For most of its history, the financial advice industry has been almost exclusively transactional in nature, which meant that advisors would usually interact with clients only when there was a new sales opportunity. The need for interaction only once every few years meant that advisors could have literally hundreds of clients, and it was virtually unthinkable that an advisor would ever choose to or have to turn anyone away. But, as the industry has shifted towards a more ongoing, relationship-driven model, it’s become increasingly common for advisors to find that they’ve hit a capacity wall and simply can’t take on more clients. And once at capacity, many advisors have either raised their fees (so that more prospective clients self-select out of the engagement process before ever reaching out) and/or sought to add capacity (by bringing in additional advisors and staff).
However, for those advisors who aren’t interested in increasing headcount (because they aren’t keen on managing people) or don’t want to raise fees (because their current pricing works for the particular niche they’re targeting), many have turned to implementing waitlists as a way to manage their capacity, at least in the short-term. Which, in turn, raises the question: is implementing a waitlist really the best way to handle capacity limitations, or is there a better alternative?
In our 55th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication expert Carl Richards discuss the motivations that might drive an advisor to implement a waitlist in their practice, the unintended consequences of a waitlist, and a key mindset shift that advisors can make when thinking about their desire to manage their limited capacity with a waitlist.
As a starting point, it’s important to distinguish amongst a couple of different circumstances behind the use of a waitlist. On the one hand, for the advisor who is actively expanding their capacity by hiring more staff, a short waitlist might be unavoidable if there’s been a sudden influx of new clients, and it’s logistically impossible to onboard everyone all at once. On the other hand, some advisors have intentionally capped their growth pace, and implement a waitlist that (in some cases) might be up to 18 months.
For that second subset of advisors, it’s important to recognize that their decision to put prospective clients on a waitlist comes from a deep desire to help, while realizing that it’s impossible to help everyone (because an advisor who says “yes” to more professional opportunities than they can handle is also actively saying “no” to other things in their life). Unfortunately, though, that decision comes along with some unintended consequences, as people who reach out to financial advisors invariably do so when they have an acute pain point that they need help with right away, and telling those people, “yes, but” means that they often aren’t getting the help they need when they need it (and will just go elsewhere anyway). Instead, it’s perhaps the better response for advisors to simply say they aren’t accepting new clients at the moment and (as an alternative) recommend those prospects out to other advisors who do have the capacity to offer the immediate help the prospective client is seeking.
Ultimately, the key point is that, while it may make sense to implement a waitlist as a way to manage growth and capacity, the reality is that the longer the waitlist gets, the more the risk that advisors end out rejecting clients who, not knowing where to turn, may not get the help they need (or worse, seek it from an advisor who doesn’t do a good job for them). And while some advisors may worry that referring potential clients out will empty out their pipeline and leave them without prospects when spots do open up, it’s important to realize that simply getting to a point where there isn’t room for more clients means that the advisor must be doing something right, and can move away from the scarcity mentality all advisors have as they build their businesses. Because advisors who are at capacity and choose to refer prospective clients to good advisors, at the end of the day, are actively helping those people and moving the profession forward.
***Editor's Note: Can't get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we've released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
- #FASuccess Ep 094: Crafting Your Optimal Solo Practice By Simply Charging What You’re Worth With James Osborne
- #FASuccess Ep 014: Validating Your Advisor Value Proposition And Overcoming Imposter Syndrome With Carl Richards
- Seth Godin on The Game of Life, The Value of Hacks, and Overcoming Anxiety (#476)
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Good morning, Carl.
Carl: Hey, about that? I'm on the same continent so we can actually say, yeah, good morning.
Michael: Yeah, it actually works now, I can say good morning to you and it's morning for both of us at the same time. Although ironically it is actually just afternoon, so I just looked that up. Good afternoon here, good morning there in Utah. Which is the flip of where it was in the past where it was morning here because it was afternoon in London where you were. So welcome back to the U.S.
Carl: Yeah, good to be back here. Super excited. It's been amazing. Mainly just because on the top of my one-page financial plan it says, "Time with my family, mainly outside." And that's why we decided to come back. And I've spent a lot of time with my family outside, it's been amazing.
Michael: Awesome, awesome. So as we kick off today, I had actually put out announcements a few days ago of just, "We've got another Kitces & Carl coming up, what does everyone want to talk about or hear us chatter about or debate or fight about or whatever it is we're going to do?," because we never quite know what it's going to shape up to be. And we got this interesting question, or comment, around how do you implement a waitlist? For that subset of firms that are doing really well and growth momentum is picking up, but it's just... Right? There's so much upfront work to do when a client comes onboard that we can just only handle so many new clients at once, right? It is a very real bottleneck constraint in the business.
And so she had put this out there. And frankly, I think, got a lot of, I'll call it, the predictable responses. Right? If you're getting too many new clients, you can raise you fees, you can hire and expand your team, you can try to get more efficient so that you can get clients through faster. Just all the mechanical things that you do to deal with this. And maybe we can go there for a few minutes, although I don't think the idea of "I'm getting more flow than I can handle right now, hire more people or raise your fees to cut the flow”, isn’t really news. I'm sure it wasn't news to the advisor that asked it.
And so I thought actually the more interesting conversation is actually why do we feel a compulsion to want to create things like waiting lists in the first place. Because to me there's something else there, right? It's not “how do you create a waiting list?” it's, “what makes us want to create a waiting list but also not increase our fees or hire more people?” And there are good reasons to not increase our fees, right? “I like who I'm working with, I don't want to price myself into a different bracket.” There are lots of reasons about why I don't want to hire a team, because I don't want to manage people, I don't want to be doing that. Some of us like managing, some of us don't. But to me if you don't want to do that, there's a pretty straightforward answer. You just say "no." When a prospect comes along, you're like, "I'm sorry, I'm not accepting new clients right now. Here's someone else to work with."
And so to me the interesting conversation is why do we want to make waitlists in the first place.
What A Client Waiting List Looks Like In Practice [04:10]
Carl: Look, I love this topic for so many reasons. One of the reasons I love it is just because this is a common question, right? And often the people that are asking it are my favorite people. Often it's really thoughtful, they've been successful, or thoughtful about what they want to build because they're saying, "Hey, I have enough."
And so the first reason I love this question is because it's so fun to see... I don't know that "fun" is the right word, but it's really funny to see all of the cool kids jump into conversations like that and say, "Well, just raise your rates and hire more staff." And you're like, "Well, yeah." Of course, right? If that's what you want to do. But I think this leads to a discussion we'll have another time around designing a business on purpose and being really thoughtful and all of that stuff. Because yeah, there's so much just... I don't even know what it is. It's like of course you would. But that's economics...as I think somebody even pointed out, that's economics 101. I'm asking a different question.
And the different question which I love that you're pointing out, which is you don't...
“yeah, if your business is full and you can handle one to three new clients a year because of natural...somebody dies...”
Michael: Somebody dies, they move and relocate and want a local advisor and don't want to do it virtually, whatever. Even great practices have a couple percent of natural attrition, yeah.
Carl: Yeah, you know who this reminds me of is James Osborne. So, and James, of course, ruined the story because he did something... And again, totally appropriate, I'm glad he did. We all get to make these decisions. And the story he ruined was I used to love telling James a story. That he set a very specific goal of a certain number of clients, and as I recall it was 75. And there was a very specific... He charged an annual retainer.
Michael: Yeah. I think it was a straight $4,800 a year, period.
Carl: I think it was $4,000, then $4,500, then $4,800. And he filled that up in like 18 months or something, I can't remember what the number was. He was very intentional, and James is a very intentional person. And he's got specific goals outside of business, he's got a family, he loves to ride his bike, all of that stuff. It was just such a great story, you sort of love telling it. At keynotes I would tell it all the time. As an example of, "Did you know you could do this?"
Michael: Right? Almost $5 grand a client, charging 80 clients, $400,000 of revenue. You don't need a lot of staff infrastructure to do this, it only takes so much time to service 80 clients, particularly once they're established, you're through the new client phase, that's a little busier. Yeah, a freaking amazing practice to build.
Carl: And my favorite topic of that was, "Who said that was allowed?" You know what I mean? "You're allowed to do that," it was really cool. And I was one of the cool kids that used to show up at James' door every once in a while and say, "James, why don't you hire more people and build more things." And James, I remember once specifically he's like, "Why?" Right? Like, "I work X, I'm thrilled with my lifestyle, I ride my bike .5 of X," or whatever the number was, right? "I'm spending time... Why?"
And so and then, of course, things evolve. And I just like using James as an example because it's interesting. Because things evolve and he makes a decision. At one point he told me his waitlist was 18 months. Because he would put people on it. And then there was this point where you had to have a referral to get on the waitlist.
So this whole game is so fascinating. And then things evolved and James was like, "Look." And I think... I'm totally guessing here, but I think you and I know James well enough to know that I think we're right about this guess. James makes a decision because it would allow him to help more people. Right? It wasn't about more revenue, I don't think it was about more revenue. He had what he needed. It was about helping more people.
And so I think this idea of this... But when James had that, I used to think about this all the time. It was like, "Why do you have the waitlist if it's going to be 18 months?"
Michael: Yeah. People tend to reach out to us as advisors because there's a need, there's a problem.
Carl: An acute problem.
Michael: Yeah, usually an acute problem particularly. Because yeah, the fees that we charge, you don't do that because you're like, "I was just sort of in the mood to reach out to someone and get a little financial advice." There's a problem that they're trying to solve for that makes them take action and reach out to us. Often it's a problem that's been building up for a while before it gets to the point that they're actually willing to take action. And it is not usually the kind of problem that's like, "Eh, I might get around to you in 18 months." Let's be honest, they're going to move on.
Michael: They're going to find something else. But we have this instinct and this impulse to create a waiting list. And I think even I should contextualize this further as we're talking about it. Yeah, there is a second domain of waitlists that's literally I'm growing...heck, I'm growing, I'm hiring more staff, I'm expanding my team, but just it takes a certain amount of time to add capacity. We had a big influx and I've got a six-week waiting list until I can take on my next client because I'm just literally trying to smooth out the growth flow.
So I feel like I need to asterisk. When we're talking about waitlists or maybe sort of questioning waitlists like this, I'm not talking about that version. Which is I am going to take all of them in a relatively expedient manner, I just literally can't do a seventh new plan this month or I'm going to have to kill myself. It is just too much.
So we're not talking about those which are just pure ultra short-term efficiency and resource management. To me it's the six-month, 12-month, 18-month waiting list. At one point this advisor had said, "Well, as I approach capacity, maybe I'll end up at a point where I'm taking 1 or 2 new clients every year and we could have a waitlist up to 20." And I hear that and I'm like, "If you're taking one or two a year and your waitlist is 20, your client wouldn't be able to join the firm until the decade of the 2030s." And that's just this years' prospects, that means next years' prospects, which might be 20 more and take you to 40, they can't join the firm until the 2040s. And at some point I feel like, if only in fairness to the client, we have to just get realistic to say, "I'm just at capacity and I'm not going to be able to work with you."
But again, the piece that crops up to me is why do we feel this compulsion to want to make the waitlist anyways. And as you noted with James, his waitlist got more complex and harder to get onto and more hoops to jump through in order to get there. And I get why we do that, because we're trying to manage it. Because otherwise his waiting list was going to 18 be months, and 24 months, and 36 months, and longer. And it was going to get feeling even more ridiculous perhaps for a client of like, "Hey, I've got a financial problem," "Cool, I can totally fit you in in 2025." It's like, "Yeah, not working for me."
But why are we going there?
What Motivates Advisors To Implement A Waitlist? [11:55]
Michael: Why are we going there? Is it just as straightforward as it's just still scary to say "no"?
Carl: To me, I think there's a couple reasons. And I want to just emphasize. We're using these two examples and we're extrapolating a whole bunch of motivations that we don't know anything about.
Carl: And I do know that the two people that we're talking about... And we're only not mentioning the one advisor because we didn't ask for permission. And we didn't ask for James' permission anyway, but I think...
Michael: James told the entire story on our podcast, on Financial Advisor Success Podcast. It's episode 94 if you want to go back and listen to it.
Carl: Hey, time out. What episode is my episode?
Michael: What episode is your episode? I forget.
Carl: I knew it, it's every time. I've given you fair warning that if you throw out those numbers... If I can just say "James" and you...
Michael: You were so early, I can't even remember which one yours was.
Carl: Let's not get off track. James gave me permission to share his story years ago, you've shared it on the podcast. So the both of these planner/advisors are among the most thoughtful people we know. And I think the one that asks this question recently was actually pointing at this exact discussion, sort of like, "Look, I want to have a more"... In fact, I think she even said sort of far-ranging thoughts rather than she wasn't looking for the econ 101 answer, it was clear.
So let's talk about that a little bit. I think there's a fundamental problem. We all, to me... And again, based on what I know about this specific person, but based on what I know about a lot of people that ask this question. There's a sense of duty and even calling and desire to help that is very real among most of the people we hang out with.
Michael: It's a helping profession is why most of us show up to do this.
Carl: Among this little secret group of people, right? It's not a helping industry necessarily, but it's a helping profession if we want to make that designation. But among the people we're talking to, these people want to help. And so I think that comes along with this set of... There's actually... I want to make a list someday of the things we do that we’re actually...we do it in the name of the client, but it's actually really just to help us feel better about our inability to help everyone. Right? Like we want to help so badly. We want to help, we want to help, we want to help. But we can't help everyone, and especially when you throw in the idea that I also want a life so I can....I don't have to... If I say "yes" to everybody at work, I'm going to be saying "no" to some of the most important people in my life.
So I think there's an element of this waitlist thing that's very similar to, if you decide that maybe early on you took on anybody you could and you've got a bunch of legacy clients that you're no longer serving. And you feel terrible about it because... And I remember when I went to sell my practice, John Bowen actually told me, he said, "Carl, your biggest disappointment in life is going to be when you sell your business and no one cries but you." And it was true. Because I was like, "These people, they'll never be able to find a better... I care about them so much."
Michael: "They'll never find a better advisor, they basically won't be able to go on in their financial lives without me, but I'm praying I can transition them successfully. Maybe a few of them will hang around for the buyer so that this works out okay."
Carl: It was like I was handing off my mom. Right? And so... Well, I actually did. But I think that points to this idea that sometimes we do these things, and I'm just guessing here, sometimes we do these things, like waitlists, to make ourselves feel a little better. "Okay, maybe we'll get to that person." When maybe the best answer would be, "Let me find an appropriate place for you."
Michael: And that, to me, is kind of where I come out on this, as well. That I fully agree with you, right? We do this because we want to help clients. It feels often when someone is literally like, "I want your help," and you have to say, "No."
Carl: Yeah, so hard.
Michael: And so it's a lot easier to say, "No, not right now, but..."
What A Waitlist Actually Means For A Prospective Client And A Better Way For “At Capacity” Advisors To Help [16:29]
Michael: "Here's my waiting list," right? Like, "I didn't reject them. And if they go away now... I did my best because I put them on the waiting list. And if they decide to go somewhere else, oh well." But to me it just...I guess the irony is we do it because we want to help them, but I think the truth is that we help them less by doing it.
Michael: Because we're not giving them the help that they need in the time horizon. Again, I'm putting aside the "I have a six-week waiting list because we just got a glut and we can only handle so many at once." That's fine, do your logisticky thing. That's fine. I'm talking about the multi-month, year-long-plus waitlist kinds of scenarios.
Michael: Just realistically they're not going to wait for you for a year, they're going to go find another advisor. Which means you have already rejected them and sent them back out there.
Michael: And I think the irony is a lot of the time we want to put them on the waitlist and hold them in because we've all seen the bad advisors out there. I've heard more than one advisor over the years literally say, "I don't want to throw my client to the wolves"...or "my prospect to the wolves."
Carl: Sure, totally.
Michael: And I totally get that. But the irony is saying, "Well, so I don't want to throw them back to the wolves, so I'm going to put them on my waitlist"? You did throw them back to the wolves. Because they're not realistically going to wait for you that long. They got a problem in their life, that's why they called now. It's probably not a problem that's waiting for a year-plus to get resolved and dealt with. And so they are going to go out and find another advisor anyways. And they still may not know what they're looking for. And they still may not find a good fit. And all those motivations that we have that we say we don't want to throw them to the wolves, well, that's great. If we don't want to throw them to the wolves and you're at capacity, it's okay to just say you're at capacity, "But here's someone who can help you."
Michael: And just go find who you would refer them to that has capacity, right? We've talked about it on this discussion before. Your non-fit client is someone else's A-level golden client who they will take tomorrow and serve the bejesus out of because their practice is not where yours is and they don't necessarily have the clients and the income and things are not flowing for them. They're where you were when you were getting started because this is sucky for everyone when we get started.
So take that next new advisor who's really good and just doesn't have clients yet, help them, help the client get timely advice. Right? Don't just throw them back out there to the wolves. But rather than saying, "I've got a 12 to 18-month waiting list," say, "I know an advisor who can help you right now. And I've done some of the due diligence and figured out who an appropriate advisor is." And I know for some of us even that's scary. What if they turn out to not be a good advisor? It's like, well, welcome to the misery that clients go through. They know less about this business than we do.
Michael: So if we can't find someone, welcome to why clients have so much trouble hiring an advisor. But if you feel this bad, then, if you want, use that as your motivation to say, "I'm going to vet some advisors and figure out good people to send these clients to." So the client gets helped, and the next good advisor gets helped, and they will build the practice and draw clients away from the wolves. And to me, that's part of how we move the profession forward.
Carl: No, I agree. And I think, to flip this on its own enlightened self-interest, too, that every time... And I know this is true and we just don't think about it. When you put someone on a waitlist, in your own...what's going on in your own head is that's an implied liability. Right? You've made a commitment, as small as it is, that... And I think that... We do a lot of work here, at Behavior Gap Headquarters, we do a lot of work around trying not to design products or knowledge things or whatever, any of the work that we do we try to think really carefully about the debt burden in terms of time that we're putting on ourselves. And I think a waitlist is that, you wake up thinking about your waitlist. Especially the kind of people, the kind of planners, we're talking about. You wake up thinking, "Now you've got 20 people that you're not servicing."
So I think in your own enlightened self-interest it's like that's actually not doing you or them any good. And then we add to it this idea of looking for ways that we can help people that are traditionally underrepresented in our profession. How great would it be if you found somebody that was trying to build a business that represented somebody who's traditionally underrepresented in our industry and was a rock star, and you were like, "Look," now you can send them to that person? You find one or two of those. And you do it once, which I think is what you were pointing out. Instead of it being this constant... It's like under the surface chronic pain.
Carl: Set aside the time to make it an acute problem. And say, "Look, I'm going to find who would I send my mom to." Right? I'm going to find that person, I'm going to do it once, I've solved the problem once. Now every single time I get an inquiry, because I'm still doing this, we get inquiries all day long, and I don't know what to... Well, I shouldn't say this in front of this group of people. But we never know, "Where do we send them?"
So you do it once, you have a system now. You get an inquiry and you say, "Look, I've got these three people. This is why I have three, because they have different specialties. If any of them are a fit, I can make an introduction. But I'm at capacity." The line I was thinking of while you were talking was, "I'm so honored and really flattered. Thank you for the trust in reaching out to me to help you with this challenge. I am currently at capacity and the only right thing to do on behalf of my clients is to decline any new relationships. And I don't anticipate that changing."
Right? That sort of thing. Or, "We have or two spots that open a year. So you're welcome to check back. But in the meantime, you've probably got a challenge you need solved right now." I can imagine this as an e-mail, right? "You have a... I would assume you reached out to me because you have a challenge that you need solved right now. And so I've got somebody else, because I get asked often. Here's who I would send my mom to." Right? "Here's who I would send somebody to."
Right? And then you have to do the disclaimers of, "Yeah, of course check them out for yourself," blah, blah, blah. Right? And if you want to send two or three, I wouldn't send two or three people because you're trying to cover yourself like the attorneys do. I would send two or three people simply because they might be different, their specialty is different.
Michael: Different specialties, different communication styles, different business models maybe. Yeah.
Carl: Whatever, whatever. Just different. Not because I'm trying to... I hate that, "Here's three names," to cover. "No, tell me the one I should see." Right? And in this case, "I wouldn't have enough information," that's what I often tell people. I'm like, "I don't have enough information to tell you exactly who you should see, so go here." And I just send them to the place we might both be familiar with and say, "Look on the 'find a planner' thing and find the right person."
So imagine if you did that once. Think of where you would be. You'd be like, "Okay. I'm helping people. That was my number one desire. I'm not incurring a future obligation that I already know that I'm probably not going to be able to meet. I might not be able to meet it for a decade. I'm helping them because I've got somebody else that they can see right away. I'm helping build a profession because I've found somebody who needs"...
This is the problem we have, which we've talked about before. The best planners are overwhelmed and there's a whole other group of amazing best planners that aren't.
Carl: You solve that problem. What a great solution. That's what I would do.
The Key Mindset Shift That Advisors Can Make When Thinking About Waitlists [24:53]
Michael: Yeah. I think there is one other piece to this conversation to note, as well, that I do see either crop up or it's like one small step beneath the surface. And it's usually either sort of one of two versions of the same story. It is either, "Carl, if I refer them out, and then next year I change my mind and I want to grow more, what do I do? Because they're gone, they're not on my waiting list anymore."
Carl: Yeah, that's the modern ticket mentality.
Michael: And sometimes I feel like there's even an ancillary version of this, which is just I am still taking on one or two a year. And what if I refer them all out? And by the time it's June and I'm ready to take one, I sent them all out and now there's no one on the list. And then there's no more clients coming in, now my business goes into secular decline. In five years I'm just...
Carl: I have to stop you. I have to tell you a story real quick that's hilarious about that. That is really funny because I was having this conversation with Seth Godin and he was telling me this story about how he used to...the way he would make... In fact, he told the same story on Tim Ferriss' podcast. The way he would make speaking...decisions about whether or not to accept a speaking engagement was he would...if they came in, he would accept it. And he's like, "That's the worst." Because he had this fear that if he didn't say "yes," nobody would ever ask him again ever, ever, ever, and he may as well crawl under a rock and die.
Carl: Right? When you have a spot open, is it going to kill you if you don't fill it in 30 days? Or have to wait a month or two for the next inquiry?
Michael: Well, and frankly I think even more to the point, if you have grown to the point where your practice is not only at capacity, right? You got from zero to capacity and did that successfully. But it's going so well, you're still getting more flow, so much that you can't take it in any foreseeable time horizon, right? This is why we make a waiting list that gets longer and longer and longer. Just be honest with yourself and admit you're actually pretty good at this and this is not the last person who's going to come and ask for your help. Right?
There's sort of a...I feel like there's a, even for advisors that have been this successful, we grow up in such a scarcity mentality that there aren't enough clients and there isn't enough revenue because it's so sucky for everyone in the first couple of years, that I feel like we beat ourselves into this world where we always have to view clients through a lens of scarcity. So ever lead is something that must be held onto forever, even if it's going to be a seven-year waiting list. And I think sometimes just fail recognize the change in our own business and state of our careers where, you know what?
Carl: There will be more.
Michael: There will be more. You've got a presence, you've got an established firm, you've got happy clients who meet new people from time to time and might tell them about you. And you could just let them know, "Hey, I'm back to the point where I'm exciting a few new clients, if you know anyone who's interested. We're actually opening the doors, but only for a few. So you can have a special opportunity to tell your friends to get this once in a lifetime opportunity. You can even make a positive thing out of it. I know we all start in the scarcity world, but at some point, it's okay to recognize you're in a different place and that you don't have to hold on to that baggage anymore.
Carl: Yeah, and as soon as possible. Because that actual mindset is not actually dictated by how many clients you have, by the way.
Carl: But I want to just, as we wrap up, I just want to hit two things, quick rapid fire, that are not related to the people who mention this. I know the people who mention this. And James and anybody else it's not. But I still think there's two other places where I think this shows up. One is this idea that you're over-subscribed. Right? "I want to be like an Apple iPhone, I want to be like a Tesla." And it becomes a finger-wagging thing, I can walk around and say that I've got a waitlist. That element, that's just cute, let's not do that. And actually those were both of them combined, was the idea that we think, "I want to have a line outside my bar because it looks"... We're using it as a marketing ploy.
Carl: That's just not... We just have to remind ourselves that we're not allowed to lie and call it marketing. Yeah.
And then the second one was the idea of internally we just love talking to our friends and going, "I have a waitlist." That reminds me a lot of the, "Oh, how much do you manage? What's your AUM?" Sometimes the waitlist plays proxy for, “how cool are you?” And I think either one of those. And I want to make it clear, as I did, the group of people who brought this question up are neither one of those. But I do see that creeping around a bit at a conference or even casual conversation, "Oh, I have a waitlist. Do you have a waitlist? Oh, I have a waitlist." Get a T-shirt if you want to, that's cool, but let's not actually do that to clients because...or prospective clients because it's not helpful to them.
Michael: And that, to me, is the challenge for at the end of the day. Again, look, "I need a few weeks because we're just onboarding a lot of clients right now and we'll get started next month." That version of waitlist, fine. We're still serving the client need. But when you start talking about long-term waitlists, to me, just again, the irony is we often do it because we're helpers and we want to help the client and we don't want to throw them out to wolves or deny them or say "no," so we put them on the waitlist as kind of the consolation prize excuse. And to me just the core problem is it actually doesn't help the client.
Michael: Because they called for a reason, they reached out for a reason. It is probably not a reason that's going to hang out for 6, 12, 18 months. Which means you've really rejected them and given them nowhere else to go because you put them on your waitlist instead of sending them to an actual destination.
Michael: And just it helps them less than just actually helping them and saying, "Hey, I'm so sorry, I'm actually not taking on any new clients right now. But here's another advisor who is, and he or she is wonderful, and I'd love to give you an introduction."
Carl: Totally. Amen, Michael.
Michael: Amen. Well, thank you, Carl.
Carl: Pleasure. Super good.
Kaleb Paddock, CFP® says
“At only 2 new clients per year, and a 20 client waitlist, there’s clients who wouldn’t be able to join until the 2030s!!!” Favorite line. So funny. 🙂
Rob Oliver says
Very helpful, gents. Thank you. You have me questioning the utility of my waitlist and I now plan to dissolve it.