Pathways Financial Credit Union is one of the top 10 companies by votes in Columbus CEO's 2020 Best of Business readers' poll.

At 5:45 a.m. on a Tuesday in October, Michael Shafer laced up for a run. It was 36 degrees outside. “I’m not much for daily routines,” he says, “but I use this time to organize my day and plan out what I want to accomplish.

Running, walking—daily exercise—is one way the CEO of Pathways Financial Credit Union stays grounded so he can keep his company ahead of the competitive curve.

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Shafer became CEO in 1999, back when the company had seven employees. Twenty-one years later, with over 120 employees, and roughly $500 million in assets, he says the thing that surprises him most is how competitive the financial landscape has gotten.

“Credit unions are smaller players in the banking space,” he says. “We offer a lot of the same services, but we are a non-for-profit cooperative, controlled by our members/owners.”

Through organic growth and strategic acquisitions, the full-service financial institution now has 15 locations across the Columbus region and Dayton and 40,000 members/owners. One reason for that growth, Shafer says, is the people.

“We demonstrate a culture that we do care about our employees,” he says. “I take a lot of pride when members of the staff bring new ideas for better ways of doing things.”

Virginia Brown is a freelance writer.