What you see here is a 20-year-old photo of The Tandoori Twins. This was taken in Delhi, India, in 2000. I was there with Dr. Dennis Jaffe, and we were working together on a very complex family business assignment. In the month that we spent in Delhi we discovered that we both loved the Indian style of cooking called tandoori. We ate a lot of it, and got tagged as The Tandoori Twins.

Working With Another Professional Can Be A Gift

By the time we were working together in Delhi, Dennis and I were old friends and colleagues, dating back to the late ‘80s. We stayed in a majestic hotel in the city, and as it was wedding season, we saw multiple weddings a day during our tenure. We learned so much about the culture and about ancient Indian traditions. These experiences were helpful to us in our work with a multi-generational, multi-faceted family business.

After 20 years of being friends and being familiar with each other’s work, Dr. Jaffe and I were able to use our particular strengths to help solve some thorny issues, without stepping on each other’s toes or working at cross purposes. We shared information and we innovated together because we had agreed on our methods and we understood the enormity of the need for absolute confidentiality.

Non-disclosure Is A Given

Take a moment to think about your own family. Don’t you have inside jokes, fabled tales about Auntie So-and-So or cousin What’s-His-Name? Aren’t there fond memories of certain family traditions, with some years that stand out more than others? You probably also have certain family issues that you all agree should not be discussed outside the home circle and some family memories that are painful to recall. I believe all families are like this and have been for centuries.

In our current amazing world of electronic immediacy for everything, I believe we have, as individuals, learned some things the hard way about “privacy.“ I have read there are seven distinct types of privacies: privacy of body, identity, location, territory, correspondence, data, and finance. When working as a consultant to a family in business together, you will undoubtedly encounter most if not all these disparate states of being. As the outsider, you must be able to adapt to the private knowledge you are shown by a family and to withhold your judgment. No eyebrows. No squints. The mission to help, to resolve issues, and to explain obstacles should never change, no matter what you learn about your clients as you do your job. When your work is done, the ultimate respect between the consultant and the family members should be their sincere recommendation of your talents and your absolute discretion about their needs.

Let Your Memories Make You Smile Or Wince, But Choose Your Stories Carefully

When I found this old photo, I sent it to Dennis at once. We may speak together about that imposing hotel, about the lavish weddings we saw, about the ethereal vision of the Taj Mahal, and our love for tandoori. But we won’t speak specifically about our purpose there, even after all these years. It’s private, and our clients deserve their privacy. This unbreakable ethic, this singular moral principle, is the bedrock of consulting with families in business. The friendships, the settings, the experiences you have around your work are a bonus. Your respect for your clients’ privacy will be the gateway to future engagements.

David Bork is an internationally acclaimed family business consultant, author, and speaker with five decades of experience, giving guidance to over 500 family business enterprises. A pioneer in the industry, David brings a wealth of knowledge and insight into the many challenges of running a successful family business and has assisted families in navigating their way through every imaginable family business issue. He is the author of The Little Red Book of Family Business and the online course, Re-Imagining Relationships for Families in Business. For more information about David Bork, visit FamilyBusinessMatters.Consulting.