What happens when you put two strong straight-talking women in a room? Who both help talented professionals make partner at the Big 4 (as well as other firms!) The sparks flew…. …as the world was put to rights! During my lengthy conversation with Tara (Leadership and Personal Impact Specialist who has helped 100s of Big 4 directors take the step up to partner), we discussed the support Big 4 partners get when they are on partnership track. Or as it turns out, the support that they don’t get. I’d always assumed that the Big 4, similar to the work that BDO does for its potential partners, would be giving their directors on partnership track huge amounts of guidance, nurturing and general support to make it to partner. Apparently not!
Make partner at the Big 4: Tips to help you make it through partnership track
Here are some of the best tips both Tara and I use when helping our clients move from being on partnership track to being partner:
1. It is a marathon not a sprint
Probably the best way that I can explain the process of being on partnership track, is it is more akin to running a personal PR campaign to influence your partners that you are the best candidate to be admitted to the partnership. This isn’t something you can:
- cram for over a weekend
- hope to ‘wing it’ at the partnership panel interviews
- pass if you are not known outside of your part of the practice
The partnership admission process often lasts longer than 9 months, and you need to stay strong throughout the whole duration. In fact, as Tara says, you need to finish stronger than you started. This is all on top of the day job…
2. Your business case is a collaborative effort
If you want to make partner at a Big 4 firm, then don’t make a common mistake. Your business case isn’t YOUR business case. The strongest business cases are ones where the director has taken the time to get influential partner’s views on what is the business opportunity. After all, no partner is going to tear a business case to pieces when they know that they, or other highly influential partners have contributed heavily to it.
3. Diarise what you will do to strengthen your business and personal case.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want to make partner at a Big 4 firm (or other large firm), then you can’t cram for it over the weekend. You need to build a plan in order to have absolute clarity about what you will do when. The longer you leave it the more stressful it will become to prepare properly for the partnership admissions process. In your plan, you will need to set aside time to do the following:
- have 1-2-1 meetings with partners outside of your practice area to strengthen your relationships with them
- brush up your presentation skills so you can articulately get your point across
- gather feedback from a variety of sources to increase your self awareness so you are clear about ‘who you are’, ‘what you bring to the partnership’, ‘what you are known for’, ‘what others rely on you for’
- increase your level of business development activity – in particular strengthening your relationships with introducers internally and externally in your firm
- fill in all the forms
- refresh your technical knowhow in preparation for your ‘risk and quality assurance’ interview
- construct your business case for partner
4. Set aside chunks of time to focus on the partnership admissions process away from the workplace.
If you looked at the list above you would be forgiven for feeling over-whelmed. The best way to start chomping through this list is to set aside some high quality time away from the workplace.
You’ve put a huge amount of work and dedication in getting this far in your career. Don’t waste your opportunity to enjoy the status and rewards which come with being a partner. Invest in your career by putting in the work and preparation in good time BEFORE you have to formally submit your business case and attend panel interviews.