Chapter One

Truth Number 1: You Can’t Be Good at Everything

Vernon Hill is a banker who started out in real estate, scouting new locations for retailers. One of his first clients was McDonald’s, and some say the Happy Meal inspired him. One thing is clear: as the founder and CEO of Commerce Bank, he built a wildly successful enterprise that rewrote the rules of an industry. And he did it by daring to be bad.

We feature the story of Vernon Hill’s creation—Commerce Bank—because it allows us to show how a company can design a great service offering, largely by making a series of carefully chosen and carefully integrated trade-offs.

When Hill started out in 1973, his vision was to build a bank not in the image of the leading financial institutions ...

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