What Advisors Can Learn From Shake Shack

How you make your clients feel is as important as the professional advice you provide.

  • Put their names on a list and then keep a hard copy where you will see it often.
  • Carefully monitor activity and connection to this group.
  • Review your list at least once a week and determine a way to show each person how much you value them. You’ll soon find these people become even bigger fans!

Related: What Advisors Can Learn From the Death of Tony Hsieh


As an advisor, do you think you’re in the service business or the hospitality industry?

Well, obviously, as advisors, it’s a combination of them both.

I love what Danny Meyer says in his book Setting the Table. Danny Meyer is the creator of Shake Shack and very successful restaurants on the East Coast, and he mentions this in his book,

“Service is the technical delivery of a product. . .

Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes the recipient feel. Service is a monologue. We decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. That dialogue is rich with implications and possibilities. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.”

He’s absolutely right. It made me think of the swim school we were running back in New Zealand. We started with 200 students, and the service we provided to them was to teach them to swim. Their parents were bringing them to us to provide that service, but we had two markets that we were servicing: one was the children, the second were the parents, and we wanted to provide great hospitality to the people involved in bringing their children to us. So we had magazines set aside specifically for different careers that we knew parents were involved in. We had the latest architectural magazines. We had the latest health and fitness magazines, diet and recipe magazines for people to read while they were waiting for 40 minutes, watching their children swim.

These parents were coming in frazzled. They were coming in at the end of their working day to sit for that time and then go home and continue working. Some were going to go home to prepare meals for their family and the siblings of these children. Other parents brought sisters and brothers of the children who were swimming, and they had to corral them while watching their kids swim. So we wanted to show them we were also geared up for them, as parents, and were catering to them as best as possible. We had free tea, milk, coffee, fresh hot chocolate. We looked after them as best we could. They’d come to us and ask if they could tear an article out of a magazine. We’d send them home with the magazine and just replace it. We wanted them to know when they stepped foot inside our swim school, it was set up for them to enjoy as parents as well as provide a great service for their children.

And what happened from there? They would go home and talk about us to their neighbors. They might mention the swim lesson, but they’d certainly mention that for 40 minutes they could just relax and take the weight off their feet. We received phone calls from neighbors wanting to know if they could get into that 4:00 lesson on a Friday because they wanted to be next to Mary and have a chance to just connect better with her. It was the hospitality approach that we delivered while we were delivering the service that made our clients tell their friends and family about us.

You, as advisors, have to deliver a phenomenal service. You’ve got to know your stuff: rules and regs, how to best advise regarding cash flow, when to tap Social Security, how we structure RMDs. All of these service issues we need to know thoroughly and provide professionally. But, we also deliver those things in the context of a hospitable, helpful environment — one that is engaging and attractive to people so that they go home and mention it to their friends. What you do is not just about how you help your clients; it’s also about the context in which you deliver that help.

So to better do this and analyze your business to understand how to best deliver this kind of hospitality along with the services,

  1. Identify your top 10 clients, your top five advising clients (i.e. top five clients that refer you the most) and two referral partners (i.e. Centers of Influence).
  2. List them on a spreadsheet. Make an actual list (print a hard copy that sits beside your computer screen) that you look at regularly.
  3. Look at it regularly. Every week, set aside 30 minutes when you devote your time and attention to this top group of people and consider how you can best connect with them. Maybe you mail an article regarding college education to one of these people whose child is a junior in high school. Maybe you send them something to do with a hobby they have. Maybe it’s an article that’s industry-specific to their industry, not your industry as an advisor.

Show them that, Yes, you get exactly what you need to deliver regarding the service side. But, alse ensure that when anybody encounters you, the hospitality that they also receive has them absolutely raving about you and your company.

I look forward to bringing you another Distraction-Proof Advisor Idea next week.