One of the most important goals for CPA firms is attracting, developing, and retaining highly competent partners who become the future Managing Partners (MPs) and leaders. Without the appropriate amount of partner “stars”, it’s highly unlikely that a firm even with a very capable MP and other leaders can be highly successful in the long-term and develop a succession plan.
Partner “stars” are”highly skilled,” talented and entrepreneurial professionals who contribute to the firm in meaningful and innovative ways that allows the firm to become stronger and achieve its goals faster and better.
A firm can’t progress to higher levels of success with the partner team that they need but don’t have. In addition, demanding that partners be accountable for performance criteria that they are not capable of achieving is only delaying inevitable failure.
Most firms are short on talented leaders at the partner level since most promotions to partner are based upon technical skills and client relationships. Staff turnover makes it even more difficult for firms to develop future leaders.
It may be necessary to supplement the leadership team by recruiting talented partners from other firms that have leadership and entrepreneurial talents and practice development skills and/or niche specialties.
Most firms underestimate their need for future leaders. They are either in denial or don’t plan for future leadership changes and underestimate the difficulty of developing them from within the firm. Attracting future leaders from outside the firm can be difficult and a major challenge to find the “right fit”. Due to the baby-boomer exodus of rainmakers and founders, many firms are positioned to retire-out 50% or more of their current leadership in the next 5-7 years. Simultaneously during this period, the competitive challenges in the profession will accelerate and expand broader and beyond what the predecessor leaders experienced in the past. Thus the future leaders will need to be much more skilled in developing and implementing strategic plans and positioning their firms in the marketplace for future sustainable growth and to maintain their competitive edge.
Some of the key areas that MPs need to be focused on are:
- Putting the right partners in the right positions and providing them with the appropriate resources necessary to build departments, niches, industry and service specializations, including consulting services, and develop a talented supporting cast of professionals.
- Allowing partner “stars” to have authority to make decisions commensurate with their responsibility and accountability for results.
- Visionary and strategy implementation to identify threats and pursue opportunities by making decisions in advance of the competition and then allocating the proper resources of people and money.
- Leading change and inspiring and persuading partners to adapt quickly.
- Managing a sustainable high performance environment that translates into positive results by partners in growth and profitability in the areas that the “stars” are responsible for.
- Creating a culture that rewards partners fairly and promotes achievements of the firm’s goals.
“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them. The whole game of business revolves around one thing—you build the best team, you win.”—Jack Welch