intangible in a dictionary

As part of my work with business families, I get to interact with other professionals who also serve these families. 

There are usually plenty of complexities to be managed, so it’s normal for them to employ the services of a variety of experts in different fields at various times.

My specialty is working in what I call the “family circle”, which comes from the ubiquitous Three-Circle Model (Taguiri & Davis) that highlights the overlaps in the Business, Ownership, and Family circles.

While most of the work in the other two circles is largely “content-based”, i.e. tangible, most of what I do is much more about process, and therefore intangible. 

This brings with it a number of interesting side-effects.


Making Promises

The first difference that becomes apparent when meeting a family is what kind of promises I can make to them.  

If I were an accountant or a lawyer, it would be easy for me to promise that I could create whatever structure or agreement they might need, now or in the future.

But, alas, I am neither an accountant nor a lawyer, in fact my business card and email signature both say that I’m a Family Legacy Advisor, which has been known to raise an eyebrow from time to time.

I certainly can’t promise anyone that I can provide them with the legacy that they hope for.  I can only promise that I will do my utmost to guide them and their family members in their creation of that legacy. 

In fact, it’ll be the family members themselves who’ll be doing most of the work.


Recycling Work Product

Another area where I sometimes feel a bit jealous of my colleagues who work in the more “technical” specialty professions is that of what I like to call “recycling”.

Now I realize that it’s often a gross oversimplification of what’s involved in most of the complex cases, but at the end of the day, that legal structure or agreement that they just completed for the Jones family will have a lot of the same content as the one they did last month for the Smiths.

In contrast, the work that I do with the Brown family rarely looks anything at all like the work I did last month with the Johnsons.

I suppose that’s part of why I really like this work, because no two families are the same.  They face many of the same challenges, but the circumstances and the way issues come up are as varied as you could ever imagine.


Content Deliverables vs. Process ______________

Those who are fortunate enough to be in a business where they are providing “content solutions” have an easier time figuring out what their true “deliverables” are, which is a huge advantage when making the promises we were talking about earlier.

It also helps you know how far along you are in your work, when the work is done, and, even more importantly sometimes, how to price the services that you’re providing.

In fact, I often struggle to find the best corresponding word for “deliverable” for this process work. How do you qualify what you bring to the table when it’s more about process and relationships between people than about a “finished product”?


Coaching, “En Français” ???

Regular readers know that I love to look at how terms are translated into different languages to see if we can learn something from that. 

Sometimes the word in one language offers a much more vivid or accurate description than the English word.

“Coaching” is such a word. It’s true that some simply add a “le” to the front of it to get “le coaching”, like “le parking”, but I’ve heard a much better word used here in Quebec.

That word is “accompagnement” which you may have already figured out translates to “accompaniment”.  It has a bit of an awkward ring to it in English, I admit, but it really describes the situation well.


Advisor, Coach, Guide…

The deliverables in the family circle are essentially intangible. 

But I bet most people can still judge the value that they’re getting from an advisor, or coach, or guide.

It’s just a bit tougher to put it into words sometimes, but that’s okay.

The good news is that families know when they’re being served well, once the relationship takes off.