When I’m coaching people within a firm to position themselves for success and ultimately be promoted to Partner level, I recognize that everybody has different strengths and areas for improvement. My job is to help them realize their potential. However, with each one, we discuss four specific components which they must be able to demonstrate in order to make Partner. They are:
- Serve your clients like nobody else
- Do a great job of taking care of your people
- Be a good teammate at the firm
- Be a value creator
Let’s take each of these one-by-one and give them a proper explanation so that you can start implementing the required behaviors right now.
#1: Serve Your Clients Like Nobody Else
This first point may seem self-explanatory but don’t underestimate it. You have to show and demonstrate that you provide outstanding service to your clients. It’s not enough to talk about how happy your clients are. You need to prove it. How?
If you’re genuinely tight with various great clients, demonstrating the strength of the relationship can be proven by how they expand their business with the firm. You need to bring others from the firm when required to serve clients, regardless of who gets the credit. Excellent service starts and ends with you. If everyone knows it and you can point to specific examples of your outstanding service translating to positive results for the firm, it’s sure to go far.
By the way, serving your clients like nobody else isn’t just about doing what they ask for promptly. It also means bringing new ideas to the table, showing how you’re thinking about them and how well you understand their unique goals.
#2: Do A Great Job Of Taking Care Of Your People
You also have to demonstrate that you are an effective manager of people. You’re just not going to get very far in a CPA firm without having a good team of people underneath you. This means you have to care for them by training them, challenging them, and teaching them how to deliver their very best to clients continually. Developing the potential in people is a constant challenge because it’s inevitable that some of them will leave the firm for another opportunity. However, this doesn’t change the fact that you must be an outstanding mentor and provide an exceptional experience for them while they’re with the firm. If you’ve done your job, they’re going to leave as an advocate for you as well as the firm.
PSG’s Jim Brasher, who made Partner in a CPA firm at just 32 years old, shares the ingredients to the Partner path for aspiring CPAs.
#3: Be A Good Teammate At The Firm
If you’re a good teammate, you follow the rules in the firm from a professional practice point of view. It means you do the things you’re asked to do on a timely basis, such as bill, collect, engage in goal setting, provide timely performance evaluations for your people and participate in training.
Part of being a good teammate also involves recognizing the opportunities to expand the firm’s footprint at each of your clients. You know your clients the best, so always be on the lookout to harness the power of the firm to help your clients.
Case in point: There are going to be moments where you realize that there are other people at the firm who know more about a particular topic than you do. Suddenly, you’ve brought in someone who positions the firm in a new light with added value. A great client relationship becomes even better as you bring the firm’s resources to bear. You have to remain in regular contact with the client as they work with others in the firm. You know the client’s priorities and how they want to be served, so it is up to you to ensure that the other team members provide the same great level of service that you do to the client. The client depends on you to make sure that happens.
It’s a win for the firm, a win for other team members and for you in recognizing and facilitating growth opportunities – and that last one is a skill that the firm expects every partner to have. Guaranteed.
#4: Be A Value Creator
In most instances, demonstrating that you’re a value creator may be the most essential trait of all. In doing so, you show that you can successfully grow the practice going forward. You are always prospecting for new work within your current book of clients and among those prospects you have your eye on.
A prospect pipeline is not a spigot you turn on and off. You may have moments where you spend more time prospecting than others and vice versa. But the need to constantly develop new business – whether upselling existing clients or converting prospects into new clients – you have to make growth part of your daily practice.
At any given moment, you may have to demonstrate what your tactics are, how you spend your business development time, who you go to market with, how you partner with others in the firm and the opportunities you’ve converted.
Once you can speak knowledgeably and confidently about these four areas, you will have achieved an extraordinary level of mastery. However, the principles shared here aren’t just for senior management at a CPA firm. You can adapt these four factors for success for every single level, whether a person is entry-level and just two years into working at the firm or conversely, they’ve spent 15 years working at the firm. It’s just a matter of scale.
The fact is, there isn’t a whole lot that prepares you for working in a team environment and professional services when you’re in college. You enter the working world, start by playing the least essential role on the team and work your way up from there. Before that point, in school, you don’t have to pivot from being the smartest person in the room to being one of many intelligent people on the team. You don’t have to think about how you get an entire team to work together to deliver outstanding service.
Good leaders inevitably recognize that, at some point, they have to learn how to delegate parts of the job effectively. It’s just too overwhelming for one person to do it all. Partners have had to withdraw in the past because they’re just not happy, can’t take the pressure, internalize everything and haven’t developed people under them who can take the burden off.
You don’t have to fall into this trap. When you keep those four key elements top-of-mind, you’ll be equipped to look out for what’s best for your managers, teammates, subordinates and clients. And as you grow, developing the skill set of others isn’t merely in their best interests. It’s in yours as you prepare to delegate to them and free up your time for more high-level work where the firm needs you most.
How do you continually bring out the best in others while focusing on what you need to? Easy. Partner with Professional Strategy Group to deliver the kind of programs, coaching and training made exclusively for the accounting professional at every level. Seniors. Managers. Senior Managers. Partners. We’re the difference in how CPAs grow careers and CPA firms grow reputations. It’s your time to see how our wide variety of programs apply to your team, your challenges and your goals. Call PSG today to learn more at 312.860.0873 or email email@example.com.