Dealing with Spouses in a Business Family

Family Advice in Biz

Dealing with Spouses in a Business Family

This week’s post was inspired by an email I received from a colleague. She sent along a video blog she’d watched that spurred her questions.

Coincidentally, I’d just watched the video that morning. It was from Wayne Rivers of the Family Business Institute.


Your spouse is CRITICAL to your planning

The video talks about why it’s so important to involve the spouses of family business principals in all of the planning that gets done.

Rivers is speaking about the very early stages of planning, for the work business families face when transitioning a business from one generation to the next.

Not involving the spouses at this stage would clearly be a mistake.


All of the In-Laws ? 

The questions from my colleague, however, went much further than simple planning, to full blown governance questions, which take the issue to a whole new level.

When you’re talking about two or three generations, including many adult children with spouses and children, the question of involving spouses can get pretty tricky in a hurry.


Three-Circle Basics – Again

Here are some of the essentials that come to mind when dealing with these situations:

  • There are three circles, and each is its own “system”: Family, Business, and Ownership
  • Each system is made up of different groups of people, who then need to come up with ways to govern themselves, i.e. communicate and make decisions together
  • Some questions that business families face can become pretty ambiguous, so it’s paramount to think through which questions need to be addressed by which group. This is NOT a one-shot deal, it will come up over, and over, and over again.
  • Rules about who belongs in which group need to be clear, and they should be made by the members of each group
  • It’s easier to start with a small group when making the rules, and then to carefully enlarge the group afterwards
  • All rules that a group makes for itself should be logical and clearly defined

Multiple Governance Layers

There can also be more than one group in each circle.

In the business circle, at the most basic level, there are likely different groups or committees charged with certain day-to-day tasks.

At the other extreme, the business may have a board of directors or executive committee, charged with big-picture decisions.

(Yes, I realize that many founders act as their own self-contained, “one-man-show” board and executive committee.)

It’s possible to have a variety of people or groups who make decisions at different levels.


Family Assembly versus Family Council

For the family circle, when there are more than a dozen or so people involved, you may have a “family assembly” that brings together everyone with a stake in the family.

In order to translate their wishes and needs into a coherent forum for decision-making, they may elect to have a “family council” to represent them.

There would typically only be 5-10 family members on the council, whose role is to represent the views of the larger group.


Voice versus Vote

One of the most important concepts to always keep in mind here is the difference between having a voice and having a vote.

Everyone should have a voice, an opportunity to be heard. It helps when they’ve all been informed, so that when they do voice their points, they do so in an informed fashion.

If some members are voicing things from a position of ignorance of the issues, often simply clarifying things will go a long way to diminish the volume of their voices.

Many “complaints” simply stem from a lack of information.

Everyone usually wants to be informed, and to be heard.


Rules for Inclusion

The rules for inclusion must be clear and also “clean”, i.e. easily explained and interpreted by anyone. For example, if my wife is in, so is my sister’s husband.

There’s no room here for picking and choosing without solid reasons.

All of this is easier said than done, of course, and easier in theory than in practice

The key is to go slowly, it’s not a race. Taking the time to get it right will be well worth it in the end. Building consensus takes time.


How Many Is Too Many?

The photo I chose to accompany this post is a bit of a trick.

There are 15 people at that meeting.

That’s NOT a good number to begin with.


Start cleaning up your M.E.S.S.

A cartoon of a man who broke a mirror and is trying to clean it up

Procrastinating is a topic that gets lots of attention, because people blame their problems on an inability to get moving to get things done.

I get that it can be difficult to get things started, but instead of talking about procrastination, I prefer to think in terms of “inertia” and “momentum”.

Procrastination is more about “why”, whereas inertia and momentum are observable phenomena.


Physics Over Psychology

Maybe it’s because the “physics” side of things seems easier to grasp than the “psychology” of procrastination, which is about why we put things off.

Recently I was talking to a member of a family facing some complex inter-generation transition issues. It became clear that the enormity of what was in front of them was a significant stumbling block to mustering the courage to move forward.

It was while I was enumerating some of the ideas around ways to get started that I stumbled upon a mess.

Well, not a mess, but a M.E.S.S.


Start Moving 

The M in the mess is for Moving, as in “Start Moving”.

This is all about creating some action. Thinking and planning are great, but by themselves they are useless.

You need to introduce some action, even if you aren’t sure that you know the perfect first move. Sometimes you need to move backwards before going forward.

If you’ve ever had your car stuck in the snow, you know that rocking the car is the best way out, and that means back and forth, and once you’re unstuck, then you can figure out the best way to your destination.


Start Early

The E in the mess is for Early, as in “Start Early”.

I know that nobody has a rewind button, so we can’t actually start something yesterday, but if you could, that’s often what I would recommend. (see: There Is No “Rewind” Button)

Like any kind of planning that involves multiple generations in a family, getting an early start on things is usually a good idea.

How often do you hear about people who got into trouble and then said “if only we had started earlier”, compared to how seldom they lament starting too early?


Start Small

The first S in the mess is for Small, as in “Start Small”.

It often doesn’t take that big a move to undo the inertia that holds us back. We think in long term moves over months and years, but it is the small gestures that take only seconds or minutes that are the essence of those bigger moves.

If you want to run a marathon but have never even done a 5k, well maybe you need to be more realistic and start with an attainable goal.

If you haven’t had a productive conversation with your kids without it turning into a screaming match, then planning a weekend family retreat is probably not the step you should be aiming at.


Start Slowly

The second S in the mess is for Slowly, as in “Start Slowly”.

One of the problems with the “overcome procrastination” mindset is that once you get up the nerve to move, there is a tendency to want to go quickly.

That can backfire, because moving too quickly can result in injury, mistrust, and confusion.

When you decide to try to run 20k to train for that marathon right off the bat, you will probably get hurt. When you suddenly start talking about writing up a family constitution next weekend, after hardly allowing any family involvement in decisions, it will be met with skepticism and confusion.


Recognize that it’s YOUR Mess

If you continue to do nothing, you will have a mess to deal with and it will be YOUR mess. If you don’t accept responsibility for it, there won’t be much anyone else can do to help you.


Start cleaning up the M.E.S.S.

It’s your mess, so start cleaning it up. Get Moving, and do it as Early as possible. Start Small and Slowly. And keep going, so that you can gain momentum.

As you begin to move and clean it up, that movement and progress will attract others to join in and believe, and they will help you.

At the end of the day, getting the others involved in figuring things out is what you are really after, isn’t it?


Bottom Line: Start Moving, start Early, start Small, and start Slowly



5 Things you Need to Know: Family Governance

5 Things you Need to Know: Family Governance

A few weeks ago, at the end of “Family Governance, Aaaah!” I promised to follow up with more on the subject, in my “5 Things” format. I said it would be out in February, and this being my final blog of the month, that means now.

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Christmas Presence > Christmas Presents

How the Holiday Season can affect your family Unity

I’m a big fan of clever wording, so as the holidays approached and I got the idea of “presence” for a blog post, I could not help myself, and absolutely had to make the point about the difference between “gifts” and “being there”.

When we are young, getting presents for Christmas can preoccupy our minds. As we get older, the question of just who is going to show up to celebrate the holidays with us becomes more important.

Between the stage of life where we wonder what Santa will bring us, and that where the number of grandchildren who will be there becomes key, the idea of presence shows up more often than you might think.


Listening and Presence

As someone who works with members of different generations in families, I can tell you that one thing that is often missing is good communication. Now do you suppose most of that is because people don’t speak well, or because their listening skills are deficient?

Learning to listen to people is more than simply making sure that your ears are tuned in to their voice. In fact, as much true listening happens with your eyes, and real listening even goes right to your heart.

Listening, especially to those family members for whom we spend so much time working hard to grow our business and wealth, is something most of us could work on and do better.

In order to listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart, you really have to be present, with all of your senses tuned in. In the log run, the parents’ presence in the lives of their children is worth more than the presents they give them for Christmas and birthdays.


Finding your Gift

Speaking of presents in the form of “gifts”, this is another area where parents can be truly helpful to their offspring. I am talking here about the idea of each person finding their gift, i.e. what makes them special.

There are still far too many families where the leading generation sees their children more in terms of resources for their business, instead of a more traditional parental role of helping them find their way in the world, following their natural gifts and abilities.


Who is invited; Who shows up 

Many families spend a great deal of time preparing everyone for roles in the business, and not enough do the work to get everyone prepared for their roles in the family.

Family businesses usually have some basic governance in place to run their operations, but the family group itself can always benefit from some basic governance of its own.

It seems like more and more families are getting this message, and many are doing it the smart way and having an independent outsider take the lead in making sure that things are done the right way.

Figuring out whom to invite to family meetings can be tricky, and wondering what to do if some choose not to come to the meetings are issues that arise. Having someone who is not emotionally attached can help navigate these questions and get the necessary momentum started.


Being there > Sending a gift

Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up, and this can apply to many family situations too. If you don’t believe me, don’t go visit your mother for Christmas and just send a gift instead. Presence > Presents.

This brings up another Christmas related statement I like. People ask me how a family puts a value on the kind of work that I bring with my presence in their family processes.

One of my replies is that it is really hard to put a dollar figure on it. And I then add, “How do you put a value on Christmas visits, if one of your children shows up and decides to drive around for a bit until Uncle Bob has left.”

Everyone’s presence, for the parents, is the best present. I should not have to add that having everyone there simultaneously is assumed to be ideal, as opposed to showing up in shifts.

Family fortunes that fall apart are also a great gift, for the lawyers.

Be there, be present, listen, and communicate. Plan for the family, not just the business.



Helping Uncoordinated Families

Advice to get a family more coordinated

I am not sure what it is about my brain, but it will often catch a word in one context, completely forget about it for weeks, and then light up like a fireworks show later when that word surfaces again in a different context.

The word will then dominate my thinking for a while, until I write a blog about it. Thanks for coming along for the ride as we deal with this week’s word, “coordination”.


Advisors: Cooperate or Collaborate?

As an advisor to business families, I am forever alert to the goings on in this space, and there’s lots of talk about how professionals who serve families should work less in their individual silos, and much more collaboratively.

I believe in this, of course, yet I am also realistic in my understanding that this is a tall order for many professionals who simply don’t know how to actually do this well, and for whom the short-term negatives will often seem to outweigh the associated positives.

Some like-minded professionals have put lots of work into trying to define the benefits of working collaboratively, as illustrated by this great NAEPC white paper.

I first learned of this document in July, at a breakout session during the annual Rendez-Vous of the Purposeful Planning Institute, where collaboration was shown to go much further than simple cooperation.

Cooperation should be a given between your advisors, but full collaboration may be a step too far for many. There was also some talk about coordination, as an intermediate place.

The word coordination stuck with me, since acting as a “coordinator” is something I already do while working with the members of the family.


Bowen Family Systems Theory

This week, I was in Washington, taking part in the Postgraduate Training Program at the Bowen Center at Georgetown University. Our early morning presenter on each of the three days was Dr. Dan Papero, and as usual he did not disappoint.

He presented some of his views on “Differentiation (of Self) from the ground up”, and along the way, there it was again, the magic word, “coordination”.

The specific context of which he spoke it is now a blur to me, but the jist of the idea was that in a family system, coordination was something to be aspired to. So there it was again!

My head began to spin with the concept of coordinating not just the advisors who work with families, but the members of the family themselves.


Clarity, Clarity, Clarity

The word “clarity” has also been front and center in my brain lately, and it struck me that coordination and clarity have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship.

Wait, what?

One of the biggest hurdles that a family must overcome to get their generational wealth transition “done right” is getting everyone on the same page, i.e. having a shared clear picture of what is at stake and what needs to be done.

When I am asked how I can help such families, providing better clarity is usually my top answer.

Once the picture of what needs to be done is clear, the work of organizing the family’s structures and governance then begins in earnest, but this work does not just magically happen.

You guessed it, that work must be coordinated.

The family’s work must be clear and coordinated, but much like the chicken and the egg, we can never be sure which one comes first.


Back to the Three Circle Model

It is is complex because it combines the three areas of the family, the business, and the ownership (see The Three Circle Model) and these three also share in the “which comes first?” dilemma.


Clarity before Coordination or Vice Versa?

Families who undertake the work required to achieve some family alignment will be better coordinated and therefore be much more clear on the work to be done.

And families who are clear on what needs to be done will find it easier to coordinate this work.

Some families are naturally better at this than others, but most could benefit from outside help.

The families that I had in mind when I titled this piece shall of course remain nameless. Hopefully they do not rhyme with your family name.

Most families are not nearly as coordinated as they could be or should be. Clarity, from an outside perspective, can be an enormous help.


Brainstorming your Family Legacy

The word “legacy” can conjure up a variety of thoughts and opinions, because everyone has their own take on what it is, as well as what it should be.  When you add “family” to it, and raise the subject of “family legacy”, there is even more disparity in the responses evoked.

I recently took part in a training program at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, during which we took turns leading a group brainstorming exercise. Given free reign to use the subject of our choice, I decided to pose the question “what is family legacy?” to see what I might learn from my small group.

As someone who thinks about (and talks about) this subject on a regular basis, I thought it would be interesting to hear what a group of strangers, most of whom did not come from a business family, might have to offer on the topic.

They were all between 25 and 55, most worked for the government (this was in Ottawa), and I am reasonably certain that none of them came from what one might term a “legacy family”.

The exercise was a success, insofar as I filled up five sheets of flipcharts and stuck them to the wall, with around 40 different words that came up from the group.

When brainstorming, one of the main rules is that there is no debating what is a good or bad suggestion, it’s just an open “brain dump” where what one person blurts out will hopefully tweak something in the brain of another, and spur even more ideas.

Some of the expected and positive words that came out were:

–         Traditions; Reputation; Loyalty

–         Money; Memories; Trust

–         Supportive; Caring; Community

Of course there were also some negative ideas that surfaced, such as:

–         Dysfunction; Limiting; Stressful

–         Gossip; Meddling; Conflicts

–         Secrets; Façades; Bullshit

A brainstorming exercise is normally just the first step in a longer facilitated process, designed to get people working together, overcome inertia, and put a bunch of the pieces of the puzzle on the table to get going.

The real work comes next, when you take the ideas gathered and start organizing them, debating their merits, and figuring out what you are going to do with that information.

Working with a real family, the follow up question, “what is OUR family legacy?” would have been an obvious next step.

There is a big difference between personal legacy and family legacy, but when the founder of a business family is still around, a large portion of the family legacy naturally comes directly from that person.

In order to create a true family legacy, the key is to start when the founder can still contribute, and in fact OWN the process.

The family needs to capture the major values, traits, and principles of that person and then figure out how to make sure that they are preserved and transferred down to the following generations. If this is done correctly at this point, the succeeding generations will then have the task of maintaining the legacy that has been established.

Of course none of this just happens all by itself.  Someone needs to care enough to first stop and think about it, talk about it, figure out what needs to be done, decide who needs to be involved, and get things moving forward.

In the long run, the family must also figure out how they are going to make decisions together, how they are going to communicate, and how they are going to solve problems together. All of this generally falls under the heading of “family governance”.

If you are the founder, what you do before you go is really all you can do. Once you are gone, it will all be in the hands of others. If you want to leave a family legacy, building the financial assets is just the first part, and some say the easier part.

Keeping the family together after you are gone, wow, that’s the tough part.  It can be done, but like I said above, it won’t happen all by itself.

Essentially, you need to stop working in your family business, and start working on your business family.  Intrigued?  Check out: It is my #1 book recommendation.  I also like the website.

Need help getting started?

The Roadrunner-Coyote Rulebook

Recently I gave a short presentation to a group of business people, all of whom have children, on the subject of possibly bringing their children into their businesses.

On one of the Powerpoint slides, the heading “Rules and Roles” appeared. I explained that it was key for every new employee to have a clearly defined role, and that this was even more important for family members upon joining a family company.

But in addition to the “Roles”, I really wanted to emphasize the “Rules” part. Most families do have a few rules that they use to govern household issues, but very few families actually write them down and keep track of them.

For families in business together, it is considered a “best practice” to not only have rules, but also to write them down, review and update them, refer to them as needed, and generally know what the rules are and understand how important they are in keeping things clear.

A few months ago I came across something on Twitter that I filed away for a future blog post, and since we are talking about rules, it seems quite à propos to pull it out now. Someone had taken a photo at the Museum of Moving Image in New York and tweeted it out, and it got retweeted by several others.

I don’t think it came close to going viral, but it did garner quite a bit of attention for a few hours. The photo was a list of 9 rules that Chuck Jones of Warner Brothers had compiled to govern the Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons of our youth.

For example: Rule 1 states that the “Roadrunner cannot harm the Coyote, except by going Beep Beep”. Rule 4 states, “No dialogue, ever, except Beep Beep”. Rule 8 says, “Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy”.

This got me wondering why they actually took the time to write these things down, and whether they made these rules before they began, or as the went along over the years. Also, did they write the rules out all at once, or did the list get added to over the course of seasons? How often did they have to refer to the rules, was it only occasionally if there were creative differences, or if a new person was brought onto the team?

My guess is that they did find it useful to write the rules down in order to make things consistent over time. If the Coyote suddenly started buying his stuff from Amazon instead of Acme, viewers would have known immediately that something was amiss.

I think we all knew that the chances of the Coyote ever catching the Roadrunner were worse than for Charlie Brown to ever actually kick the football that Lucy was holding.

In an attempt to tie these rules into the realm of Family Business, I think it makes sense to look at the second rule on the list.

Rule 2: “No outside force can harm the Coyote, only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products”.

Some family businesses fail due to outside forces, relating to their markets, their products, competition, new technology, and all sorts of other “business” reasons.

Unfortunately, a larger percentage of family businesses actually fall apart due to family issues, and not due to “outside forces”.

Does that make them “inept”? Well not necessarily, that may be too harsh a word for it. But if more families in business would take the time to create rules together, make sure that they are understood and followed, and kept all their lines of communication open, it would certainly lead to less family business failures.

Rule 9: “The Coyote is always more humiliated tham harmed by his failures”. Unfortunately in some families, some members do feel humiliated, and often some people are harmed.

It is never too early, nor too late, to start working on your business family’s rulebook.


Is It a Problem with Design, Material, or Workmanship?

This week’s blog post is one that I have been thinking about for a while, because I really liked the story from the time I started blogging, but I could not figure out how to relate it to the subject of business families. Until now.

The title, asking where the problem was, comes from a question that my father asked me over a decade ago, after I had tried to describe a situation that I needed his help with.

My wife and I had a couple of toddlers in the house back then, and during a trip to Costco, we saw a swing set with a circular slide that we thought would look great in our backyard. We hastily decided to buy it, not realizing the monumental task of assembling it that lay ahead.

Now I love Costco because they sell really good stuff at the lowest prices you will likely find anywhere, but that does not necessarily make their merchandise “user-friendly”. I am not the most “handy” guy either, but my wife is actually one of the best IKEA furniture assemblers I have ever met.

How hard could it be? “Next to impossible” was the eventual answer.

Literally four or five weeks later, the structure stood in our yard, but just barely. We hesitated to allow the kids to use the equipment, because we could not trust the thing the way we had put it together. “Maybe your Dad could help us”, suggested my wife.

So I called him up and described the issue as best I could. “Is it a problem of design, material, or workmanship?, came his question. I thought about it and answered “Yes, Yes, and Yes.”

In retrospect, I had not realized how good he was at getting to the root of the problem before trying to offer solutions, and I Iike to think that I inherited some of that from him, to make up for the lack of handyman skills that I got.

He came over a couple of days later to analyse the job we had done and immediately began shaking his head at the monstrosity we had cobbled together. Within an hour, we had put together a list of material and we headed to the local lumberyard to buy what we needed to address the shortcomings.

A couple of days later, after he returned with his tools and equipment, we had a veritable fortress of a structure. It was now strong enough for the whole family to climb aboard, and was eventually a heck of a job to remove later when the kids were too big for it and me opted for a pergola instead.

The business family lessons here are numerous. Dad founded a company with certain skills and abilities, some of which I inherited, some of which I did not. We still managed to work together and produce a great result, but it was not necessarily straightforward.

Let’s look again at the design, material, workmanship question. How does the family design the way it will work together, especially over the long term, and how are they going to govern the family enterprise as one generation will make way for the next?

The material of the business family is basically the family members, the human assets that are the heart of the operation, the ones upon whom the focus should be (as opposed to the widgets the company makes).

Is the family putting the emphasis on making sure the materials are the best they can be, thinking about education and finding the best role for each person?

What about workmanship? Hmmm, this one took a while for me to put my finger on. I am not 100% sure that this is the best fit for the analogy, but I am going to go with relationships.

When looking at a business family and attempting to diagnose where to begin to help them, you might ask if their key issue is Governance, Human Capital, or their Relationships.

Hopefully it won’t be all three!


Say Goodbye to Succession Planning

So many advisors spend so much time talking to their family business clients about the importance of succession planning. Many of us are guilty of over-using the term to the point of rendering it nearly meaningless.

I hereby implore everyone to just STOP. I am not saying that we should not talk about how to get the business, the family, and the ownership from where they are today, to where they will need to be some time in the future, because those are are still very relevant and important. But can we please stop using the term “succession planning”?

My feeling is that when clients hear anyone talk about the importance of succession planning, what goes on in their minds is some sort of replay of their mother telling them to eat their vegetables. Yes, Mom, I know I should eat my vegetables, thanks for the reminder. But I’m an adult now with kids of my own, so please back off. There is only so much you can take.

Then there are the advisors who use the term succession planning in their own way, turning it into something that they will help their clients get through painlessly, with very clear benefits. Just put together this little tax-minimizing strategy now, and then you can go on doing what you were doing before, knowing that your succession plan has been taken care of.

These advisors have hijacked the fact that clients realize that they must do something that can be called succession planning so that they can check that box off and tell everyone, “don’t bother me with that, I already did it”, as if “it” is a one-shot deal.

But it feels good to do that, because not only have your advisors shown you exactly how much you will save in taxes with their plan (down to the penny!) but you can get on with your life knowing that you have taken care of this important issue. This is like your Aunt Bea, who shows you how to drown your broccoli in a thick cheese sauce so that eating your vegetables is somehow palatable, despite the fact that the overall benefit is questionable at best.
I think that the main reason people hesitate to open themselves to discussing succession is that it focuses on change, and it is the kind of change that has them moving from a good position now, to a worse position later. Most people will try to delay dealing with questions about when THEY will retire, and when THEY will die. And if Grandpa hated to talk about it, and Dad hated to talk about it, why should I enjoy talking about it?

So if I am suggesting that you say goodbye to talking about succession planning, what I am I offering instead? Welcome to the world of Continuity Planning. Now I understand that you may be sceptical about the benefits of changing one single word, but let’s look at some of the ways that continuity is a better label.

Rather than focussing on change, like succession does, continuity focusses instead on what remains the same. I want my business to continue, I want my family to continue, and I need to figure out the best way for the ownership to allow the other two to continue.

In essence, the continuity plan is the long-range plan, the overarching plan, the big picture plan. Within the continuity plan, there are indeed a number of succession issues that need to be dealt with,

But when we start by stepping back, and concentrate on all of the things that we want to have continue, long after we are out of the picture, the succession issues become a lot smaller in that context.

When people can better grasp WHY they are doing something, as part of a larger whole, better results are almost assured.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Le concierge est un faux ami

Ceux qui sont assez à l’aise en anglais et en français ont sûrement remarqué qu’il existe un certain nombre de traductions qui sont en effet moins évidentes qu’elles semblent à première vue. L’exemple que je cite souvent est “librairie” qui est un magasin qui vend des livres, et “library” où ils prêtent des livres, donc une bibliothèque.

Dans mes jours à McGill, j’avais pris un cours de traduction, et le prof surnommait ces instances des “faux amis”, et j’ai gardé sa terminologie et je le répète souvent, même s’il fait déjà bien des années que j’ai oublié le nom du prof.

Quand j’étais au secondaire dans une école anglophone, on m’a placé dans les cours de français avancé puisque j’avais complété mon primaire en français. Rendu en secondaire 4, ceci me donnait aussi le droit de prendre d’autres cours en français comme options. De loin, le plus mémorable de ceux-ci était le cours de comptabilité donné par Monsieur McGee.

M. McGee était un anglophone avec un sérieux accent quand il parlait français, mais il s’exprimait quand même très bien et l’effort était toujours là aussi de sa part. Il s’amusait à nous souligner plusieurs faux amis aussi, même s’il ne les appellait pas par ce nom.

Loyer, ce n’est past votre “lawyer” (avocat), c’est le rent, il nous disait. Les fournitures, quand à eux, étaient des “supplies” et non pas des meubles.

Je préfère trouver des exemples avec plus qu’un mot, des expressions. Je m’amuse avec la famille quand on voyage en campagne et je vois des pancartes indiquant une “auto-cueillette”. Je me demande souvent s’il y a des anglophones qui regardent dans leur Larousse anglais-français pour apprendre ce que veut dire cueillette, et ensuite présument qu’ils peuvent ceuillir des pommes directement de leur voiture, comme un genre de cueillette-au-volant.

Sur une note plus sérieuse, notez si vous ne le savez pas déjà, la différence entre “il n’est pas question”, et “no question about it”. En français, c’est l’équivalent de “no way”, mais en anglais, c’est plutôt “certainement”.

Et là, nous arrivons au mot du jour, concierge. Le premier concierge dont je me souviens était M. Aubry, qui lavait les planchers et les toilettes de mon école primaire. En plus, il habitait un appartement en haut du gymnase avec sa femme. Ils avaient même une corde à linge sur le toît, où une belle journée de printemps j’avais aperçu les sous-vêtement du concierge et je me suis mis à partager mon observation avec tout les autres élèves qui jouaient au ballon-chasseur. “Les culottes de M. Aubry! Les culottes de M. Aubry!”

Mais en anglais, un concierge (prononcé plutôt “KON-si-err-GE”) est une personne qui fait beaucoup plus que nettoyer vos dégâts. Il ou elle vous aide avec toutes sortes de choses. Nous les apercevons plus souvent dans les grands hôtels, mais c’est une profession qui prend beaucoup plus d’ampleur ces jours-ci.

Ce n’est pas tout le monde qui peut se permettre d’engager un “majordome” ou un “butler” en anglais, mais toutes les grandes villes ont un certain nombre de professionels qui se font engager pour règler bien des problèmes pour bien du monde. Ils vendent leurs service en explicant qu’ils peuvent se charger de bien des choses pour ceux qui travaillent de longues heures et qui ensuite sont débordés en arrivant à la maison.

Ceux qui gèrent l’argent des plus fortunés, essayent même parfois de mentioner qu’ils offrent, eux aussi, ce genre de service aux clients avec des gros portefeuilles. Je me demande s’ils ont vraiment des clients qui en bénéficent et qui en sont satisfaits.

Un bon concierge peux vous sauver beaucoup de temps et de misère. Il s’agit d’en trouver un ou une qui prendra le temps de vous connaître et de vous proposer des services qui rentrent dans votre budget.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.