The Perception of “Partner” Is Due For A Refresh

The Perception of “Partner” Is Due For A Refresh

Many of the people we teach at CPA firms are coming up through the ranks and getting promoted up to Director. Yet, one of the things we’ve noticed is that certain people are afraid of making Partner and the impact that it will have on their lives, even though that’s supposed to be the “brass ring” they should grasp. It’s just assumed that that’s what anyone would want.

Well, what if it’s not? What if you’re not meant to be or don’t want to be Partner material?

Many firms go back and forth on this issue. If one isn’t going to be a Partner, there may be an opportunity for them to be a Managing Director, for example. No matter what title you hold, you have to be a person who creates value for the organization in excess of the amount that you’re being paid. The reality is that the best professionals continue to grow their technical and analytical skills as well as their business judgement. Whether your role is that of a Managing Director or a Partner, you have to invest in yourself in order to continuously create value.

As far as people being “afraid” to make Partner, this may be a bit of a self-inflicted wound by the Partners themselves. When the Partners tend to air their grievances, they do it in front of managers and staff. That’s a bad play. You will get no sympathy from them because you are very well compensated for what you do. So they may not mind you seeing you in a bit of pain.

On the positive side, Partners can speak more openly. The good part about being a Partner is that you get to do things that are important to you and you’ll get self-satisfaction out of it. But if you’re not yet a Partner, ask yourself – are you willing to assume all the responsibilities of being a Partner for what you are paid now? If you can answer that question with a resounding “yes,” then you can say you’re self-satisfied, in the right spot and doing the right types of things because there is a lot more to the work you do than just being highly paid. Partners are entrepreneurs and if you want to be a partner you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset before you are elected to the partnership.

Being a partner is also the opportunity to essentially be your own boss and, within limits, set your own hours. You have wide latitude and, whether you’re an early riser or late riser in the hours you keep, you indeed are an entrepreneur. You are responsible for production (billable hours), marketing (bringing in new clients) and human resources (being responsible for your team). Seems like you are running a business!

Partners also have a lifetime opportunity to learn. Many Partners don’t think of it that way. But in my experience as a Partner, I’ve have learned so much from so many clients, attorneys, and other business-related people. I always felt that I had the best MBA that money could buy. The clients who stuck out the most to me and who I remember the most fondly, really appreciated good client service. You are no longer a service provider to them in the strictest sense of the word. You are a member of the team and treated as such because they trust you. So you’ll be involved in decisions that are important to them because they view you as a business advisor, and not just a someone with technical expertise.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a Partner, this is where you can become a strategic advisor and enjoy the most rewarding of relationships.

I encourage you to not give up on the idea of becoming a Partner until you understand the position fully from all angles and what the possibilities hold for you. And if you are a Partner, share with your managers and staff the real story of what being a Partner means. Professional Strategy Group can help you tell it with workshops toward your Managers and Senior Managers such as:

  • Becoming an Entrepreneur
  • Developing Effective Managerial Skills
  • Client Service Planning Workshop
  • Targeting New Business

These and other Workshops from PSG can show your team members that the behaviors of being a Partner may come more naturally to them than they realize. And when more of them step up, the more likely it is for your CPA firm to enjoy a prosperous future. Build that solid foundation with PSG today by calling 312.860.0873 or emailing