When you’re born into a family business, you inherit not only the business and the family legacy—you most likely also inherit partners (aka cousins and siblings).  No matter how tight-knit your family may be, there are certain challenges when it comes to transitioning from family member to co-worker to partner.

Dana Telford, Principal Consultant with The Family Business Consulting Group (FBCG) opened the FBA’s December event sharing his personal experience. His grandfather chose to start a business with a partner. Fast forward to today. Dana carries on what his grandfather started, alongside his mother and three siblings. They didn’t choose to be partners; they were simply born into it. But with a lot of work, communication, self-awareness and TRUST, they’ve chosen to remain partners in the family business.

In his talk, Dana emphasized the importance of trust in partnerships. “When we look at family business partnerships that fail, 60 percent indicate a lack of trust as a primarily disintegrator of the partnership,” said Dana.


Dana’s keynote covered the 7 Cs of Trust-based Partnerships. We’ve summarized the 7 Cs below.  If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive in this topic, Dana’s published a great article on the topic loaded with more questions for self-reflection on the FBCG website.  You can find the article here.

The 7 Cs of Trust-based Partnerships

  1. Character—Are you a person of character? Does your behavior exhibit the character you seek out and trust in others?
  2. Capability—Can you do what you say you will do? What unique gifts do you bring to the partnership?
  3. Commitments—Do you deliver on your commitments? Are you reliable?
  4. Complementarity—How do your skills and abilities complement those of your partners?
  5. Collaboration—How willing are you to overlook differences in opinion and style to work with your partners?
  6. Commitment—Are you committed to being a partner and seeing things through long-term?
  7. Communication—Do you talk with your with your partner(s) regularly? Are you comfortable talking about tough issues?


Dana encouraged attendees to review the 7 Cs and rate themselves, individually or as a partnership. Doing so helps to identify what areas need some intentional attention. Rating also provides metrics for measuring future growth. The 7 Cs of Building Trust Worksheet


Special thanks to Dana for a great presentation!

Thanks also to our panelists who followed Dana’s keynote address and shared how some of the 7 Cs worked in their family business. Panelists included Brent Van Haren, President, SecurAlarm; Todd Van Haren, CPA/Controller, SecurAlarm; Bill Muir, President, Grand Rapids Label Company; and John Crosby, VP of Operations, Grand Rapids Label Company.

Thank you to our event sponsor: Varnum