Why be big?

BarCampBank SeattleThis past weekend was BarCampBank Seattle. We got into many good discussions ranging from the books were reading and why we like them, to technology disruption, to values-based banking (that last topic was mine, surprise, surprise).

At some point in the day, the incredibly wise Gene Blishen said something that I keep mulling over. We were talking about the need for business to be constantly growing, and he said…

It’s not about growth, it’s about development. As people, we grow for our first 18 years and then we stop growing, but we keep developing as people until we die.

I have always been puzzled by the assumption made by most people I’ve ever talked to that the goal of business is to grow, constantly. But I don’t think most companies deserve and demand the scale to be big. Some companies, some ideas, some leaders are better suited to be smaller. Why not crave to be the right size for your ambitions, your market, your desired size, and not be constantly growing?

I believe all companies and organizations, like people, should be constantly developing. Refining what they do, evolving it, learning and improving. That seems obvious. But I don’t think all companies should aim for growth and scale.

What do you think? Am I missing something?

BarCampBank Seattle returns.

BarCampBank SeattleKudos to Matt Vance for resurrecting the BarCampBank brand, with the forthcoming BarCampBank Seattle on February 9th.

Almost six years ago Jesse Robbins held the first North American unconference focused on banking. How damn prescient in light of the financial crisis that would begin to erupt later that year and go full-blown a year or so later. Way before anyone thought of occupying any street.

For me, new to financial services at the time, it was a chance to form a community that has nourished me to this day. Many of us were embracing social media and met for the first time in Seattle on July 21st and 22nd, 2007. I wrote several posts about it at the time, including a sum-up on NetBanker.

We created a couple of BarCampBank BC sessions in the two years that followed (with the fun acronym BCBBC).

What I want to talk about…

I think the time is absolutely ripe for a continuation of the dialogue, but in the time since the BarCampBank days, I have changed my focus from digital to community investment. BarCamps, which come out of the tech and dev world are steeped in discussions about technology and its power to disrupt. Personally, I want to move past talking about technology and to something much more deeply rooted and philosophical. I want to talk about values-based banking. Because if community banks and credit unions don’t start increasing their relevance, there’s no need for many of them – perhaps most of them – to exist. And looking at the movement towards strengthening local economies, combined with a pursuit of more sustainable and ethical business practices, we have a giant opportunity to focus ourselves on something meaningful. Reconnecting our cooperative and local heritage to the modern, engaged consumer and citizen.

I look forward to discussing that with you. Buy your ticket now. And let me know if you’ll be there…

A month ’til BarCampBankBC.

BarCampBankBC registrationI’m starting to get really excited about BarCampBankBC, which is happening the weekend of September 20th here in beautiful Vancouver, BC. It should prove to be an amazing coming-together of some great minds in the world of banking, credit unions, social media, technology, innovation and social responsibility.

With just a month to go, we have 62 people who have signed up on the wiki, but only 30 who have registered and paid. Now 30 is still a pretty decent number, but…

…if you’re thinking of coming to BarCampBankBC, please take a minute to register now!

It’ll make the lives of the three organizers, me, Gene and Tim, a little easier.

Thanks, and see you there!

PS: I’m about to go to Alaska on a cruise with Amy and Ivan (my wife and son), so if I don’t publish comments quickly or at all, please forgive me!

PPS: It’s almost exactly a year since the first North American BarCampBank in Seattle, where so many great relationships and conversations started. A great milestone!

Come on down to BarCampBank BC.

BarCampBank BCI’m excited to announce that on September 20, 2008 BarCampBank is coming to Vancouver.

Gene Blishen, Tim McAlpine and I are putting a stake in the ground, after talking about doing it for some time.

Now, some of you may be asking, what the hell is a BarCampBank. From the main BarCampBank page:

What if we changed banking and finance?
The aim of BarCampBank is to foster innovations and the creation of new business models in the world of banking and finance.

The first one in North America was in Seattle last July, and it was a truly transformative experience. For me, the ideas, relationships and bonds formed in those two days are invaluable, and the memories of it are strong and very good.

Lots of details to be worked out, like an exact location, but it will take place on September 20, 2008. The cost is always break-even (think $25 CAD), so its worth the travel expense for my East Coast readers.

Go to the wiki page to add your name to the list. It will not disappoint!

PS: Thanks to Morriss Partee, whom I credit for keeping BarCampBank alive and kicking in North America. Thanks Morriss, looking forward to seeing you here! Also, I believe it was his idea to create something with the acronym BCBBC. Who couldn’t love that!

NOTE: My original post accidentally said that this was on July 20th. It is, in fact on September 20th!

BarCampBank continues East, West and South.

BarCampBank in San Francisco & New EnglandLast summer I attended an amazing event called BarCampBankSeattle. It was a coming together of, and collaboration between, some amazing bank and credit union folks from across North America. I wrote a few blog posts about it at the time.

Jesse Robbins organized this first-of-its-kind-in-America conference, and now he’s written about two more BarCampBank events that are happening. It was also covered by NetBanker and Frederic Baud.

The next two events will be:

BarCampBank San Francisco
Saturday, March 29, 2008
UC Berkeley campus – Soda Hall in the Wozniak Lounge
RSVP @ EventBrite ($25)

BarCampBank New England
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
America’s Credit Union Museum, Manchester, NH

And now I see that there will be a BarCampBank Dallas. This is spreading like wildfire. Innovation is taking root among some bankers, which is exciting. Hmmm, maybe we need a BarCampBank Vancouver…

Unfortunately, I can’t attend any of these events, although I truly wish I could. Lots of great people will be there, and you can see exactly who will be attending at each event’s homepage.

I hope some of you attendees will blog about it, so the rest of us can feel included. It is worth noting that Morriss Partee is behind a couple of these and seems to be the thread between SF and NE. Morriss, looks like you’re gonna need to go to Dallas too.