Originally posted at thecrier.net by Lewis J. Walker, CFP, Capital Insight Group, August 19, 2020.

Any basic marketing guide 101 says a person who wishes to be hired should have an “elevator speech.” That’s a 30-60 second concise statement explaining who you are and why you should be hired during the short time you’re in the elevator with someone influential. But can you truly describe yourself in a short pithy line that gets to the essence of who you are and the value you bring to the table in the right role?

Note the phrase “right role.” Someone may ask, “What do you do?” Do you launch into a disjointed job description? But if you were asked what unique role you play in a given situation, whether pertaining to professional life or any pursuit, you’d have a different answer.

Mitch Anthony, author of “The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams…at Any Age You Want” (5th edition; Wiley, 2020), advises that “unique value” cannot be articulated in “a 40-word lexicon.” If you really want to describe what you do in your line of work or role in life, start with the phrase, “What I do is kind of like…”

In relating what an experienced financial advisor can do for you in seeking counsel about financial planning matters, recognize that life is a series of journeys. Whether you call them goals, objectives, possibilities, aspirations, challenges or disruptions, you are desiring to transition from one state in life to another, one circumstance to a new reality. As with any journey, money plays a part, but it’s the journey that’s key. What role might a financial planner play in planning for and the execution of your journey? What happens when you get there? What gets left behind as you travel to a “new normal?”

If you asked me to describe my role in a consultative and comprehensive personal or business financial life planning exercise, my answer would be framed as a travel metaphor. What role might I play? “What I do is kind of like…a trail guide.”

You and your family, or a group of friends, decide on a great adventure, hiking the Milford Track on the south island of New Zealand. The four-day odyssey takes you past pristine lakes, around thundering waterfalls, over rugged mountain terrain, through wooded valleys. You also want to hike the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s largest ice field, 18 miles long. You’d want a guide who has walked those trails before, traversed the glacier with others, knows the dangers as well as pleasures, the best views, appropriate outfits, the right footwear and equipment, sleeping and dining arrangements, what to do if something goes wrong. Your guide knows your likes, dislikes, preferences, and the same for each member of your party. He or she knows what to do when unexpected circumstances arise, how to modify your plan and navigate detours.

Every journey, through a significant life transition or a trek halfway around the world, has challenges. An experienced guide rarely is surprised by anything. They’ve been there, done that, with clients and in their own life oftentimes. For every challenge they offer alternatives, guiding you through a process to determine the most likely best strategies and tactics for you and those depending on you.

Your guide knows the resources required, including specialists and ancillary services appropriate to navigating and overcoming obstacles. How to take advantage of unexpected opportunities that arise as you’re walking toward your destination. How to cope with emergencies, setbacks, need for an alternative route. Having adequate capital to fund your trip and cover unexpected expenses is only part of comprehensive trip planning.

Your guide knows your expectations, yours and those in your party, what you wish to see and accomplish, the desired outcomes. It may be as simple as how to get the best photo or something more complex, a once-in-a-lifetime bespoke experience.

Of course, you could just show up at the trailhead and wing it. Sometimes, that works, generally not. In my travels, I’ve found that a knowledgeable guide adds to the richness of the experience, pointing out things I’d miss since I didn’t know what to look for.

Your elevator speech. What you do is kind of like…what?