CEO Success Stories
The Role of Mentors
Thor Dolan, the CEO of Illinois Community Credit Union ($78M) based in Sycamore, Illinois is quick to tell you about all the good people he’s learned from. “Any success that I have had in my career is first a credit to my parents and the ethics they instilled in me. Along the way, I have met so many good people that I continue to learn from, including the great team here at Illinois Community. But I frequently turn to the lessons I’ve learned from having so many good bosses and mentors.”
While a couple stand out in his memory, Kay Wood and Steve Becker, Thor states “I have learned from all of them even if it’s only a piece here and a piece there. You have to develop your own style along the way and learn from both the good and the bad. A common denominator in all those excellent leaders has been a real focus on performance, transparency and an absolute commitment to telling the truth.”
The journey to leadership started for Thor in Seattle, Washington where the lessons learned from his parents, church, sports and the classroom led him to his first job at Seattle Trust and Savings. “It’s fair to say that I have worked my way up from teller. As anyone in financial services can tell you, a teller gets an opportunity to learn at a very basic level, starting with the person you’re serving across from you as well as your colleagues working by your side. I haven’t forgotten those basics about people and doing your work the best you can.” In 1986 Thor moved toPhoenix where he worked at Western Savings and Loan. He gained valuable expertise in Credit Card Operations which ultimately led to his first credit union job in Idaho Falls working as the Operations Manager at Westmark Credit Union. From Idaho, Thor moved to Illinois where he met his wife Carol and worked for HealthCare Associates CU. He then moved back to Phoenix where he stayed for 13 years working for Credit Union West, managing both Consumer Lending and Real Estate throughout his tenure. “Those years at CU West in Phoenix were great for me and my family. It’s a great place to live. We now feel we are back in a great community here in Sycamore as well. It’s amazing to be back here in this wonderful town where, more than coincidentally, my wife and I were married all those years ago.” Over the last seven years, Thor has been asked to move across country multiple times to help several credit unions work out their troubled situations which created greater opportunities for his career advancement.
When the opportunity presented itself to return to the beauty and connectedness of a small rural community after a few years working at a billion dollar shop, Thor was ready to come back to a smaller credit union. “We really appreciate the way we can be part of the community here and no matter what the size institution, there’s a real satisfaction seeing your members and your team grow with the community.”
“There has been some clean-up here, there always is. It’s part of any business. At this point we feel our loan portfolio is turning the corner and rebalancing from a higher concentration of sub-prime loans. We are starting to make the investments in our infrastructure that are required.” Moving past regulatory restrictions that were in place when he arrived, Thor and his team are now leading carefully planned and executed growth and earnings
“To be honest, I have been brought into a number of troubled credit unions. Any business will face those times, and as I learned from my mentors, it’s essential to move past ‘what’s in it for me?’ to what’s in the best interest of the institution, members and employees. Sometimes you do take a step back before you can move forward. We shift and adjust. We still have much work to do, but our team is now better prepared for the future and working towards results that benefit the greater good of members, community and team!”