In this post we look at how to build a business case for partnership when you are in industry and looking to return to practice as a partner. I’ve been writing this blog now for 2.5 years, and for the last 18+ months I have been asking everyone who signs up to our career kitbag for their biggest challenge. What has surprised me is the amount of people who have been in industry and looking to move into practice as a partner or partner designate.

What are they buying?

The first question to ask yourself is what personal assets do you have which would be valuable to a legal, accountancy or consultancy firm. This is typically the contents of your black book or a in-demand/strategically important very specific technical skill set. It is not unusual for someone, from within a firm or industry, to make partner on the strength of a relationship or key account that they bring with them. In fact, I was only talking last week with a lawyer who is building a business case based on her relationships after a secondment with a large telecoms company. If you are a General Counsel or CFO/Finance Director in a large corporate, this could be worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds to a supplier to that firm. Particularly if the supplier is struggling to really break into your current employer. Getting an employee to ‘go native’ or entice a client over to the other side is a great way for a firm to gain a stronghold in a key account. Why do you think so many firms fund their employees secondments within industry? With many firms changing their approach and going to market via sector, hiring a senior decision maker with a strong sector specialism can be incredibly valuable to a firm. It not only helps win more work with the company you are working for now, it helps the firm strengthen its overall credibility within the sector. As well as your network within your current company, you will hopefully have built up a network of peers who are also in senior decision making roles within organisations similar to yourselves. A strong network of senior decision makers is a massive career asset and one which many firms will pay a large amount of money. It doesn’t matter whether these decision makers will work with you personally, it is who they can introduce you and your firm to which really matters.

What do they NEED to buy?

Hiring in someone from industry, who may or may not have a track record of selling services, is always a gamble for a firm. Every firm knows that it will take time for you to build up your client portfolio. If they can’t charge you out during this time you become a very expensive overhead. Therefore, take your time to truly understand your firm’s strategy. Why do they want you? Or why has a vacancy arisen? The more aligned your expertise – both technical and sector – to the firm’s future strategy, the stronger the likelihood that both you and your potential firm will prosper if you join them.

How best can I illustrate my potential to bring in work to the interviewing panel

Much of any business case is written on the assumption that you WILL bring in work. If you don’t have a track record of bringing in work this is a difficult one. Most people in industry don’t need to sell in your current role, therefore, it is becomes tough to evidence your ability to sell. Therefore, the way to handle this one is to demonstrate what you have been doing in the last 6-12 months to increase your external/internal market value (deepening network, strengthening personal brand as an expert) and show them a detailed personal marketing plan of what services you want to develop, the opportunities you are aware for these, and the access you have to decision makers within the companies or sectors they are interested in developing. The Go-To Expert is a great road-map and step-by-step process to follow to build up your external market value. If your current role within industry relies on your selling your expertise internally, it may be possible to demonstrate you can sell externally. This can be very helpful when it comes to writing your business case. If you went to a Big4 or Magic Circle firm, much of your success would be partly due to selling your expertise internally within the wider firm and sector team.

In summary:

When it comes to your business case for partner it is all about the content of your little black book AND how well your sector expertise fits the strategy of the firm going forward.

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