Flying In A New Direction

Southwest Airlines bought AirTran in an uncharacteristic move. The boldness is something credit unions might want to imitate.


A successful business has core values that drive prosperity. Leadership, product quality, and innovation are all typical ingredients. For Southwest Airlines, customer service, promoting from within, and offering affordable fares are what make it stand out. Now, the company is expanding to keep up with the market.

An article this week in Businessweek discusses Southwest’s Sept. 27 agreement to buy AirTran Airways. The $1.4 billion investment will move the airline into other markets (namely Atlanta) and make the company a national player.

But that’s not in line with Southwest’s normal thinking. The article’s authors describe the airline’s normal growth strategy as “organic,” meaning the company focuses on enhancing its processes and allowing the stars of the company to ascend. With the purchase of Airtran, Southwest is saying it needed to branch out. But that admission isn’t a bad thing.

Credit unions can learn from Southwest by asking four questions:

  • What are the core elements of our credit union that drive success?
  • Are any of these elements stagnant?
  • What tactics can we employ to enliven old processes or principles?
  • How do we integrate those tactics into the existing business model?

Don’t try to reinvent everything; a credit union’s differences are its best assets. Do examine your credit union at its most fundamental level and see if an ingrained philosophy is keeping you from your full potential. 


Sept. 30, 2010


  • Fresh ideas are so great.

    Thank you.