You Must Be This Tall to Ride

lens2255369_1263225429Height_Sign_-_Laughing_PlI was looking through some old photos recently of when my wife and I took my daughter to Disneyland. (If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been there once or twice.)  One of the few maddening things about taking our kids to ‘the happiest place on earth’ is that there are rules to be followed that sometimes cause us problems — even though they’re meant to protect us.

Some of the best rides at the park have signs with characters holding out their hands to indicate how tall the child must be in order to ride. Small children are often disappointed when they find that they aren’t allowed to ride on certain attractions. Of course it’s for everyone’s safety, even if it doesn’t make life easy, but the park has a point — they can’t just let anyone on the ride.

As I was looking at the ‘You Must Be This Tall to Ride’ sign in that old photo, I began thinking about how valuable this might be for financial advisers.  Imagine that you have determined your requirements for becoming a client and could post them on the front door of your office — ‘In Order to Become a Client With Our Firm You Must Be This Tall to Ride’.

What I’m suggesting may make some advisers a bit uncomfortable. How could we dare keep potential clients out of our offices by pronouncing the requirements to become a client right outside the front door? You might tell me that it’s ridiculous. And, I’d have to agree. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t keep my ‘You Must Be This Tall to Ride’ requirements on my notepad or on my desk so that I can easily refer to them as I interview potential clients. And, maybe I should share the ride requirements with my staff as well.

As a practice management consultant, I’ve spoken to advisers about the importance of having an ideal client profile, and I’ve found that many challenges that advisers face in their businesses can be traced back to the simple fact that they can’t describe what their ideal client looks like.

Not having an ideal client profile can cause many different problems for you and your business. How do you know if you’re offering the right products and services, if you aren’t clear as to who your clients are? Are you wasting time, effort, and capital serving clients who are wrong for your business? How can you gain referrals if you can’t accurately describe to your referral sources the type of client you best serve and how you help them?

How do we solve this problem? Get a piece of paper and make yourself a sign.  At the top, label it ‘You Must Be This Tall to Ride’. Now write down what ‘tall ‘ means to you and to your firm. Is your client a small business owner? An architect? An engineer? A teacher? Does he live downtown or in the suburbs? On the north side of town or west of the river? Does he belong to a particular ethnic or religious group? What is his average age? What are his hobbies? What types of problems can you help him solve?

The more accurately you can describe your ideal ‘rider’, the more likely you will be to avoid ‘mishaps’ that can be costly to your firm.  Disney decides who gets to ride, and it’s still the ‘happiest place on earth’. You can be much happier by deciding in advance who get to go on your ride as well.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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