Wheeling Along to Family Fortune


 By Marla Dickerson, Times Staff WriterAugust 18, 1999


Business plan writing isn't the only discount service popping up to assist entrepreneurs. A group of Southland consultants has cooked up a new tool to help family firms identify roadblocks to a smooth succession.

The Family Fortune Wheel is a list of 108 true or false questions covering a variety of topics from compensation and estate planning to family dynamics and leadership styles. Owners and key employees answer the questions, whose numeric values are summarized, then plotted graphically in the form of a pie chart or "wheel."

The goal is to provide an easy-to-read, quantitative assessment of the risk factors threatening a firm's transition to the next generation, according to Nelson Dodge, a principal in the California Family Business Institute (CFBI). For example, if family members feel they are communicating well, that slice on the pie chart will appear full and expansive. Squabbling between brothers and sisters? The wheel will show a glaring gap where sibling relationships are measured.

CFBI is targeting the product to family business advisors looking to give their clients a quick checkup, as well as business owners trying to identify potential trouble spots before hiring expensive consultants.

That might seem a little odd coming from a firm whose roots are in traditional, full-service family business consulting. But the principals of Los Angeles-based CFBI say so many family companies will be facing succession issues over the next 15 years that they've added a mass-market product to meet the demand. The Family Fortune Wheel currently is available only in published form, but CFBI also is working on an Internet version.

"You're not going to solve these complex issues for 300 bucks," Dodge said. "But it does serve as a good starting point to get some of this stuff out on the table."

The CFBI's Family Fortune Wheel web tool is no longer available.

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved


Posted on October 8, 2013 .