I have several loves in my life: my wife, my daughters, my company. Following close behind those top three is my love for fantasy football. Of course my family would probably tell you it’s not that I love fantasy football: I’m addicted to it. The primary league I play in is celebrating its 27th year (you got that right: pretty much same dudes for over a quarter of a century).

There is no better season of the year than fantasy football season. Especially when it’s draft time (which is this time of year). While poring over endless cheat sheets, reviewing favorite websites (that would be Footballguys.com), and loading fantasy football software on my computer (yes, there are such programs), I thought there were actually several strategic planning lessons we can learn from fantasy football.

As your credit union or bank prepares for an upcoming planning session, keep these thoughts from fantasy football in mind:

  • Do your research—I can’t tell you how much time I spend researching fantasy football (ask my wife and she’ll joke “too much!”). The people that typically make the playoffs or win their league are usually the ones that do a ton of homework. Show up with a month old magazine cheat sheet and you’re sure to lose. It’s the same way with strategic planning. The more time you put into your session BEFORE it starts, the better session you’ll have. For example, make sure you are reading CUNA’s E-Scan, reviewing blogs like The Financial Brand and answering pre-session questions. The more preparation you conduct for your session, the better outcomes you’ll have.
  • Make your plan flexible—When it comes to my fantasy football draft I always have a plan. Who I’m going to draft and in what round. And invariably, my arch-nemesis and co-commissioner (the Fighting Jewish) always picks the guy right before I do. As a result, I have to be a bit flexible with my plan. It’s no different with your strategic plan as well. You have to make it flexible. You can’t possibly foresee all the things that might develop in the course of your strategy: a key employee leaves, the local economy struggles, a marketing promotion bombs. Be ready for changes with contingencies. The more flexibility you put into your plan, the better results you’ll see.
  • Identify sleepers—If you want to win in fantasy football you have to pick players no one else thinks is going to do all that great. In fantasy football terms those are guys known as “sleepers.” If you want to win with your strategic plan you have to pick ideas and tactics that others in your market may not be doing. If your competition zigs, you zag. It’s the classic Blue Ocean Strategy For example, rather than doing sales and service training like every other financial institution, maybe you do engagement training. Or rather than doing the same loan and deposit campaigns you do every year you conduct a marketing audit to gain fresh ideas. The more unique you make your plan, the better growth you’ll have.

Another cool thing about fantasy football is how it builds community (something your credit union or bank should do internally and externally). Through the years our league has been there for marriages, divorces, births and more. One of our members passed away after a battle with cancer a few years ago. But through it all, we’ve had this love not just for football but for each other

And if you want to love your next planning session, then remember these lessons from fantasy football.