What I Wish I Knew…Advice From The Trenches – More Advice

I realized that fundamentally my relations with my partners would never be the same. Everyone has an agenda when they talk to you. As managing partner you can never again just be one of the guys.

The sheer number of requests for meetings and for discussing issues . . . both petty and major, that fall on my desk, is absolutely staggering.

You realize that if people ever begin to say: This firm is no good, it’s not the firm, it’s you. It suddenly becomes unbelievably personal.

You don’t know all of the answers when you assume this position and some of the answers you thought you knew, you soon discover aren’t really that workable in the real world. What worked for you or your predecessor in the past, may not work tomorrow.

A surprise for me was that what you say is not always what the partners hear and that constant reinforcement of the message by word and deed are critical.

Not withstanding all of the qualities I believe I have, I’m often feeling like a fish out of water. And yet how do I tell anyone what I’m going through? I need them to go on believing in me and trusting that I know what I’m doing.

“Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take to learn the ropes and re-learn what you thought you knew about being MP.”

It is important to balance vision and culture, and execute the strategic initiatives to support the vision. You have to spend time clarifying and are more responsive to you, positively communicating the vision of the firm.

I didn’t realize the clout that comes with the title of MP. There’s a tremendous amount of prestige that comes with the position. You need to be more diplomatic, watch how you say things, and watch your mannerisms. Your mood is magnified when you’re MP – people and negatively.

I wish I were told that I should consider a Kevlar lining to all my suits. Not all of us are born with an elephant’s hide. But in a position where the buck truly stops here you will frequently find yourself at the butt end of all problems and not always at the head of the parade for all victories.

Don’t ever underestimate the amount of time it will take to learn the ropes and re-learn what you thought you knew about being MP.

It is important to balance vision and culture, and execute the strategic initiatives to support the vision. You have to spend time clarifying and communicating the vision of the firm.

You need to learn to be persuasive and help partners and staff come to a better conclusion that they would have otherwise.

If you are going to continue with a full book of business, understand that you will likely be an MP before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m., a family man on alternating weekends and will have to learn to survive on five hours of sleep a night. The MP job is a minimum of six days a week, easily seven if you let it! Something is going to have to give – think about what that should be.

In your first year, you have so much to do and so much to learn that the change on your psyche doesn’t hit immediately. It will likely hit in your second year – especially the feeling of being separated from your peer group to a different level.

Be tough when you need to be tough. Make a plan and have the discipline to stick to it. Expect a lot of tough days. Dealing with partners is tough.

There will be a lot of useless noise in your day. You need to understand what the useless noise is and dismiss it quickly.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true – it’s lonely at the top. You need to strike a balance between important relationships and professional distance. You’re not “one of the guys” anymore.

Understand that as the MP, the criticism is not aimed at you personally, but at you as the designated head of the firm.

Twenty years ago, getting people was easy and getting business was hard. Today it is the opposite, and you need to adapt the culture of the firm to meet changing times as needed.

I didn’t realize the clout that comes with the title of MP. There’s a tremendous amount of prestige that comes with the position. You need to be more diplomatic, watch how you say things, and watch your mannerisms. Your mood is magnified when you’re MP – people are more responsive to you, positively and negatively.

You will experience an initial emptiness when moving from serving clients to serving the partner group. You slowly move out of the client world – it can be an empty feeling.

The things that give you a sense of fulfillment change. Before, working with clients and getting the feedback from them was what motivated you. After you become MP, your sense of fulfillment comes from seeing the results of your activities when the firm starts showing different results. The satisfaction comes from within.

You live and breathe the firm. Your life is fully integrated in the success of the firm. People who become MP need to understand the effect on their personal life, time, travel and relationships. Travel and time commitments hit immediately.

Don’t underestimate the amount of energy it takes to create consensus among accountants. It’s not just the numbers that move a firm forward – getting consensus on something less “provable” is difficult.

You will need to delegate a lot, but be sure not to have too many people reporting to you. Don’t underestimate the value of a COO when you get too many people reporting to you. As MP with all of your responsibilities, you probably can be only about 50% as effective as a COO who is fully focused on the operations of the firm.

Blaze your own trail but have a group of colleagues to tap into. Consider creating your own Board of Advisors.

MPs should still have a connection with clients, but don’t miscalculate what it takes for firm management. The right balance is about 35% client relationship management, 35% practice management, and 70% management of the firm. Yes, something has to give – sometimes you’re not sure what.

Tap into the intellectual capital of someone who has been there and done that. Join an association, befriend others, and avoid mistakes others have made. Don’t try to go it alone. It’s not an easy thing to run a firm. It starts as a very collegial environment but you need to move to a more corporate mentality.

If you have multiple offices, actively do things to segment yourself from the office you came from. You want to ensure that you are seen as focused on the whole firm, not just the office you came from.

When you grow in the profession, you master technical skills. But being an MP is such a people job. Don’t underestimate the time factor in dealing with all of the people issues. There are so many personalities within a firm, and you really want to help everyone with both their business problems as well as their personal issues. Almost like a priest, you need to listen to peoples’ problems – don’t absolve them of their sins, just listen hard!

Don’t think that leading is the same as managing. It’s not. Managing is dictating, leading is trying to get everyone else to do their best.

Be sure to give your employees credit for what they do! As a leader, you’re not there to get credit. If you need to get credit for what happens within the firm, you’re not mature enough to be an MP.