The father places his four-year old son on the mantel over the fireplace. He steps back and extends his arms toward his son, admonishing him, “Jump!“ Implicit is that the father will catch his son. The son jumps, the father steps back and the son falls to the floor. “Now, let that be a lesson to you. Never trust anyone!“ This does not bode well for the son joining the family business.

The most important commodity in the success of a family enterprise is the level of trust that exists between and among family members.

Joe Paul, a former colleague, has written this about trust:

  1. “The level of trust in the family is the ultimate determiner of what is possible.“
  2. “Trust is more important than love among the factors that make a family business work.“
  3. “The flow of information and knowledge is proportional to the level of trust among stakeholders.“

Building a bank of trust in a family is essential to the success of a family-owned enterprise. That comes when parents create an environment of safety within the family unit. When you feel safe, it is then possible to take risks, an essential element in any business. While not always the case, implicit in being in a family business is that “family members have your back.“ That is the way it needs to be, and that is the culture that must be cultivated.

You build trust by doing what you say you will do each and every time. Miss once and you have broken a sacred relationship. There is no set length of time for the repair, but we can easily say that the best way to deal with the matter is to NOT break it in the first place. Don’t go there! It is not worth the price.