Your personal business case for partnership - it's no longer about your technical ability

Heather Townsend
The Excedia Group
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You've nearly made it - partnership is in your sights. There is just one more hurdle to overcome - actually making it through the partnership promotions process. Each firm will be different, but many firms will put together a partnership nomination pack, which will include your personal business case for partnership. (See what do you need to put in your personal business case for partnership)

I had the honour of interviewing Darryn Hedges, Global Finance Director for Marks & Clerks (and ex E&Y). In this interview he explained the most common mistake that accountants make with their business case is that they get over-fixated on technical content and technical ability.

The most common one is over-fixation on technical content and technical ability

In Darryn’s view (and he has now been heavily involved in the partnership promotions process for three firms), he believes that you need to focus more on your ability to lead, win work, work collaboratively with others, and delivery of excellent client service. Your technical competence is now taken as read - you wouldn't be even invited to apply for partnership if your technical competence was in doubt:

In my view the ability to manage and work with a team, the ability to work collaboratively, is as important because it speaks not just to the delivery of service and the winning of work but also to the manner in which it is done.

As Darryn explained in his interview,

If you are over-fixated or over-focussed on your technical ability you tend to forget about the client relationship and the business development stuff as well.

In professional services, including accountancy practices, the terms ‘finding, minding and grinding‘ are often spoken about. This usually relates to:

Grinding: Doing the work, e.g. being at the client's office doing the audit

Minding: Managing the work you have today and the people you work with, e.g. managing an audit team on site from your office

Finding: Winning the new work, e.g. doing the pitch to win the audit work for a new client (here is a free guide to writing your own marketing plan)

If you are to have a winning personal business case for partnership, Darryn suggests that you show in your business case how you get do all three, i.e. finding, minding and grinding, with a proven track record. I.e. not just showing that you can ‘Grind’ – after all, a competent senior could do that.

You have to get all three (finding, minding and grinding) into the business case. The specifics of your firm, your department, the opportunity will determine which of those three is a priority, but you have to get all three in.

If you would like a guide to help you write your business case, then here is a free downloadable guide.

How does your firm encourage you to increase your minding and finding skills?

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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