Success Factors of CPA Partner Relationships

Practice ManagementProgressive partners relationships are one of the most critical success factors for a CPA firm. The partners’ ability to work harmoniously with each other and possess the deep knowledge and understanding of what makes each other “tick” is essential to creating and sustaining successful partnerships. Over our many years of advising and consulting to CPA firms, we have observed certain common factors in CPA partner relationships that have led to a firm’s long-term success, such as:

Shared Vision
A key component to building progressive partner relationships is a common vision for the short-and long-term success of the firm and belief in its value proposition. More than shared goals, a shared vision and clearly communicated value proposition is paramount to making a CPA firm partnership succeed. When partners share a common vision, they share the same view of a successful firm model and a mutual, highly desirable future of the firm. Having a model or picture of the end result creates energy among the partner group and motivates partners to act as a team. The best partner relationships aren’t necessarily dependent on common operational and management styles, but rather the road and journey to attain the firm’s shared vision. It is essential that the firm’s core vision and values are defined so that the partners are “on the same page” and lead others in the same direction.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”—Jack Welsh

Trust is essential to any successful partnership. The ability to build and maintain a high level of trust in CPA partnerships is more challenging than ever before due to:

  • succession planning and transitioning client relationships between baby boomers and millennial partners;
  • accelerating M&A transactions resulting in newly formed partner relationships; and
  • the occurrence of numerous internal partner buy-outs of unfunded partner retirement obligations.

In addition, trust takes into account other elements in a partnership such as, accountability, responsibility, integrity, and reliability.

“Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life.”—Vartika Manasvi

It is imperative that partners continuously communicate their expectations of each other at least on an annual basis. A dilution of mutual trust can occur if expectations are not clearly articulated annually with the goal of narrowing expectation gaps.

Each partner’s expertise, strengths and weaknesses, personality, financial needs, and tenure at the firm are different. Throughout the year, it is important to clearly communicate expectations and evaluate how each partner is meeting agreed upon goals and objectives, both formally and informally.

A trusting relationship means being as transparent as possible regarding each partner’s expectations of the partnership. Addressing changing expectations due to modifications in business or personal conditions on a timely basis will increase the level of trust among the partners.

In summary, these are the traits—and the critical questions—to ask as you examine the culture in your firm. If trust is lacking, take the necessary steps to allow this vital unmeasurable to improve.

“The foundation of trust will permeate every aspect of your company: the people, the products they produce, and the corporate culture. This is why we consider trust to be a non-negotiable trait.” —David K. Williams

We will discuss other success factors of CPA partner relationships in our next RedZone blog.