We talked to Edouard Thijssen, CEO and co-founder of Trusted Family, about family and shareholder governance, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Edouard Thijssen: I’m doing well. I’m lucky to be active in the technology sector and to be able to work from anywhere. Already before the Pandemic, we had the tools and processes in place to be able to work 100% remotely.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Trusted Family.
Edouard Thijssen: The company was founded in 2007, initially as a project for my own family business.
I realized that over the generations, all family companies face similar challenges:
- The family gets bigger
- The family spreads out in different cities/countries
- Family members start to have different ownership stakes
- Fewer family members have an active role
- Advisors join in supporting the company and the family
As a result, communication and decision-making become a lot more complex. Back then, I came up with the idea, together with a friend from another family business, to build a mobile app and online platform to facilitate governance and communication within our own family businesses. After a successful launch, we realized that many other family companies around the world had similar challenges, so we turned our idea into a company: Trusted Family was born!
How does Trusted Family innovate?
Edouard Thijssen: Trusted Family was founded out of a personal need. As a result, we have always been very focused on customer feedback & innovation. We have a quarterly product roadmap, and we do customer surveys & interviews to understand what people need and how we can evolve our platform to better serve our customer needs.
Every few years, we also try to think out of the box and ask ourselves if we were starting Trusted Family today with everything we know now, what would it look like?
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Edouard Thijssen: We were lucky to have a strong balance sheet before the pandemic, and being active in technology, we saw a surge of usage and demand of our platform during the pandemic. Many family companies around the world were forced to accelerate their digital transformation to be able to adapt to the new way of working. Our platform facilitates meeting management, decision making, transparency, and information sharing, and given people couldn’t meet in person and travel anymore; digital platforms grew fast everywhere!
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Edouard Thijssen: We have actually grown significantly over the last year! Ten new team members have joined us! Most of them we have never met physically because of the pandemic! It’s a strange environment, but we have been able to adapt.
We also take employee motivation and mental-health seriously. It has become an active agenda in many of our leadership conversations, thus paving the way for intentional remote team-building initiatives such as virtual yoga classes, virtual escape room games, and virtual coffee introductions.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Edouard Thijssen: Many of our customers were heavily affected. Their businesses had to adapt to the new reality. Our customers were working from home with their families, managing children aside from ongoing meetings, etc. As a technology enabler, our key focus is to help them organize their board, shareholders, and family meetings through our platform as seamlessly as possible and to share frequent updates with the shareholders so that everyone could follow what was happening and which decisions were being made.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Edouard Thijssen: No, we didn’t. Our strong balance sheet enabled us to keep investing and growing.
Your final thoughts?
Edouard Thijssen: Innovation is key for long-term business success, and it never stops. It’s about building a culture and mindset within the business where everyone can share new ideas and challenge how certain things have been done previously!
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