10 Ways to Hold Partners Accountable

business meeting of a woman and two menDo your firm’s core values mean anything?

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

We have addressed the techniques managing partners use to manage the partners. One of the most effective tactics to show leadership in working with partners – and managing the firm – is to create ways to establish accountability for their behavior and conduct. In this post, we drill down on this.

MORE: Five Ways to Evaluate Partners | Compensation Is No Way to Manage Partners | Clarify Partner Expectations | Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice
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I have had the privilege of working with dozens of highly effective managing partners during my career. These leaders are the CPA profession’s equivalent of rock stars. One question I always ask them: What makes your firm so successful? They almost never cite the obvious suspects: Great at bringing in business. Lots of billable hours. High rates. Expertise. Long work hours.
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Five Ways to Evaluate Partners

Woman conducting evaluationBONUS: Two forms you can use.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Practice Management Library

Why do firms conduct performance evaluations of partners?

  • To clarify what is expected of the partner
  • To improve performance
  • To provide management with information to use in allocating partner income, which should be linked to performance

MORE: Compensation Is No Way to Manage Partners | Make Sure Partners Focus on Two Things | Entitled Rainmakers and Other Practice Development Errors | Breaking It Down: Marketing Job Descriptions | How and Why to Hire a Marketing Director | How to Brand and Differentiate Your Firm
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Five types of partner evaluations

  1. Self-evaluation
  2. Upward evaluations of the partners by the staff
  3. Client satisfaction and loyalty surveys
  4. Peer evaluations
  5. Traditional one-on-one appraisal sessions, same as for staff

Larger firms use evaluations more than smaller firms. This is because larger firms tend to have more sophisticated management practices, including partner accountability, which is one of several techniques for managing partner behavior and conduct. Smaller firms often avoid partner evaluations because they struggle with partner accountability. That’s not good, but that’s the life they lead.
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Compensation Is No Way to Manage Partners

Man counting $100 bills into three piles6 ways to combine it with personal interventions.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

Too many firms’ primary way to manage partner performance and hold them accountable is with compensation. Their reasoning is this:

MORE: Make Sure Partners Focus on Two Things | Manage Partners with Goal Setting | Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have | Herding Cats: Advice for Managing Partners
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If partners perform well, they will see their reward in the form of higher compensation. If partners perform below expectations, they will get the message in the form of a disappointing compensation number. Other methods are not necessary. It’s all about the money.
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4 Big Issues That Firms Face

Purple No. 4 billiard ballPLUS: How the merger picture HASN’T changed.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Rosenberg MAP Survey

An extraordinarily perfect storm was experienced by CPA firms in 2020: the endless tax season plus the virus. In mid-July, five months after the virus’s onset, no one knew anything for sure going forward – neither the science of the virus and people’s health nor the economic impact of the virus on the business world.

MORE: Pandemic Highlights Value of Digital Files | Remote Work Success Helps Solve Staffing Shortages | You Like Being Remote, But What About Your Clients? | COVID-19 Shakes Up M&A Activity | We Adapted to Remote Work … Now What?
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Here is data from a survey we took of 61 CPA firms in mid-June. Virtually all firms had annual revenue of $35 million or less, with the average being about $10 million. It is important to understand these firm sizes because the top 25-50 firms were making more drastic operational moves (mainly layoffs and partner draw reductions) than typical local CPA firms.
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Make Sure Partners Focus on Two Things

Mentor showing project presentation to mentee9 ways to help partners manage their clients.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

CPA firm partners have a tendency to get sucked in to many activities. There is a macho aspect to their personalities that says, “Bring it on, I can handle it.”

MORE: Manage Partners with Goal Setting | Clarify Partner Expectations | How the Managing Partner Manages the Partners | Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have | Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice | Why Management Is the #1 Key to the Firm’s Success
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No. No. No. They cannot handle it well. The notion that multitasking is an efficient, desirable mode of conduct is pure myth and has been debunked by numerous studies.
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Manage Partners with Goal Setting

Includes 20 sample goals.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

The purposes of goal setting are to help the firm achieve its overall goals and to help individuals achieve their performance goals.

MORE: Clarify Partner Expectations | How the Managing Partner Manages the Partners | Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have | Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice | Why Management Is the #1 Key to the Firm’s Success | Herding Cats: Advice for Managing Partners
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When individuals and organizations create goals, put them in writing, assign deadlines, follow up and establish a means of accountability for achieving the goals, they are more likely to achieve the goals than if they merely talk about the goals or have the goals in mind.
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Clarify Partner Expectations

Two women talkingIt makes managing them easier.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

Over the years, during countless partner interviews, many have told me they aren’t sure of their role and what is expected of them.

MORE: How the Managing Partner Manages the Partners | Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have | Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice | Why Management Is the #1 Key to the Firm’s Success | Herding Cats: Advice for Managing Partners
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Here is a basic, universal technique for improving performance and providing feedback:
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How the Managing Partner Manages the Partners

Silhouettes of three business partners talking against a window in an officeIt’s a people job.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

This is a saying I developed about partners that stands as tall today as it did 20 years ago: “As the partners go, so goes the firm.”

MORE: Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have | Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice | Why Management Is the #1 Key to the Firm’s Success | Herding Cats: Advice for Managing Partners
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This means that the partners are the drivers of the firm’s success. To be sure, nonpartner personnel are critically important to the firm’s success, but nowhere near the level of the partners, who

  • Bring in the clients
  • Keep the clients
  • Help clients grow
  • Satisfy clients’ needs by cross-selling services
  • Mentor staff, helping them learn and grow
  • Embrace the firm’s core values and spread the word to others
  • Manage the firm and provide leadership to all

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Overarching Authority That Managing Partners Must Have

Senior businesswoman holding portfolio16 items that don’t require formal votes. 7 that do. And 25 best practices.

By Marc Rosenberg
The Role of the Managing Partner

There is no better way to start this post than with a quote by Tony Kendall, managing partner of Mitchell & Titus, a large CPA firm with offices in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities. Tony said:

“I can’t manage this firm if I have to take a vote every time I want to make a decision.”

For managing partners to be effective, they must have the authority and flexibility to make decisions without first getting approval and without subjecting those decisions to the nitpicking and negativity that may occur when management decisions are open for debate and discussion.

MORE: Exceptional Managing Partners Offer Their Advice | Why Management Is the #1 Key to the Firm’s Success | Herding Cats: Advice for Managing Partners
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There are two caveats to this:
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