Whether we are coaching a football team, booking a vacation, launching a business, or eyeing retirement, we need a plan.
Never is this need more urgent than now, in an industry buffeted by an unpredictable economy, increased competition, a swamp of governmental regulations, security risks, the human imperfections of our own workforce, and so many other stressors. A statewide association without a plan is like a car without a steering wheel, or a long-distance trip without a GPS.
Understanding the importance of planning for the future and lacking a foolproof crystal ball, we as an organization have developed and perfected a Strategic Plan we can all take part in and be proud of.
In facing the ups and downs of the past, with its regulatory avalanche, economic tailspins and political “wow’s,” we know the inherent truth in the platitude, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” So we followed the advice of the experts who have gone before us to craft a smart, succinct Strategic Plan for Pennsylvania’s community banks and our association family.
Infused with the clarity and clean slate of a brand new year, we looked at our strengths and weaknesses, where we are and where we need to go. We examined where we should be spending the bulk of our time, money and human capital. We questioned our mission, our values, our goals and objectives. We spoke with stakeholders at all levels and in all locales. We visualized the future. We looked critically at the many things we have done and can do, and decided upon the things we can do best. We contemplated our audiences and came up with a solid, measurable action plan. We compiled a long to-do list. We are holding ourselves accountable and will review and adjust our plan for prosperity as needed, because, like our state and national Constitutions, our strategic plan is a living, breathing document that must track with the times.
Our main strength is also our main goal: connectivity. We are so deeply connected to our communities and to each other. We are in the community, of the community, and for the community. We need to keep that connectivity going to keep jobs growing, loans flowing, and economic prosperity going.
But that connectivity looks far different in 2018 than it did in the days of smalltown banker George Bailey in the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“The future,” as Yogi Berra quipped, “ain’t what it used to be.”
In George Bailey’s charming, snow-lined Bedford Falls, George argued with a heartless Mr. Potter: “Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000?” He noted that, by the time a wage earner can save and afford a home, his kids are grown and his health is failing.
“They do most of the working and paying and living and dying in the same community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? My father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him…to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
Those words still ring true in 2018 for our community bankers.
Our wealth lies not in our balance sheet but in our people—our employees and our customers. It lies in the joys we allow people to experience, like a warm bed, a comfy couch, a house full of family at the holidays.
Community banks are the circulatory system of smalltown America, the workhorses that turn dreams into completed projects.
We give life to dying steel towns, restore color to fading hopes, and give form to unexpressed dreams.
In formulating our strategic plan, we considered what banking consultant Chuck Marshall deemed the “Seven Sins of Strategic Planning for Community Banks,” which were summarized in a January 2017 article for the Missouri Independent Bankers Association magazine.
His list included these seven “sins:”
- Failing to clearly recognize a starting point
- Failing to include all players
- Failing to prepare for the planning session
- Failing to set a destination
- Failing to create a roadmap to success
- Failing to keep the plan alive
- Failing to set measurements tied to goals.
With these pitfalls as our “un-guide,” we decided upon three main goals. The first is for the association to break from the tradition of communicating only with the CEOs and go bigger and broader to better serve the 14,000 amazing employees who do such remarkable work for the industry.
Our C-suite-centric model seems outdated in 2018, so we are changing for the better.
Our industry is so important to the economy. Along with that truth, it is an understatement to say that our employees at all levels are worth protecting. We want to give them the opportunity for a lifelong career in community banking. But we fear that many employees don’t realize how important they are to the local community.
It truly is a calling to community service.
So we will be offering more training, more networking and more opportunities for everyone in this wonderful industry.
The reboot of the association will reach a far broader audience. It will also be an opportunity for all members to participate more.
We will expand our committees.
We will pull back the curtain on our new website, which will be cleaner, more modern, easier to navigate, and far more appealing to the eyes and minds of those we serve.
We will further energize our base and promote Pennsylvania’s hometowns.
We will invite people to meet our “Hometown Champions,” people who pour their heart and soul into their home base.
Our “Rolling for Repeal” motorcycle tour is part of this effort. We will continue to power up our bikes to bring greater public attention to community banks and the sacrifices made when a town loses a community bank. We cannot afford to lose one more bank. We’ve lost so much already.
In short, our new Strategic Plan features three main points:
- Redefine the value proposition of PACB,
- Increase participation and thereby strengthen our advocacy, and lastly
- Diversify revenue.
As a corollary, we want to expose the next generation to the benefits of a career in community banking.
We also want to show, especially to those in college today and recent college graduates, that we make the community a better place.
Everyone is very excited about the plan. But we are not Polyanna-ish. We know studies show that more than 70 percent of Strategic Plans sit on a shelf, ignored, or otherwise, not executed.
But not us.
We are already on the road to success.
Last year, PACB launched three regional meetings to access professional development. This year, we will offer the same three meetings, and also add an awards ceremony to spotlight star performers and community projects.
We will honor Hometown Champions who go above and beyond.
This was among the ideas we received when we held stakeholder meetings and gathered input from members and institutions, businesses and elected officials. We even went outside our inner circle of community banks to glean the perspective of others in the communities we serve.
What we frequently found is that people do not realize the difference between community banks and big banks.
To differentiate ourselves from the big guys, we underscore that 60 percent of small business loans are made by community banks. We are indeed “relationship bankers.”
We may not give an instant “yes” to someone seeking a loan, but we always offer a sympathetic ear. We will listen and endeavor to work with the members of our community.
As Troy often reiterates, all three legs of the Strategic Plan stool are important for it to stand on its own.
But, we believe that increasing the participation of members is perhaps the most critical leg. We will be targeting bankers beyond the CEO/President level to participate in the organization through our revamped website and social media interactions, educational offerings, regional meetings, networking events, the “Hometown Champions” initiative, and engagement with FirstPAC, to name a few. As the members’ organization, PACB operates solely to protect and advance our industry. It is fundamental to our success that members be active.
Past PACB Chairman Dennis Cirucci made a comment at the convention that stuck with us. It was simply, “Don’t let someone else carry your water.” That resonated with us. We all need to step up, do our part, and get involved. It’s our responsibility.
Of course, improving the communication of our value proposition will go a long way toward getting more people involved.
As community bankers, our institutions can only be as strong as the communities we serve. It is the same with the PACB. We are collectively a community of community bankers. We are served best when we invest in our own industry, and in ourselves.
When we think of what that investment means, we remember not only the mythical town of Bedford Falls but Coatesville.
The steel beams manufactured in Coatesville, PA, for the World Trade Center that came crashing down on 9-11 have returned home to Coatesville. Having survived the inferno and the evil, these beams are a metaphor for the town and our industry. When the steel industry died, many steel workers left Coatesville, storefronts closed, and the big banks fled—but Coatesville Savings Bank stayed. As past PACB chairman Fred Henrich says on our Youtube video, there had been five banks in town, but they are now the only one left. They’ve been there for 98 years and they are not leaving now. Like those steel beams, they stand strong.
“Keeping the Lights on in our Hometown” shows how community banks never abandon their friends.
Which brings us to angel Clarence’s inscription at the close of “It’s a Wonderful Life:” “No man is a failure who has friends.”
What would people’s lives be like if community banks were never born?
Bedford Falls angel-in-waiting Clarence notes, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives.” So it is with the reach of our community banks. When we follow the Strategic Plan, that touch is destined to be so much wider and so much deeper. We plan to work, then work our plan. And that plan can give us wings.