Not Just a Mickey Mouse Job

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, this plan­ner-to-be de­toured to Dis­ney World, where the lessons he learned ap­plied more than he’d ex­pected.

Financial Planning - - CONTENTS - BY ELI­JAH ESSA

At Dis­ney World, this plan­ner-to-be learned lessons that ap­plied more than he ex­pected.

Af­ter we grad­u­ated, many of my fel­low stu­dents from Western Ken­tucky Uni­ver­sity’s per­sonal fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram im­me­di­ately sought jobs at fi­nan­cial plan­ning firms and si­mul­ta­ne­ously com­menced study­ing for the CFP exam. I de­cided to take the road less trav­eled — the road to Or­lando, Florida. For five months af­ter grad­u­a­tion, I worked at Walt Dis­ney World’s An­i­mal King­dom as a cast mem­ber. Es­sen­tially, I talked with park guests for six nights a week. I had sus­pected that work­ing at Dis­ney World would have many more par­al­lels with fi­nan­cial plan­ning than first meets the eye. In the end, I was right. There is a per­cep­tion that, in Dis­ney World, the cus­tomer is al­ways right. I can tell you first­hand that this is not the case, as there were prob­a­bly hun­dreds of times when I had to step in to cor­rect a guest. At An­i­mal King­dom, for in­stance, we had a loose pol­icy that guests could not en­ter a show once it had started. One night, there were a few guests who asked me if they could see the show, which was nearly half­way over. I po­litely in­formed them that no more guests were al­lowed in the the­ater, to which they promptly cursed in my face and told me they were never com­ing to An­i­mal King­dom again. It would have been easy to tell these peo­ple that I was glad I’d never see them again. In­stead, I promptly apol­o­gized and told them of the sec­ond show later that night, and asked if there was any way I could make their ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter. This is not hu­man na­ture, and I’ll ad­mit, it is not al­ways the way I re­acted in these sit­u­a­tions. But I tried my best to main­tain in­tegrity while wear­ing the Dis­ney uni­form, just like I now main­tain a fidu­ciary duty when work­ing with clients. Putting oth­ers’ needs above your own can be ex­cep­tion­ally dif­fi­cult, but I know first­hand that it is the most re­ward­ing way of do­ing busi­ness. One of the other lessons I learned at Dis­ney was about com­pe­tency. On my first day at An­i­mal King­dom, I was given a park map. I stud­ied that map, read the park’s his­tory and talked to other cast mem­bers about the at­trac­tions where they worked. By the end of my time there, I was well pre­pared to an­swer most guest ques­tions and do fun things like ask them trivia ques­tions about the park. No mat­ter what job you have, hav­ing a high level of com­pe­tence can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease your own con­fi­dence and en­hance a cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ence. I am see­ing the value of this les­son again as I work as a fi­nan­cial plan­ning as­so­ciate.

Hav­ing a high level of com­pe­tence can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease your own con­fi­dence and en­hance a cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

Fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors should treat ev­ery client as a Walt Dis­ney World guest who is seek­ing guid­ance and an­swers. Yes, fi­nan­cial plan­ning sce­nar­ios are vastly more com­plex than sim­ple theme park ques­tions, but the no­tion is the same. While I may not be telling clients to “have a mag­i­cal day” around the of­fice, Dis­ney’s core mis­sion to make peo­ple happy is es­sen­tially what I do now, too. In fact, it is my pri­mary goal.

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