Commerce is increasingly customer-centric, relying on the relationships built between suppliers and consumers to enable consumption of products and services. No longer will a better mousetrap trump all (the traditional product-centric approach), rather consumers will buy from the supplier which is best able to persuade them it offers the greatest value.

In a recent interview with The Marketing Journal John Hagel refers to the role a “Trusted Advisor” plays in customer-centric transactions. He talks about the shift occurring in the competitive corporate landscape from product innovation and commercialisation-focused business models to those focused on customer relationship management.  It made me reflect on a presentation given by Dr Justin Craig, Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Kellogg Center for Family Enterprises at Northwestern University, during his time at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast. Professor Craig examined the construct of trust and how it relates to the modern business environment.

What is trust? I encourage you to spend some time considering what you believe trust to be. Is it simply being reliable, or is it something deeper? In true form, Justin distilled a diverse field of study into a simple mnemonic drawn principally from this paper: I-ABC.

Central to trust is Integrity: the quality of being good and morally upright. This is extended to include the Ability to do something of a Benevolent nature,Consistently. In simple terms, a person or organisation can be considered trustworthy if others perceive they are constantly looking for ways to add value to others: to be contributing to the greater good. The impact for commerce is profound and the role of customer-centric marketing tactics becomes very clear.

The success of the modern organisation depends on its ability to win the trust of its customers, and this will eventuate by consistently delivering value of relevance to the consumer.

 A segment of the organisational landscape has been doing this for centuries, as an article (titled “Why the 21st Century will Belong to Family Businesses”) in the latest Harvard Business Review discusses: Family Firms. Notable distinguishing facets of the ways in which family firms conduct business include a long-term orientation and a relationship approach to commerce: they build trust among their stakeholders. Evidence shows that family firms outperform non-family firms on a range of financial metrics: does trust hold the key?

What does the future of commerce hold? How are progressive organisations gaining a greater share of the consumer spend? One thing is for sure: Trust is becoming increasingly important and there is much to be learned from the way in which highly successful enterprising families conduct business.


Professor Craig delivered this Master Class as part of the Bond Business Commercialisation Centre‘s workshop series in his role as the Ken Moores Visiting Professor of Family Enterprise at Bond University. Present were a wide range of stakeholders in the family enterprise space along with current and past Bond students.