In addition to fending off a plan for a new bank in its market, First National Bancorp is engaged in some basic soul-searching.

Since the beginning of the year, the $2.2-billion-asset company has embarked on a plan designed to expose festering problems, assess the company's future, address ways to serve customers better, and keep employees productive and happy.

"We are at a crossroads," said Richard A. McNeece, chairman and chief executive of the Gainesville, Ga.-based company, who 18 months ago decided it was time for sweeping changes.

"I just became concerned that if we had the same approach to doing business we would not be successful going forward."

Teamwork Training

The first step began in January, when 17 executives made a three-day trip to northern Georgia for training in teamwork and how to air problems in a nonthreatening way.

Executives also talked about what the industry will look like in 15 years.

"We are going to have to look far beyond where we are today," Mr. McNeece said.

This week, the company holds a series of motivational meetings with its 1,350 employees across the state to discuss the company's vision and prospects.

"We are looking at the present from the perspective of the future," Mr. McNeece said.

First National is already a sound performer, with a 1.28% return on assets, but officials are convinced their efforts will pay off.

"Five years from now we will be the standard of performance in the banking industry," said Peter D. Miller, president and chief financial officer of First National Bancorp.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.