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Coloring Outside the Lines…And Outside the Circles!

Posted By The Practitioner, Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 27, 2012

Coloring Outside the Lines...And Outside the Circles!   

Known as the "Age of Reptiles,” the Mesozoic geological era—lasting from 250 million years ago to 65 million years ago, saw pterodactyls, iguanodons and other scaly creatures meet their extinction--theoretically because of their inability to adapt to vacillating climate activities. Yep: without a doubt, adaptability is the key to survival. This principle doesn’t only apply to living organisms--it also pertains to ideas, protocols and philosophies--including the multidisciplinary approach to managing family enterprise clients. Just ask Harry McCabe, author of today’s guest article "Simple Enough? Implementing a Smooth Client Relation to Reduce Friction.”

In this piece, Harry revisits the iconic ‘Three-Circle Family Business System Model”—a concept originated in 1982, by Renato Tagiuri and John A. Davis. The ideals embedded in this philosophy made a huge impact on the field by identifying a model for practitioners to advise clients on a multitude of fronts—through their families, their ownerships, their businesses as stand-alone entities, their psychological needs. Sure—nowadays, a holistic approach to advising clients may seem obvious. But thirty years ago, the article from FFI’s own Family Business Review was cutting edge.

But as The Practitioner mentioned, all things must adapt to survive—even the Three Circle Model, which is why McCabe endorses expanding the number of circles in the paradigm, as you’ll see. But when you think about it, in essence, that’s what we as practitioners ALL must do, by folding in our own experiences with clients. This means taking an inventory of each family and its business to understand the dynamics they bring to the table. Find out what makes each client different, then color outside the lines, er…circles!

About the Contributor: 

Harry M. McCabe began his professional career in his family’s pension consulting and administration services company, where he learned the private business owners’ process of growing businesses and preparing them for ownership transfer. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from St. Norbert College and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Utah. He is the author of Pass it On: The Entrepreneur's Succession Playbook. Harry is an FFI Fellow with certificates in Family Wealth Advising. He is co-founder of the FFI Midwest Chapter. Harry can be reached at:

Stay tuned next week, when we bring you an original Guest Blog entry from FFI’s president Judy Green.

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Yours in Practice, 

The Practitioner

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Tags:  family business advising  Family Business Review  Harry McCabe  John Davis  Renato Tagiuri  three circle model 

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