CCUL Headlines: Industry Insight

Portis: Don’t let #CrashtheGAC18 be the best experience in your life—it’s just the beginning

Tuesday, March 13, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sara Portis, Coastal Credit Union
Share |

Enjoy this Crash the GAC series where each of our five crashers from the Carolinas share the highlights from their experiences at CUNA’s 2018 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). This week, Coastal Credit Union’s Sara Portis focuses on the vast networking opportunities that came from attending GAC, and the industry leaders and speakers that inspired her to “define your brand,” “stay hungry” and “keep leading.”


‘Where are the crashers in the house? YAAAAA YAAAAA!!’ (If you were there, you get it.) Crash the GAC is one of several "crash" experiences created by The Cooperative Trust with support from the Filene Research Institute, CUNA, CUNA Mutual Group, and VISA. #CrashtheGAC2018 is the largest group of crashers in the program's history.

Don’t let #CrashtheGAC18 be the best experience in your life—it’s just the beginning.

By Sara Portis
Coastal CU Outbound Call Team Ops. Mgr.

February isn’t only about celebrating Valentine’s Day, Black History Month, Mardi Gras, Presidents' Day, or Groundhog Day, this year, we celebrated credit union awesomeness at the GAC in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve chosen a career to serve your community through a local credit union, then you’ve heard of it. The crème de la crème of conferences in the credit union kingdom and the who’s who in the industry make their journey to meet with colleagues, supporters, vendors, and lawmakers to talk about current issues and future goals. And what’s great about the credit union community, it’s all about giving and having a public service mindset.

Each year, executives from credit unions throughout our vast nation pick their young and talented shining stars to pass the baton to. This young group of professional up-and-comers in our industry crash the conference—#crasherfam and #CrashtheGAC18—to eventually take the reins. This year, 78 young professionals from credit unions big and small had the privilege to embark on this journey to make a difference.

2018 was a record year for GAC. Check this out… Over 5,000 credit union professionals represented over a thousand credit unions. They attended over 600 meetings in less than a week, networked with over 228 vendors and “schmoozed” with members of congress, senators and even Presidents. Well, one president—PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH.

Now, he had a hard time during his presidency and before watching him speak during his keynote, I had my reservations and prejudices. But watching him speak to a room of over 5,000 people and take it to a personal level was inspiring. He was a normal dude. A son, a father, a brother, and a friend. Someone that wants to make a positive impact and spoke on the importance of public service and meeting the needs of everyday Americans. Jim Nussle echoed his sentiments by saying, “It was truly my pleasure to discuss the current state of the nation and the power of collaboration and public service with President Bush, as these principles are the core of the credit union philosophy.”

Define Your Brand

Public service is “People Helping People,” which is a core value of the credit union industry and is rooted in all of the decisions that we make for our members, employees, and our community. President Bush stated that public service is not just serving as an officer in our country, but it’s someone who is serving someone else for the greater good and meeting the needs of everyday Americans in our community.

The “People Helping People” theme was carried throughout the sessions. Scott Stratten, CEO of UnMarketing, acknowledged that empowering employees to be that public servant is allowing them to create their personal brand and represent your credit union’s brand. He stated, “Your employees are your brand. Every time you decide to answer the phone or not answer the phone, that’s branding. Every time you decide to reply to that email or not reply, that’s branding.”

2018 Crasher Sara Portis' experience
One of my takeaways from GAC is controlling my brand. Keyword: controlling. I have the power to define my brand. We each have the power to control our brand. We can take action to make our brand a reality.

This truly resonated with me. What does it mean to build your brand? More specifically, what do I want the Sara Portis brand to be? What do I want people to THINK when they say Sara Portis? And more importantly, what do I want people to FEEL when they say Sara Portis?

A great example of someone that has built their brand of being a public servant, an innovator, and a leader in the credit union industry for over forty years is my own CEO, Chuck Purvis, at Coastal Credit Union. During GAC, I had the honor and pleasure to attend the Wegner Awards Dinner with Chuck, his family, our board members, and our senior management team to watch him accept the 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Award. This dinner is the Oscars of the industry and being selected for the Herb Wegner Memorial Award is like winning Best Actor at the Oscars—the highest achievement in the credit union industry. Talk about inspiration!

Chuck was honored with this recognition and it was truly an inspiration to have been there for such a momentous occasion in his career. Congratulations to you Chuck! We have big shoes to fill at Coastal and now I understand your drive. It was amazing being with Chuck at GAC. Everyone knew him. As I walked around with him, people were coming to him left and right, like an all-star. Now that’s a brand!

Stay Hungry

OMG! If the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers seriously work and play as hard as they do in GAC – I bow before them. The schedule is insane, intense and crazy cool. You wake up at 5:00 a.m., go to breakfast, and by 7:00 a.m. sharp you’re in your first session. Then you go to a GAC general session and a 15-minute walk back to a crasher session. By the time lunch comes at 11:45 a.m., your brain has barely enough power to hold on.

But the adrenaline, oh the sweet nectar of adrenaline… That’s what keeps you going. Afternoon sessions consisted of advocacy updates from CUNA, and industry insights from the leadership team of Filene, CUNA Mutual Group, Visa, and National Credit Union Foundation. You think you’re done by 5:00 p.m.? Nope, you just had your appetizer. Now it’s the main course, off to the evening events and vendor presentations. Dessert constitutes an after party at a whiskey and bourbon bar or watching Kevin Bacon and the Bacon Brothers in a private venue where your eyes are dry, your throat is raspy from all the talking, and your feet are killing you from those cute pumps. After all, it’s about fashion over comfort.

Keep Leading & Go #AllIn

If you were privileged enough to attend #CrashtheGAC18, then you experienced a pivotal point in your career. A point where you realize you’re here to make a difference and it’s not about the Benjamins. As Antonio Neves said during his powerful session to us #crashers, “Don’t let this be the best experience you have had in your life.” And Gian Paul Gonzales, “When you keep going, when others tell you to quit, when you don’t stop when other people tell you you’re wasting your time, go #Allin and make #Allin a LIFESTYLE.”

So, I challenge each and every #crasher to keep this fire alive. The feeling of success we felt while at #CrashtheGAC18, the inspiration we felt watching the keynote speakers, and the promises we all made to ourselves must be kept alive. We must remember the voices in our head that told us at GAC, ‘you’re awesome! You’re a star! You’re going to make real impact when you get back.’ We mustn’t forget that voice of success. Let’s make a difference. Together, we can make a positive change in our community and make this world a better a place—one member at a time.


Define your Brand – Stay Hungry – Keep Leading – And let’s have a reunion when we reach the top!  #CrasherFam #BankBettertoLiveBetter


Contact Us

NORTH CAROLINA

1000 Saint Albans Drive
Suite 325
Raleigh, NC 27609

800-822-8859 Phone
919-573-0474 Fax

SOUTH CAROLINA

7440 Broad River Road
Irmo, SC 29063

PO Box 1787
Columbia, SC 29202

800-822-8859 Phone
803-732-4268 Fax