• Career Center

    How To Make Partner In Five Easy Steps (or Don’t Give Up Now, Many Partners Are Going To Die Soon)

    By | October 3, 2012

    At the end of last month the CPA Consultants' Alliance released a white paper on succession planning and leadership. Okay, it was mostly about leadership; succession planning was thrown in there to scare old people into reading it.

    Succession planning has gotten boring. It's been everywhere in the accounting press for years. A boomer can't fall off his Jazzy™ without landing on an article about succession planning.
    The impetus for developing a succession plan clearly rests on the owner/partner/shareholder. Now maybe I'm slow, but after reading the white paper it dawned on me that a huge opportunity exists for the rest of us. The light bulb went on when I read this: 
    The "graying of America" will drive the most significant transfer of knowledge, capital and ultimately, wealth that we have ever seen.
    Every succession plan needs a successor, and you don't have to wait passively hoping that somebody will choose you. This is the cutthroat world of accounting, not junior prom. (Sorry for the obscure reference, homeschoolers.) The white paper is a map to the fun side of wealth transfer, and just like Dora the Explorer, it's got five easy steps.
    Step 1 – Outlive the Current Cohort of Partners
    In the next few decades, more than 100,000 baby boomer CPAs are likely to retire, creating a void that new leaders will have to fill. […] The profession is already experiencing increased demand for people.
    You're a hot commodity, and you will be in even higher demand as boomers die off. The report also indicates that many of the most talented people in the profession are leaving public accounting for jobs in industry. Woody Allen's aphorism comes to mind. "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Sage advice from a comedian who dumped his baby mama to hook up with her adopted daughter. Stick around while everybody else jumps ship or develops dementia, and you might end up holding all the cards.
    Step 2 – Become a Visionary
    Partners, owners, and shareholders listed "being a visionary" as the No. 1 leadership characteristic missing in today's firms. Unfortunately partners don't want visionaries; they want vision catchers. People with passion and vision are scary to people who are trying to preserve wealth. Partners want exemplary followers to catch the existing vision–to take the status quo to the next level. Stop what you're doing, and go ask one of your partners what his or her vision is for your firm. It's probably something impressive and motivating like, "For all staff to exceed their billable hour goals and for realization rates to approach 100%." Damn, JFK, that's powerful.
    If you regularly bitch about your job in the comments at Going Concern, you're one step away from being a visionary. You can see what's wrong at your firm. Now all you need to do is figure out how to fix it and BOOM you got vision. Read Firm of the Future by Ron Baker and Paul Dunn or Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. Those books have given more people vision than LensCrafters. 
    Step 3 – Get really good at team building
    The second missing component of CPA firm leadership is "the ability to develop a strong team and delegate to them." Someone at my old firm put together a softball team, and we lost every damn game. That person built a team that (a) sucked and (b) didn't contribute to the firm's bottom line – partner material.
    Maybe they mean the ability to take any group of nerds and turn them into an effective accounting machine. To do this you need to train, organize, and delegate. Unfortunately, it's really hard to train, organize, delegate, and stay under budget. Never mind that once your team is trained and organized, and work is delegated, your team will crush its budgets. That first one's going to kill you.
    Step 4 – Become a motivator
    Partners are looking for motivators, so throw references to Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory into casual conversation around the office. Instead of saying, "Thanks for the new office chair," rather say, "The ergonomic design of this task chair is a hygiene factor that does not result in dissatisfaction." Memorize powerful speeches from movies like 300, and recite them to get the interns psyched up to scan documents into FileCabinet CS. "Interns! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… for today at 12:30, we dine in hell! Got that? The Lunch and Learn starts at 12:30!"
    Daniel Pink in his book Drive says that people are motivated in their jobs when three elements are present: autonomy, mastery, and purpose (not money, sex, and your dad never saying he was proud of you). Although, partners hold all the strings regarding autonomy, you can help others develop their mastery and purpose. There's lots of purpose in what we do. Without compilations, all of that money your clients spend on file cabinets would go to waste. 
    Step 5 – Communicate
    Communication didn't make it into the top three missing leadership characteristics as perceived by partners, owners, and shareholders; however, it was ranked No. 1 by associates, seniors, managers, and senior managers. And it was ranked No. 2 by administrators. Partners won't tell you this, but they suck at communication. 
    The best way to stand out from among your CPA peers as an excellent communicator is to talk to humans. It'll feel weird at first, but eventually you'll get the hang of it.
    • GtGrl

      Great post! Relevant and hilarious.

    • Guest

      These steps are meaningless.  The only thing you need to do to become a partner is to bring in money.

      • James32

        Bingo – but if you can’t get the moolah, the 5 steps might help.

    • YetAnotherExKPMGer

      I’ve been away for a bit…what a nice welcome back post!  Perhaps I should go back to public to replace one of them dying partners huh?

    • superdad

      Dora the Explorer episodes only have 3 steps.

      • Doc McStuffins

        Let me add that Special Agent Oso also only has 3 special steps for you to succeed! Five is two too many steps

    • Guestpwc

      this guy’s (Greg Kyte) website/stand up comedy is awesome.  Thought his name was just a pen name but he has some great shit.  http://gregkyte.com/Videos.html

    • $27790307

      Why would anyone want to be a partner at an accounting firm? I view my accountants the same way I view my maid. The only difference is my accountants are U.S. citizens and my maid isn’t allowed to look me in the eye.

      But seriously, being a partner at an accounting firm is a good way to secure a comfortable middle class life. Excellent post by Mr. Kyte, as usual.

      • Guessed

         What’s this about your garbage man?  Why is he so pissed off?

      • DoucheDetector

        You are the biggest douche I’ve ever had the honor of reading.  Congratulations.

        • guest

          You haven’t read enough of the comments here, then.

    • Guest

      Awesome post

    • Tax Monkey

      O shit, so I’m supposed to talk to people and engage in obvious social norms to be successful?
      What do you mean I have to motivate others?
      I thought I could just be a dick to everyone on my team and tell them their work sucks balls?
      O wait I should have ambition and not just dick around on excel for a paycheck?
      Partners have to sell business?

      We need those meme’s on here from iFunny App. Because I would use the shit out that “you don’t say” face right now about this dumbass white paper.

      If anything on this white paper list was news to you, you will not be partner and at best you will work in a basement with a red stapler.

      Great find OP, i am now vented and ready to resume FAR torture.

    • Guest-o

      You had me a the tag line.  Good article. 

    • Kestrel762000

      “(not money, sex, and your dad never saying he was proud of you)”

      Well that hit home.

    • Good read, even if I do have the Map Song stuck in my head now.

    • Guest

      i dont think many people in todays younger CPA generation really aspire to be partners like generations before, i know no one in my class does.

      • Get Out Now

        agree,  no one who is under 30 should aspire to be an audit partner in this environment.  thanks for ruining the profession, you pcaob dickshits…

        • Guessed

           There are other service lines besides audit.

          • Guest

            No there isn’t.

      • Skeptical

         I suppose earning $350,000 to $1,800,000 (range for partner salaries) won’t appeal to anyone in the younger generation.

        • CP A-hole

          Top drug dealers probably make about that as well.  

          Advantages of being CPA firm partner: 

          -lack of sex life
          -your own kids hate you 
          -your ever-growing list of ex-spouses
          -your ever-expanding fat ass from years spent in sedentary position — fossilizing into office chair
          -rapid and irreparable damage to social skills in favor of Excel skills
          -complete void where sense of humor used to be
          -coke bottle sized glasses/contact lenses from thousands of hours spent staring at cheap Dell dual monitors
          -the realization at the end of your career that the journey and sacrifices required to make partner really did, in fact, suck balls and was totally not worth it

          Just my highly biased, un-asked-for 2 pesos. 

          • Fasdfa5

            lol like partners know how to use excel

            • CP A-hole

              haha, touché

    • not buying it

      One thing the authors rose colored glasses filtered out is the massive back breaking pension liabilities all the old farts will need to be paid out on the backs of all these new partners

    • b4survivor

      “Memorize powerful speeches from movies like 300, and recite them to get the interns psyched up to scan documents into FileCabinet CS. “Interns! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… for today at 12:30, we dine in hell! Got that? The Lunch and Learn starts at 12:30!”

      YES! More partners / leaders need to do this. Seriously. It would make our jobs just a little less boring, and give us a reason to go to work that day. Dare I say, it might even be “inspiring”, not to mention, humorous. 

      When i was an associate on a huge audit team (20+ people in a large audit room), the engagement partner (who was one of the few genuinely nice partners at the firm) would come in once a week or so during busy season and give us a pep talk about what a great job we were doing. He would pace back and forth in front of the room, kind of like a coach might do as he was talking to his football team, his voice getting louder and louder as his “speech” went on. He would share successes from the team, and give us some things to look forward to in the coming weeks. Sure, maybe a lot of it was a bunch fluff, but at the time, it was what everyone needed to hear in order to drag themselves in the next morning, and the next, and the next…..