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It's 2012: Time to update your partner job description

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February 6, 2012

Have you ever had the feeling that some of your partners are operating today as if it was 2005, 1990, or even 1970?  While their approaches to their practice and mode di operando may have worked then, it probably isn’t working so well in 2012.  Why?  The job and responsibilities are vastly different than they were even five years ago.

Niche-based firms are outshining us for new work, increased competition from regional and national firms has put us on the defensive with current clients, looming succession has put us in a vice, and adding revenue to the top line takes more work than ever before.  All these factors shape what should be in your job description for 2012.

Technical excellence. This used to be the entire job description, and now it is just a component.  As firms encroach on your geographic market, with what appears to be enhanced niche knowledge, you need to be able to defend yourself.  Consider downplaying your generalist skills in favor of going to market as a niche player.

Client development. Today’s partner needs to be adept at building client relationships, demonstrating value and being proactive, and growing revenue earned from each client.  A “compliance relationship only” is no longer acceptable because it puts the firm at risk for pricing pressure, and higher than average client turnover, among other things.

Staff development. The next generation of partners won’t just emerge from the woodwork someday and buy you out; they need to be developed and mentored by the current partners for many years before they will be ready.  If high performers don’t feel the love from your firm, they will leave and become partners at another firm.  It’s your responsibility to develop them into the next generation of partners.

Sales and marketing. One or two rainmakers can no longer feed an entire firm.  Everyone needs to pull on the rope in order for the firm to win the tug-o-war for growth.  That doesn’t mean that every person needs to or should go out and sell work for the firm—it means that everyone needs a role.  There are literally dozens of things that you can do to contribute.  Whether it is write an article for a local trade publication, participate in an industry association, or serve on a board for a not-for-profit organization and leverage it to benefit the firm, most items under the sales and marketing hat have very little to do with actual selling.

In summary: the public accounting industry has changed significantly, and the partner job description must change with it.  While there are many considerations, those mentioned above may be the most pressing.  Get the conversation started at your next partner meeting, and set a course for your future success—with an up-to-date partner job description.

Art Kuesel, director of practice growth and marketing consulting services for Koltin Consulting Group, helps CPA firms across the country hone and maximize their growth plans, build effective marketing and sales efforts, coach partners and managers to greater success and add revenue to the top line. Koltin Consulting serves CPA, law and financial advisory firms with strategic growth, M&A services, executive recruiting and management consulting services. Art can be reached at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.

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