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Quantifying Intangibles

by Samira Asemanfar

January 11, 2012 | 12:13 am

Intangibles are hard to measure. Period.

As a business owner, it is an ongoing challenge to measure subjective components such as customer service or a positive work ethic. Things like sales are easy - they go up and they come down. Black and white. Duties like cleaning, answering phones, responding to emails, showing up on time, obeying dress code policies, following step by step directions… all easy. Either you did it or you did not do it. Black and white.

Intangible, subjective components of any business are difficult to measure. And if you are anything like me, when you can’t measure something and get a clear cut result, you just don’t want to deal with it at all. Author Douglas Hubbard gives a great example in his book about government agencies that often completely overlook areas of their operations because they have no measuring tool. As a result, aspects of their operation greatly suffer. [“How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business” Awesome book!]

I’m not here to tell you that there is a magic way of putting a quantifiable value on something like customer service. There isn’t. But just because you don’t have the right measuring stick, does not mean you should simply ignore or overlook an area of your business until you find a magic measuring stick. Good practice would be to engage in small and simple acts of observing, monitoring and/or questioning. This will, more often than not, lead to incremental improvements in any unquantifiable business aspect. There is just no simple way to score something with so many different variables. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Similarly, I find that people tend to often times ignore or put off aspects of themselves or their personal lives that they can’t really organize in a tangible manner. For example, there is no way of putting a time, value, or number on things like grieving a loss, analyzing your feelings in a relationship, caring for yourself, forgiveness, compassion…. I can go on and on. Just because you don’t have a measuring stick for yourself and your emotional health and well being, doesn’t mean it should get overlooked. Give yourself simple and small doses of attention and see what kind of shifts you can create for yourself in your personal life.

If you have small and simple ways to measure the intangibles in your business or personal life, share them with me! I would love to learn.

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Great blog! I think growth happens, in business and personally, when we challenge our comfort zones.  Surveys are often the best way to gauge customer service and on a personal level I think the same can be true for one’s self. I think the hard part is being honest and then striving to make a change. Good to remember that successive people makes the habits that unsuccessful people can’t or won’t.

Comment by Randy on 1/11/12 at 7:51 am


Loved this. Such great insight and so eloquently put.

Comment by Melody on 1/11/12 at 12:00 pm


This is a direct challenge to my HR business that we’ve faced over the years. On our end the question is how do you measure a client’s level of “compliance.” Previously we also wrestled with how to measure “customer service.”

In both instances, the answer was the same. To establish a self-administered “test”, roll it out, and then using that as a simple baseline to goal-set against.

For customer service, establishing our CSI (cust. service index) was a matter of surveying our clients tied to a quantitative scoring system, establish a consistent rhythm to how often we measured it, and then rolling with it.

The “legal compliance” piece of things was a little more difficult and complex overall, but the answer was basically the same. We established a test that we administered with strict scoring guidelines that we would review regularly, goal set against, etc., etc., etc.

In a nutshell, I am a believer in the business mantra of, “You can only manage what you measure”

Aaron A Hageman
President & CEO
Delivery Drivers, Inc.

Comment by Aaron Hageman on 1/11/12 at 2:07 pm


I heard about this book. It has not yet appeared at my library but when he comes I will buy it.
Long Beach Island Real Estate

Comment by Stuard on 12/17/12 at 8:41 am


The personal development and business books are a guaranteed recipe to develop your financial IQ.
Newport RI Real Estate

Comment by Nano on 12/17/12 at 10:59 am


I read several reviews of this book and it convinced me to read it. I hope to come back soon with impressions after reading :)
New Braunfels Real Estate

Comment by Nando on 12/18/12 at 9:34 am


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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After graduating from the Marshall School of Business at USC in 2004, Samira Asemanfar of Los Angeles California joined KPMG, LLP as an internal auditor and SOX compliance...

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