Trusted Family is a web-based information management solution that helps family business members communicate with shareholders, directors, and advisors. It also helps them organise all their essential documents in one secure place. Founded in Belgium in 2007 by Edouard Thijssen and Edouard Janssen, Trusted Family’s client base now surpasses 10,000 users across 25 countries. They operate out of three offices in eight languages with a team representing seven nationalities.
Ironically, the business that helps other family businesses keep their governance in order was never intended to be a business at all.
It wasn’t until Edouard Thijssen’s early twenties, when his father sent him to a family business conference, that he realised how little he knew about the family business. Furthermore, their firm’s documentation and communication wasn’t centralised, which made the learning curve steeper than it needed to be.
At the same conference, Thijssen, who had been coding since his teens, met Edouard Janssen, who was experiencing a similar problem in his family business. Together, they came up with a solution: an online platform to help create transparency, enhance governance, and essentially manage their entire family business ecosystems. Initially, the platform they wrote was intended for their families only.
However, they soon realised that other family businesses in their circle and beyond could benefit from the same platform. They also noticed that with each subsequent generation, the need for a centralised solution becomes more acute.
As successful businesses transition to the second and third generations, the family grows not only in size, but also in geographic spread. Moreover, ownership itself becomes more complex over time; by the third generation, family members often have different ownership stakes and varying levels of involvement.
To reflect these observations, Thijssen and Janssen targeted the 20 largest family businesses in every country. To strengthen their global positioning, Thijssen moved to New York, encouraging families across North and South America to adopt the technology.
Trusted Family has steadily expanded its reach. Many of the family businesses they initially contacted now use the Trusted Family platform to manage the boards, investment committees, family councils and governance bodies they create. Thijssen and Janssen’s web-based management solution creates transparency between those family members with a more active role in ownership and governance and those who are more on the sidelines. This democratisation of access prevents doubt and suspicion from creeping in. Trusted Family engenders its namesake.
When it comes to governance, the structure of the Trusted Family platform also makes it clear what families are missing. Thus, their solution has helped family businesses set up governance processes, establish policies and charters and, essentially, get their family business governance house in order.
Their success, and the success of the Trusted Family platform, is homegrown – a best-of-both-worlds advantage. The fact that Thijssen and Janssen come from a family business background means that they know what 21st-century family businesses need to help them ensure their sustainability; their technological know-how has allowed them to make it a reality.