Promotion season is approaching; the time of year where the votes are being cast on who might be lucky enough to join the partnership ranks. The process can be daunting, with future career progression dependent upon the outcome of that meeting.
But it’s not all one-way, partnerships still need to continue to work hard to attract talent at all levels, but particularly at installing the next generation of partners who, one day, will lead the practice. As the age demographic of partners shifts, so does the view of what partners want and what ‘partnership’ should be. At our recent webinar we polled our audience of upcoming partners and revealed that there are still some key questions that remain unanswered about this big move.
What is the biggest worry for new partners?
In our recent webinar for new partners, we asked our audience what their biggest concern was about becoming a partner. With nearly one third of the vote, the key concern continues to be the impact of losing employment status and the protections that can afford the individual. Dependent on your attitude to risk, moving from an employed position to a self-employed one can sound particularly worrying. One way for partnerships to mitigate this is to allow potential partners to see the protections that they would be afforded by a Members Agreement. This, of course, depends heavily on the type of partner, as there are many types and many different partnership arrangements, so firms would do well to ensure their next cohort fully understand the provisions of the partnership.
Do you even want to be a partner?
The most surprising concern raised, as the audience were all aspiring partners, was that nearly a quarter said that they were unsure whether it was the right firm or role to be in. Clearly, some partnerships need to do more to demonstrate the benefits and rewards of joining the partnership. Becoming a partner is a hard transition, but it is one that is usually extensively planned by the existing partners, either through growth ambitions or through succession challenges. It is concerning that there are potentially a number of people on the verge of joining partnerships that may not even want to go the distance.
The role of the partner continues to be a long-term one where establishing and investing in relationships with clients takes time, and acquiring clients and making them into profitable clients for the firm takes years rather than months. The potential loss of profit by not securing the next tier of partners into the partnership is significant. We often talk about the ‘cost’ of bringing in new team members, which can often be high, but the impact of having to start a recruitment process for a partner can be significant. Often, succession is a key reason for needing to recruit a new partner, and this situation can also impact existing client retention.
How many plates will you have to spin?
The third top concern among our audience was having to take on new internal responsibilities within the firm – let’s face it, it’s not unusual for the most junior partner to have the ‘opportunity’ to take on internal responsibilities that have been handed down to the last one through the door for a number of years.
Ultimately, the role of the partner, especially in SME partnerships, is wide ranging. The amount of ‘plate spinning’ required across many different areas, such as business development, strategy, HR, and technical to name a few, leaves you questioning when do you have the time to earn fees. But whilst the transition to partner can take time and lots of energy, it is still an incredibly rewarding role when you are culturally aligned to the practice and the existing partners.
We can assist you and your firm with matters relating to your partnership structure, and succession planning. Contact Jamie Lane to find out more.