The path to partner can be faster and easier than is often reported. In fact, it took one partner only seven years at Top-100 firm Warren Averett. Fifteen percent of its 124 partners are under 40, including the CFO.
In a recent webinar, Yogesh Patel, an audit partner who is under 40, explained how he became partner in 11 years. Yogesh started at the firm as a runner during his junior year at college. That meant he did things like moving furniture, making bank deposits and picking up lunches. There was an added benefit, though: Doing low-level tasks gave him a real feel for how the firm treats people at all levels. Courtesies like saying “please” and “thank you”; flexibility in taking time off for important personal events—these were extended to personnel all the way up and down the line.
The following year he came back as an intern, which provided a true test of what he would find if he got a job offer. “Everyone should do an internship,” he believes. “It is an invaluable experience because it gives great insight into how accounting firms work in general and also allows you to see how the particular firm culture operates in the real world.” By the time he joined Warren Averett after graduating, Yogesh already knew that the firm is committed to supporting staff’s personal lives as well as encouraging professional development by giving them the latitude to be proactive and take on as much responsibility as possible early on.
Even with all of that, there were times at around the 4-6 year mark when he wondered whether it would be smart to move to private industry. He had such a strong relationship with the lead audit partner, though, that he approached the partner to talk about his options.
The partner was very honest. He agreed there would be a salary bump in the short term, but noted that would be surpassed at the firm as Yogesh moved up the ladder. The partner shared what partner compensation looks like at Warren Averett. He also compared growth potential at the firm, where there are many owners, versus at companies, where many compete for a handful of top positions.
When Accountingfly asked Yogesh to remember what he was like at the 4-6 year mark and think about what he would do differently knowing what he knows now, Yogesh responded with these five tips for seniors and managers looking to make partner:
- Be intentional. Work is very busy at this point in one’s career, but it is critical to take a step back and think about what kind of work is most personally satisfying. Do you like doing not-for-profit work or dread it? Do you enjoy working with technology start-ups or not? Doing this kind of self-analysis helps you target what you really love and increases your long-term professional happiness.
- Find mentors, both inside and out of your firm. You know the areas where you need help. Some are technical, and others are more personal. Develop relationships with people you admire who you think are strong in the areas where you are weaker so they can help you navigate any problematic situations you face. Then pay it back by mentoring others.
- Get out of your comfort zone. “Here’s an example,” said Yogesh, “I was terrified of public speaking. I forced myself to do it and eventually it got easier. And today I am offering career advice to other CPAs in a live webinar.”
- Start doing business development as early as you can. It’s about building relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask partners to include you in client and prospect meetings; even if you don’t say a word these meetings will give you substantial insight into how the parties interact and work together.
- Build trust with your team and your clients. Nothing is more valuable in a relationship than trust. It may be hard to earn, but if you mess up it is even harder to regain. “I had a strong relationship with one of my clients. It was so solid that the client came to me when I was a manager to tell me he thought a partner was committing fraud. That was a truly defining moment for me. Among other things, it made me realize that my decision to stay in public accounting was the right one.”
You can watch Yogesh’s entire webinar How Auditors Can Become Partners Earlier below: