In the early years of your career, promotion tended to happen automatically based on whether you passed your exams or not. After qualification, this tends not to be the case - and never more so than being promoted to partner. You may have a highly profitably client portfolio and be highly regarded by everyone in your firm, but if your partnership doesn't have the space or inclination to admit a new partner, partnership for you at your firm isn't going to happen. In this article, I share with you the clues which you need to be looking for to understand what the partners will require from the future firm’s partners.
1. Partners getting near to retirement age
In most partnership agreements there is a clause for what age partners need to retire by. It’s not always set in stone, but not unusual for partnerships to force out their older members. (Most forward thinking practices realise that they need new blood into the partnership ever so often, and making partners retire at a certain age is one way of doing this.) Very often the retiring partner has a client portfolio which will need someone to take it over. That person could be you. Do you have a good connection with that partner? Do you have the right skills to take over his portfolio. Maybe more importantly, do you want to take over this partner’s client portfolio? It may not be in the best of health! (Our FREE guide to doing your due diligence on your firm may come in handy here, email required)
2. Technical areas or sectors becoming very important to the firm
Look at your firm’s business plans – where do they see the growth coming for the firm? Growth in a practice area is always an opportunity for aspiring partners to grow a portfolio and stake a claim at the partnership table. As well as looking at the firm’s business plans, do your homework and spend time talking with partners in the firm. Where do they see the growth coming from in their firm? What are the technical areas which are being more important to the firm?
3. Areas of the practice which are ‘light’ on partners
Sometimes a part of the firm becomes very successful – and there is too much work for the existing partners to handle. Consequently, this may be an opportunity for you to make partner in that area (with the right technical skills). The partners in the department will need to be able to have an extra pair of hands to handle the client relationships – which is an opportunity for you. Sometimes a non-partner becomes very successful at winning work and builds up a partner-sized client portfolio. As the partnership can't afford to lose someone of this calibre, they will often make this person up to partner.
4. Departments where senior professionals have exited the firm and left a gap
There is always a pecking order and hierarchy within a firm. However, this can sometimes get disrupted by prospective partners leaving the firm before they get there. Not only does this create opportunities for you to get your hands on more responsibility earlier, but there are less people ahead of you to make partner before you.
In summary, there are no hard and fast rules where the next partner will come from in the firm. Do your homework and look around you – there maybe an opportunity begging for you to take an advantage of. Make sure your personal business case for partnership (Download our FREE guide to writing your personal business case for partnership here, email required) shows how you are THE person to strengthen the partnership.
About Heather Townsend
Heather Townsend is a brand ambassador for the Practice Excellence Programme, and the Founder of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 4 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).
Heather is always up for a challenge. Perhaps that is why she has built a track record of helping accountants grow the size of their practice by 50-200%, often in under two years. Often helping them make partner or equity partner in the process.
Heather is a high profile member of the accountancy profession in the UK. She has worked with over 300 partners, coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. Heather's clients have included: 7 out of the Top 10 UK practices, including all the Big 4 firms.
In 2016 her and her team of coaches have coached:
1) 7 people successfully to partner
2) Professionals from all of the Big 4, from every major continent in the world
As well as helping accountants make partner, she still spends 40% of her time helping small firms, typically under £1m GRF:
1) Create profitable revenue streams from advisory services and reduce their reliance on revenue from compliance services
2) Radically increase their profitability, even if they are a cloud based practice, often helping them achieve a net profit margin of 40%+
3) Double or even triple the size of their practice within 3 years
4) Win bigger and better clients
5) Grow the right team around them so they stop working stupidly high hours and spend quality time with the people they care about
Her articles appear regularly in the UK national and trade press, including The Financial Times, Accountancy Age, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. Heather is also in-demand for her speaking and has recently returned from the South African Accountancy Academy conference.