5 typical reasons why accountants applications for partnership are not accepted

Heather Townsend
The Excedia Group
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There are many reasons why your application for partnership is not accepted. Here are the five most common mistakes aspiring partners make when they apply for admission to the partnership.

1. Not building up a fan base in the partnership

Only partners, understandably, have the right to sit and vote at the partnership table. Your partners will, behind closed doors and without consulting your opinion, discuss whether or not you are a suitable person to join the partnership. The more vocal supporters of your cause, the greater the likelihood that you will get the right result from the vote. Unsurprisingly the stronger your power base within the partners of your firm, the less it matters as to what you have written in your personal business case for partnership.

2. Writing their personal business case in isolation

Your personal business case for partnership, needs to be written in consultation with not just the partners in your department but partners across the firm. Depending on how your partnership admissions process works, you may find that all or a fixed amount of partners needs to give you the thumbs up. Consequently, the more partners who feel as if they have had a say in your business case and have been involved in the writing of it, the stronger the chance that you get the green light. Particularly if those partners are the movers, shapers and groovers! (For more help with your personal business, download our free guide to writing your personal business case for partnership, email required)

3. Setting a fixed time frame for when they will make partner

No one can with any degree of certainty predict what will happen in the marketplace. In times of economic hardship firms tend to reduce their partnership numbers rather than admit new, potentially untried partners. Additionally, there may be better and stronger candidates for partnership ahead of you. Which are two reasons why equity partners generally get very annoyed when 'young whippersnappers' decide on when they are going to make partner. By all means set a general timeframe, just make sure it's not a 'fixed, must be this year', type of timeframe.

When the partners add in a new equity partner, they are in effect sharing equity in the firm with the newly promoted partner. Consequently, it will always be their decision, not your decision when you will make partner. Don't forget this!

4. Becoming over-fixated on their technical ability

When you become a partner you move from being employed to self-employed and become an owner of the firm. As a result, it is no longer about your technical ability, it's about your ability to grow the firm, build & lead a team, win clients and bring something extra to the partnership.

5. Not spending enough time on putting together their personal business case for partnership

Your personal business case for partnership is not something you can dash off in an evening. Ideally you want to be working on this at least 18-24 months before you want to be admitted to the partnership. To help you form your business case, you want to complete a series of conversations with partners inside and outside of your department, to canvas their opinions on your personal business plan.

If you are thinking or writing your personal business case for partnership, then download our FREE guide to writing your personal business case, email required.

What help has your firm given you with your personal business case?

Heather Townsend will be appearing at the 'How to make partner' conference in London on the 24th April 2013.

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.


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