Family firms are unique entities requiring careful navigation of business and family dynamics. In these complex environments, Most Trusted Advisors (MTAs) play a critical role in providing guidance and support to entrepreneurs. A 2016 study titled “Mediated Sensemaking” by Vanessa M. Strike and Claus Rerup sheds light on the significance of MTAs and their ability to facilitate adaptive sensemaking within family firms. To gain a more comprehensive view of the subject, you may read my article titled “The Role of Most Trusted Advisors in Bridging Logic Gaps“.

Key Takeaway 1: Mediated Sensemaking

MTAs engage in a process called mediated sensemaking, where they facilitate adaptive sensemaking by introducing doubt and slowing down the decision-making process. This allows entrepreneurs to consider different perspectives and challenge their assumptions. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs can also find themselves surrounded by sycophants, which limits the ability of the entrepreneur to gather crucial information and get an unbiased view. The aforementioned trust needs to be in place for the Most Trusted Advisor to be free to speak his mind – without fearing that speaking out against an idea of an entrepreneur will lead to a loss of a client. This, in turn, means that the entrepreneur and the family need to accept the dissenting voice of a Most Trusted Advisor as a feature of his position – and a valuable one at that.

Key Takeaway 2: Pacing and Temporality

MTAs regulate the pacing and temporality of entrepreneur’s sensemaking. Many entrepreneurs are fast-paced and juggle multiple projects simultaneously whilst battling shiny-object-syndrom with varying degrees of success. By inserting pause and doubt, Most Trusted Advisors encourage entrepreneurs to reflect, reconsider options, and explore alternative viewpoints. This helps prevent hasty decisions and allows for a more comprehensive situation analysis. Entrepreneurs are not uncommonly diagnosed with ADHD, according to a paper by Yu, Liu, He and Li (2022). At the same time, people with ADHD are also less likely to seek and follow advice (Reddrop & Mapunda, 2015).

Key Takeaway 3: Trust and Expertise

MTAs are individuals who are trusted with intimate details about the family and the business. They possess broad – not necessarily deep – expertise and knowledge in finance, tax, and law. The Most Trusted Advisor needs to be able to ask the right question to experts in these fields and connect the dots between advice being received from other advisors. The trust accumulated over time allows the Most Trusted Advisors to have a deep understanding of the family’s needs, concerns and internal dynamics.

Key Takeaway 4: Mediating Voice

MTAs objective is to help the family and the business succeed. Navigating the emotionally charged and complex relationship between family and business can be challenging. While the entrepreneur may not always agree with the advice, they should value the unbiased perspective provided by the Most Trusted Advisor. The Most Trusted Advisor functions as a mediator between the entrepreneur and other family members or employees who may feel hesitant to voice their opinions, allowing for a better flow of communication and allowing  different points of view to surface and thereby present information that the entrepreneur may not have considered. This ensures a more inclusive decision-making process and a balancing of the power to communicate (and be heard). Readers who are connoisseurs of the Networking Structure of Social Capital and their structural holes (Burt, 2000) will think of the Most Trusted Advisor as a broker. But: Despite the Most Trusted Advisor taking up a form of brokerage, he is not, in the true sense of the word, a broker as such; the reason being that the structural holes (where a family or person has only through a third party (here the Most Trusted Advisor) a connection with another person (for instance a specialized advisor)) are present but the Most Trusted Advisor is not misusing his position or benefitting from his position as the middleman as his level of trust achieved via the client would negate an ulterior motive.


The role of Most Trusted Advisors in family firms cannot be overstated. Their ability to build trust, provide objective and independent advice, and facilitate sensemaking by allowing more information (even or especially information that is contradictory) to enter the space and thus allowing more time for reflection is crucial for the success and longevity of family businesses. This allows assumptions to be challenged and the Most Trusted Advisor hence becomes an integral part of the decision-making process of an entrepreneur and his family and family business.


Burt, R.S. (2000) ‘The Network Structure Of Social Capital’, Research in organizational behavior, 22, pp. 345–423.

Yu, X. et al. (2022) ‘Micro-foundations of strategic decision-making in family business organisations: A cognitive neuroscience perspective’, Long Range Planning, p. 102198. Available at:

Reddrop, A. and Mapunda, G. (2015) ‘Family businesses: seekers of advice’, Journal of Family Business Management, 5(1), pp. 90–115. Available at:

Strike, V.M. and Rerup, C. (2016) ‘Mediated Sensemaking’, Academy of Management Journal, 59(3), pp. 880–905. Available at: