Partners Can Be Complacent And Ego-Driven, But Their Success = Firm Success

Without the support of the partner group, MPs can’t move their firms forward. The realities of gaining consensus among hard-driving professionals with different working styles, skills and drivers can be more challenging than even the most insightful firm leader could anticipate. One MP says, “It’s like herding cats, and it’s very difficult to get all partners on the same page because not everybody has the same value proposition and not everyone is motivated by the same metrics.”

No MP owns a how-to guidebook on juggling the multiple – and sometimes competing – priorities demanding their attention every day. INSIDE Public Accounting, therefore, asked more than 70 MPs to offer anonymous insights on the frustrations, challenges, joys and rewards of the top job. In a 12-question survey, they offered unfiltered, candid insights. Here are responses to just a few of the questions.

What are two of your biggest frustrations with the partner group? Two themes – egos and complacency – immediately emerged from MP responses to this question. Some MPs say partners think their way is the only way. They fail to see the benefit of trying a different approach, close themselves off from other points of view, second-guess decisions (after failing to participate in the discussion), and stay in their comfort zone of client service without committing to professional development, marketing, timely billing and collections.

One MP said two or three partners are so negative “they’re like a cancer.” Some partners think they’re “too busy or too important to follow the rules,” says another.

However, with the success of the partners goes the success of the firm, and MPs are quick to acknowledge the massive amounts of work they handle, the numerous clients they serve admirably and the demands they address without fail.

Frustrations With Partners IncludeLack of Participation “They don’t speak up. When we need them to vote it’s like pulling teeth to get them to respond on time.”

Lack of Accountability “Partners like to measure others but don’t like to be measured.” Another MP says, “Too many of our partners are cruisers. Some of these, though, think they are dynamos and they aren’t.”

Self-Centered Thinking One MP is frustrated by “getting them to work together as a team, and not be so concerned about themselves.” Another says, “Partners think they are suited for all jobs because they are successful in one or two areas.” Another disappointment? “Partners who occasionally want to be MP, but only when they don’t like something specific but don’t want any part of the running of the firm on a daily basis.”

Hanging on When it’s Time to Retire “They seem to want to continue to come to the office, take up a large office, and distract staff and have no desire to step away. This can hold back some of the younger partners and potential partners.”

Failure to Use Time Wisely – A top-notch partner, one MP says, should “discuss issues with other partners when they arise and not behind their back, seek to interact more with fellow partners, be joyful in what you do and how you carry yourself, and help others at all times when asked.” Another MP comments that partners often complain about being overloaded with work. “As a result, they can’t hit their goals, or do this or that. What I find is that they’re not looking inside and prioritizing, pushing down or making good choices.”

“What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would share with an MP?…Don’t try to be popular, say many MPs who responded to this question. “You have to make what you feel is the best decision for the firm and don’t take unhappy partners or staff personally,” one MP says. “They will get over it.”

MPs, in various ways, advised new executives to make the tough decisions, but be respectful. Communicate clearly and often, and put the long-term best interest of the firm above selfish or short-term gains. Always.

More advice from the trenches…

  • Don’t Rush – “Be patient. Making changes is like moving a battleship so take it slow and do it right.” Another MP says, “Think more. Do less.”
  • Be Direct – “Establish up front that you’re not going to put up with negativity, complaining, etc., or they’ll be brought up before the executive committee.”
  • Think ‘Big Picture’ – “Communicate, communicate, communicate. There has to be someone in charge that creates the vision and rallies the employees behind it.”
  • Get Support – “Find four or five other managing partners or consultants that they admire and respect and build close relationships with them. That gives them a sounding board outside his or her own partner group. Other MPs are also great sources of new ideas that can be implemented.”
  • Learn the Role Before Taking It – “Just because you’re a good accountant doesn’t mean you know how to run a business.”
  • Watch the WIP – “If you don’t bill, you don’t collect money. If you don’t collect money, you can’t pay the bills.”
  • Manage Your Time – “Block off chunks of time to work on administrative duties and client duties. Constantly switching back and forth is difficult and draining.”
  • Stay Focused – “Work hard, never lose the trust of the partners who are willing to trust, and don’t let the naysayers distract you.”
  • Be Open – “Understand you need to learn as much as you can about how to work with different types of people.” Another MP agrees. “Get to know all your partners, and determine what really motivates them, and what is it that they care most about at the firm. Do not play favorites, and don’t allow little partner groups to form and break down the vision of the firm. Rather, bring their concerns to the table, and resolve them.”

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