iStock_000021817327_SmallThe most recent race I undertook was The Big D Texas Marathon. For this event, you could actually run the half marathon or the full. Having tortured my body through the years with multiple full marathons, I was running the half this year. While the marathon and half marathons started together, at about mile six the courses split: the marathoners went one direction and we halfway people went another.

At about mile eight of my 13.1 mile journey I caught up with a fellow racer. We crossed a mile marker that said “Mile 8” indicating that you had about five miles remaining. He turned to me and said, “Is this the marathon race?” I said, “Dude, you are on the half marathon path. The turnoff was way back there.” Needless to say, he said a few choice words and turned around. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he missed the fork by over two miles (yes, that meant he was going to run an extra four miles on top of the 26.2 mile marathon).

When the races split, he took the wrong fork.

Has your credit union or bank ever taken the wrong strategic fork? You can choose the wrong technology fork, the wrong communication fork or the wrong strategy fork.

It’s an easy mistake to make. During my race the fork was not easily marked (just some chalk on the ground and a small sign). And MOST racers were running the half so the PACK went the shorter distance. It’s the same way with your strategy: you can easily miss something that is not well marked and you can go in a certain strategic direction just because everyone else is.

Here are three strategic forks to watch out for:

  • Fad over trend—When examining whether to implement a certain technology, you must first ask the question, “is this a trend or a fad?” For example, many financial institutions rushed out and paid big bucks for account aggregation years ago, only to find consumers were not yet ready for it. When choosing strategic forks, go with the trends.
  • Marketing over branding—All the marketing in the world won’t solve a branding problem you have. In fact, great brands trump good marketing. Rather than invest in marketing promotions, marketing gimmicks and marketing tricks, try communicating what is real and authentic with your brand. When choosing strategic forks, go with the brand.
  • Numbers over people—When it’s time to make budget cuts, one of the first places credit unions and banks examine is training. After all, those reductions help meet the immediate financial bottom line needs. But what are the long-term ramifications of not investing in your people? Eventually, you have to live with a poorly trained and disengaged staff. When choosing strategic forks, go with your people.

Strategy is as much about choices as it is about knowledge. If you choose to take the wrong fork you can wind up exhausted, frustrated and angry, much like the runner who took the wrong fork in a long race.