Expanding on our previous exploration of How Financial Advisors Navigate Wealth Planning and Succession, this article examines the comprehensive role of Most Trusted Advisors (MTAs) in the context of family business advising. Drawing from “Mediated Sensemaking” (Strike & Rerup, 2016) and “The Most Trusted Advisor and the Subtle Advice Process in Family Firms” (Strike, 2013), we aim to clarify the critical role of MTAs in balancing business with family values, fostering success and unity in family businesses.

The Rarity of Most Trusted Advisors

Typically, a family will have at most one or two individuals who can be considered MTAs. In many cases, families struggle to find a clear MTA. This scarcity underscores the need for such advisors to possess a distinct set of skills and attributes.

The Role of Most Trusted Advisors

MTAs often have a broad understanding of various aspects of family wealth management, rather than specializing in a single area. Their expertise in finance, law, tax, and emotional intelligence makes them invaluable in navigating the complex landscape of family businesses.

MTAs, by definition, are the primary confidantes for families in business-related matters. Their influence extends beyond conventional advisory roles, enveloping the power and responsibility to shape decisions. This unique position necessitates a careful balance to avoid potential agency problems where the advisor’s interests might overshadow those of the client. I would hypothesize that MTAs have a higher pricing power than normal advisors. In addition, MTAs display a deeper and wider moat, allowing for a longer engagement with a client than normal advisors and a higher level of power over existing and incumbent advisors to the client, thereby skewing the competitive landscape between the advisors over the client’s attention in their favour. MTAs, when functioning optimally, act as essential intermediaries, reconciling the often-conflicting realms of family emotions and business logic. They possess the trust and authority to constructively critique and guide the family, leveraging their psychological influence to facilitate dialogues between family and business domains.

1.   Influencing Family Decision-Making

MTAs play a pivotal role in the decision-making processes of family enterprises. They balance business expertise and understanding familial nuances, enriching decision-making with diverse perspectives and critical inquiries. This holistic approach considers family and business impacts, ensuring decisions are well-rounded and considerate of various stakeholders.

2.   Offering Objectives in Mediation

A clear understanding of the mediation process’s goals is crucial for MTAs. They utilize strategies like interest-based negotiation and collaborative decision-making, recognizing the intricacies of conflicts that blend financial, emotional, and power dynamics.

3.   Fostering Reflective Decision-Making

In the fast-paced environment of family firms, MTAs encourage a necessary pause for contemplation. This ‘Mediated Sensemaking’ allows for a comprehensive evaluation of different viewpoints and potential outcomes, leading to more thoughtful and adaptable decisions. In contrast, a lack of trust in non-MTA advisors can result in perceptions of sluggishness and misunderstanding.

4.   Offering Subtle Advising and Conflict Resolution

MTAs excel in subtle advising, fostering environments conducive to collective reflection and communication. They skillfully mediate conflicts, coach family members, and implement formal conflict resolution processes, all while promoting a long-term perspective crucial for sustaining family harmony. Their superior communication skills are tailored to match the client’s style, further enhancing their effectiveness.

Key Skills and Attributes of Most Trusted Advisors

1.   Strong Social Positioning

Building and maintaining trust is paramount. This includes upholding the integrity and practicing discretion, foundational to gaining and retaining client confidence.

2.   Innate Mediation Abilities

Proficient MTAs are adept at navigating complex emotional landscapes and understanding family dynamics. This requires a deep comprehension of the family’s values and vision, facilitating effective mediation.


In conclusion, the role of Most Trusted Advisors (MTAs) in family business advising is not only comprehensive but also critically pivotal. These advisors represent a unique amalgamation of mediator, guide, and confidante, expertly navigating the complex interplay between family dynamics and business logic. Their ability to harmonize these often conflicting domains is essential for ensuring both the success and cohesion of family firms.

MTAs stand out for their deep-seated understanding of both the emotional and operational landscapes of family businesses. Their rare skill set, encompassing strong social positioning, innate mediation abilities, and a broad understanding of various aspects of family wealth, positions them uniquely to influence and guide family decision-making processes. They bring a holistic perspective, indispensable in maintaining the delicate balance between family unity and business success.

Furthermore, the nuanced approach of MTAs in facilitating reflective decision-making and conflict resolution underscores their integral role. They provide a space for thoughtful contemplation and strategic foresight, allowing family firms to navigate complex decisions with a greater sense of clarity and purpose. This approach is critical in ensuring decisions are not only beneficial in the short term but sustainable in the long run, aligning with the family’s overarching goals and values.

However, the scarcity of true MTAs highlights the challenges family businesses face in finding advisors who can fully understand and integrate into their unique environments. This scarcity accentuates the importance of nurturing and valuing such roles within the family business advisory sphere.

In essence, the Most Trusted Advisor is much more than a consultant; they are the cornerstone of a family business’s enduring success and harmony. Their role in bridging gaps, offering balanced perspectives, and guiding families through the complexities of business and emotional landscapes is invaluable. As family businesses continue to evolve, the need for such adept and empathetic advisors will only grow, making their role an indispensable asset in family business advising.