In the 1953 Disney movie, Peter Pan instructs the Lost Boys to follow John as they go exploring Neverland. Off they go, singing “Following the Leader.” John puts on a brave face and the Lost Boys follow. Peter Pan had instructed them to do so, but his advice was short-sighted. John didn’t necessarily know how to lead, and he definitely didn’t know where he was going. Peter Pan is a bad CEO.

Some of us suffer from “Peter Pan Syndrome” in life (we do not want to grow up). There is, however, another kind of “Peter Pan Syndrome” in the Corporate world. It is one where too many company leaders are content to “follow the leader” instead of blazing their own path forward.

Why would you follow someone if you’re not entirely sure that they know what they’re doing in the first place?

And now, in a post COVID19 world, the dangers of “following the leader” are never more present. Retail Banks or Credit Unions are still trying to figure out the next step to right the ship and see what will become of their institution. Observing and sharing ideas may very well be a good idea for us all to band together and get through this, but when it comes time to grow again (and that time is coming), you must do this on your own.

When we at LEVEL5 begin a relationship with a client, we aim to uncover three key elements by asking:

  • Can you succinctly describe your organization and what makes you different?
  • Do you have an approved 5-year plan?
  • What are your branch (and headquarters) level strategies?

When looking to rebuild your 5 year strategic plan for your Branch Network, below are 3 classic traps many leaders become ensnared:

“I Want That!”

While we’re not going to dive into the details of our Discover phase (the first step in our Blueprint process), we should still talk about where things must start. When we begin to get to know a client, one of the main questions we always ask is: “What do you want?” But what we’re really asking is “What are your strategic initiatives and goals?”

This probing question often gets misinterpreted. It will perhaps cause a client to jump right past the strategy, goals, and objectives, and right into the Design of the branch. There is always the inevitable reference of a nearby branch from a known competitor, or a flagship branch from one of the big boys, with a CEO proclaiming, “I want that!”

Flattery is nice, and mimicry does have its place. The issue with this proclamation, however, is that it completely skips over the critical early stages of the process. First, you must identify what you want a given branch to do for you in the community and your clients. Strategy will yield Design, not the inverse.

An example of the right way to implement an “I want that” strategy is perhaps how the Hooksett, NH branch came to be for Northeast Credit Union. Once the strategy was identified, Trade Area chosen, and branch type chosen via sound data, it was time for the Design conversation. CEO, Tim Collia, worked with our Design team to identify a new, modern aesthetic for the branch that was reflective of the natural elements in New Hampshire. It would also set the foundation of a new branch prototype design not only for that branch, but for all future branches yet to come.

The Design for NECU did not “follow the leader” – rather, they set the tone that was right for them. It began with strategy.

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Five-Year Plan

Another fundamental question we ask in our Discover phase is “What is your five-year plan?”

While this question is perhaps more directed at the macro Retail level, it helps us understand what is happening at the corporate level so our Consulting Team can run the best analysis possible.

The issue here is often times, the answer to this question is that there isn’t one. Many Community Retail Banks and Credit Unions may very well not have a five-year plan. They instead only plan things out along a 12-month or at most, an 18-month time horizon. This may be the reality, as things are fluid and ever changing (especially now), but it brings up a fundamental challenge in this space.

Creating a 5-year plan is critical. A 5-year road map (even with change) lays the foundation for a strong corporate vision. An 18-month road map can set you down the right path, but, at worst, it can make you more reactionary instead of proactive.

When we began working with Canvas CU (Denver, CO) they outlined a very specific and well-defined multi-year plan that included aggressive growth plans up and down the Colorado front range, into deeper bedroom communities in Denver, then up and down the I-25 corridor. We are now several years into that execution, with Canvas still eyeing a multi-year strategic growth horizon.

Think Like A Golfer

There may very well be 144 or so golfers at any given (pre cut) golf event. That’s a lot of competition, but each golfer is really just focusing on themselves.

At least, they should be.

Sure, they’ll take a peek at the leaderboard, but in reality, any other golfer’s actions do not influence whether they hit the fairway off the tee or sink that birdie putt.

The same can be said about running a Retail Bank or Credit Union. Yes, you want to be aware of what your competition is up to, and yes, you want to peek at the leaderboard, but are you really going to switch clubs or shoes if someone else hits a great shot? You shouldn’t.

The point here is this: Don’t follow the leader. Be your own leader. Set your path forward. Have a game plan. Not for the 18-holes, but for all 72 holes over the four day tournament – this is your 5-year plan.

Keep an eye on what the competition is doing, take a cue from it and even learn from it. But you must be true to who you are and your strategy will be born from that. After all, if you see a competitor go heavy on tech, but your customers are a bit more traditional, don’t chase that shiny object and implement something that won’t be well received.

So, Peter Pan was a bad CEO. Don’t follow the leader. Follow your own path.

I hope your childhood has not now been compromised.

But here’s the good news.

LEVEL5 can help you get there. Our Business Development managers and Consulting Team are experts at helping you craft, evolve and mold your vision into a solid 5-year plan that is yours and only your. Contact Us today to learn more and get going today.