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Founded by two next- generation entrepreneurs from European business families, Trusted Family leverages a decade of industry expertise to help multi-generational family…

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July 3, 2023

Changing the Board and Shareholder Governance Game with Technology

INTRODUCTION

There is ‘hard change’, which involves technology. There is ‘soft change’, which involves people.

Changing governance through the use of technology requires a combination of both. Focusing purely on technology for the sake of it risks neglecting the needs of the people that will have to use it. Focusing purely on people risks insufficient rigour in the implementation of the new technology.

Change intrinsically brings with it risks and challenges, and when it comes to family businesses, those can be further complicated by the multigenerational, multicultural nature of the business.

Three phases are required to minimise the risks in implementing appropriate technology for such businesses:

  • Adoption: making it as easy as possible for all relevant stakeholders to begin usage of the technology
  • Acceptance: proving that the technology is fit for purpose so that usage of the technology continues
  • Advocacy: delivering real business benefits so that usage of the technology spreads throughout the business for the long term

It is important that any technology platform provider understands and designs for these phases.

ADOPTION

How can user take up of a new technology be made as painless as possible? Trusted Family has been designed so as to be suitable for adoption across multiple generations and multiple types of stakeholders, wherever anyone is in the world. Some of the key design considerations built into the platform are:

  • Accessibility
  • Clarity
  • Simplicity
  • Customisability
  • Inclusivity

Accessibility: Trusted Family can be accessed from anywhere in the world, with high levels of security as standard, including encryption and secure signatures. Access permissions and privileges are both clear and simple, with two-factor authentication as standard.

Clarity: Trusted Family provides a ‘single source of truth’ for the family business, and has been designed specifically for the single application of operating family businesses. Clients have complete ownership and control of all data, and data integrity is assured.

Simplicity: Trusted Family is an all-in-one platform for collaboration, storage and communication. It is designed for the way family businesses operate in the real world.

Customisability: Trusted Family allows user roles to be customised as needed, with view, edit and delete permissions. Profile fields can be customised for the specific requirements and desires of the business as needed.

Inclusivity: Trusted Family is usable by all generations in the family business, because it has been designed from a multi-generational perspective, unlike many of today’s solutions that can only be operated by the most tech-savvy user.

Adoption involves more than the design features included in a solution. It is also about confidence that the solution is safe to use and protects and preserves the assets of the business. All five of the key principles required for risk-free adoption are underpinned by the comprehensive security measures designed into the Trusted Family solution, from encryption, infrastructure design and malware scanning, through to compliance with all relevant security standards. 

ACCEPTANCE

In order for a technology to be not just initially adopted, but also accepted into the organisation, it needs to be fit for purpose and easy to use. For a shareholder governance solution, this means working with you and the way you work, rather than having to force your business to operate within the constraints of a complex technology platform.

The Trusted Family solution combines a feature set that just makes sense, incorporating:

  • Information management and storage
  • Communications and collaboration
  • Organisational-wide engagement and involvement

Information management and storage

At its heart, Trusted Family centralises the storage of all family business information, from historical to current, from family trees and photographs to meeting minutes and shareholder documentation. With ever increasing complexity of family business ownership structures, trusts, number of advisors and amount of information and documents to manage, a robust and secure information repository is essential. Some of the features included in Trusted Family are the ability to:

  • Organise and share documents securely, with controlled access
  • Create private vaults for individual shareholders to store sensitive documentation
  • Archive documents as needed, to be shared as required
  • Create shared vaults with controlled access to specific groups within the business

Communications and collaboration

With widespread family members, across different geographies and time zones, seamless and easy collaboration and communication is essential, both synchronous and asynchronous. Compounded by changing communication styles of habits across generations, and increasingly mobile lifestyles, the challenge is to ensure that the technology used is an enabler rather than a barrier. Some of the features included in Trusted Family are:

  • Private working groups and secure messaging for sensitive business and family interaction, with varying access permissions
  • Real time communications, with secure messaging and the ability to set up multiple channels
  • Collection of e-signatures in real time for approvals and document signoff
  • Easy set up of organisational meetings, with all management and tracking included, from agendas to signatures to meeting follow up
  • Meeting documents and other templates embedded for ease of use and consistency throughout the organisation

Organisational-wide engagement and involvement

In order to be successful, any technology platform needs to meet the diverse needs of the entire organisation, and with the multitude of stakeholders in a family business this can be complex. Without organisational-wide engagement and involvement, technology becomes one more sticking point, rather than a success factor. Trusted Family includes a number of features to enable the inclusion of everyone in the organisation, regardless of where they are situated, what generation they are in, or what their role is:

  • Interactive stakeholder engagement, including creation of surveys and forms to get quick opinions from members and decision-makers, with flexible answer formats and voting capability
  • Storage of family profiles, achievement, experiences and aspirations to connect the right family members to the right opportunities for their development
  • Shareholder engagement metrics and inbuilt education programmes

ADVOCACY

Once a new technology has been adopted, and then accepted, advocacy from existing users is the final step to ensure that the technology remains embedded within the family business, and used by both current and future stakeholders. 

This advocacy only remains possible if the benefits of using the technology outweigh the costs and risks of any adoption and acceptance issues. It has to demonstrate real business benefits, overcome the problems that the family business experienced before its adoption, and seamlessly integrate into the day to day operations of the business.

Just some of the ways that the Trusted Family platform has been proven to achieve this, and why it is advocated for and endorsed so strongly, not just within family businesses but also publicly, include:

  • Saving time and money by streamlining management for family businesses
  • Accelerating decision-making across the business
  • Improving family cohesion and involvement in the business

CONCLUSION

The right technology, used in the right way, can be used to modernise and streamline a family business, in an inclusive way, without losing sight of what makes the family business special and unique. Trusted Family achieves this because it has been designed with the specific considerations of family businesses in mind, taking them from adoption to acceptance to advocacy, ensuring the long term success of the platform in the governance of the business. This is how technology changes the game for board and shareholder governance.