or leader, you hear we. When it’s negative, it’s usually I. When there’s something that went wrong, it’s, “I did this.” When something that went right, it’s, “We did this.”

Lisa Ginter:
Yeah.

Joel Goldberg:
Which I think is always a lesson.

Lisa Ginter:
You can’t deflect it. You’ve got to own it and go on. And again, that’s what makes people grow as individuals and as leaders.

Joel Goldberg:
What’s small ball to you? What are the little things that add up to the big things?

Lisa Ginter:
You know, I think the little things are just making sure that you assemble yourself with the right people. Talent is so important; people that believe in what you’re about and your mission and your cause, and don’t skimp on that. And for us is, we’ve got the foundation laid because we have the right talent. Those are what’s going to get us the little base hits that turn into doubles that turn into the big wins.

Joel Goldberg:
And that works. I’m a firm believer in that. Okay. Four final questions as we round the bases. Growing up as one of 10 kids … I remember you told me that the first time we met for lunch, being big family. So I never experienced that growing up. I have one sibling. What was the best part of being one of 10 kids?

Lisa Ginter:
It was definitely … You felt the love in that family, and you have a huge built in support group from the time you’re little, to even today. They are my biggest supporters, my biggest raving fans, as I am to them. But the love that you have, it’s just amazing. So I love being part of something big, and being part of my big family.

Joel Goldberg:
All right. And with one grandchild, or possibly, by the time this is running on January 20th, there could be two grandchildren. Very possible. So the best part about being a grandmother?

Lisa Ginter:
Oh, well she calls me Nona, Ava Rose. And you would never think that you’d have enough of a piece of your heart left for grandkids or this other child. And I love my three children so much. What this little Ava has done to my husband and I, I mean it just … We love her so much and yeah, we definitely don’t know how to say no to Ava.

Joel Goldberg:
You and I were talking about the challenges of saying no, as you start doing more things and being successful or putting yourself out there. There is no saying no with your grandkids, right?

Lisa Ginter:
Absolutely not.

Joel Goldberg:
So you are the spoiling grandmother, right?

Lisa Ginter:
Yes, yes.

Joel Goldberg:
All right, so that’s the second question. That’s great to hear, by the way. Third question as we round the bases, sticking with that family theme. When you go to a game now or watch on TV, I know at home, you’re up in the CommunityAmerica suite, is Patrick just a guy you’re watching? Is he like a kid? Is he family? Are you nervous? How do you … Because you know that you have a relationship, this isn’t just, “There’s the best quarterback in the league.” You know this kid well.

Lisa Ginter:
You know, I truly look at him as a part of my family. You kind of see him before he even stepped onto the scene of the NFL and you’ve watched him just develop and grow. But I really truly look at him, his girlfriend Brittany, and just his family, they’re an extension of mine. And yeah, the nerves. You want him to do great, and he always does great. But when they’re in a down situation, I found myself, the game we were just referencing, having to run out because I was so nervous for him and the team. But yeah, I can’t even imagine what his mom Randi goes through. But, yeah.

Joel Goldberg:
That’s pretty cool. It’s a beautiful relationship. Final question, the walk off rounding the bases. You’re about five years in to being CEO, hopefully many, many, many years until that’s over. And whenever that is, I don’t want to make you work longer than you need to or more than you want or whatever. But you’ve already done big things here. What else can you do? What do you want to do longterm? So that they look back and they say, “Oh, Lisa Ginter, this is what she did here at CommunityAmerica.”

Lisa Ginter:
Well, I think there’s still a lot for us to accomplish and get done. I don’t know if that’s forever and ever and ever I’ll be here. But there’s still a lot of good things that we can do. And for me, what the big thing that I want when I finally do get to hang my hat up is I want to walk away leaving a legacy of helping people. Being involved on the chamber board and KCADC board, I see staggering statistics that I just … It’s very unsettling what our crime rate, and just how many people in Kansas City are struggling. And for me, I want to be part of moving them from struggling to thriving. And when I know we’ve made some big strides in the right direction, people are going to live a life well lived and want to be part of this great city that I’m homegrown in. I’ve been part of Kansas City my whole life, and I want to help make Kansas City a better place to be.

Joel Goldberg:
Well, you’re doing that. I know you’ll continue to do that. So first and foremost, most importantly, congratulations on grandchild number two and your growing family. And then of course, your work family, which is CommunityAmerica. So congratulations on all the success.

Lisa Ginter:
Thank you.

Joel Goldberg:
And I think that the theme of this podcast, it’s all about people, which is, I think who you are. It’s certainly why I feel a connection to you, because it’s important to me, too. So thanks so much for doing this, Lisa.

Lisa Ginter:
Thank you, Joel. Thank you and congrats to you as well.

Joel Goldberg:
Thank you. That is Lisa Ginter. I’m Joel Goldberg. You can get ahold of me at joelgoldbergmedia.com, and hope to catch you next time on Rounding The Bases.


Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at joel@joelgoldbergmedia.com.

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