Did you know that behind closed doors your partners are considering whether you are future partner material? This will have a huge influence on whether you make partner at your firm, or any other firm. This may happen very formally with a firm doing a talent audit, or very informally when partners get together. In fact, many partners will proudly tell you that they can spot the partners of the future within weeks of meeting them. Some partners will even claim they can spot the partners of the future on their first day in the firm. Anyone who gets tagged by partners as partnership potential will find that their firm actively helps progress their career. Here are seven things that your partners are looking out for and will use to predict whether to invest in your career.
1. Commitment to the firm and its long term vision
After all, if your firm is going to invest in you to help you make partner, they want to make damn sure that you will be a safe pair of hands who will look after the firm. Once you have partner on your business card, and have been given equity in the firm, the decisions you personally make, will have a direct impact on all the other partner’s drawings and profit share. No sane partner is going to risk their future financial health on a hunch or a gamble! Therefore, partners are always looking out for people who are actively committed to the firm and helping it achieve its long term vision.
2. Good relationship building skills
Professional services is a sector built on relationships. Relationships with clients, your team, your introducers and your wider network. Most buyers of professional services will ultimately choose their supplier based on the quality of the relationship that they have with them. Therefore, your partners, when thinking about whether to make you up to partner or not, will be looking out for how well you build and maintain your relationships within your network.
3. Excellence with clients
A firm’s profitability and future growth is directly linked to how well they service their clients. You could say that a firm’s product is actually its client service. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new junior to a firm or a highly experienced senior associate or director, your client handling skills and mindset towards clients WILL determine whether or not you get seen as future partnership potential for your firm. To make partner, always make sure you put your clients interests first…
4. Drive and ambition
Ask any business owner why they do what they do, and you will hear some clear personal drivers and ambition coming out. To be successful as a small business owner you need both drive and ambition to achieve your personal and business goals. (Which are pretty much the same thing for a small business owner!) When you become an equity partner you receive a P45 and become an owner of a business. In effect, unless you are a partner in a Big 4 firm, you become a small business owner. Consequently, your own drive and ambition becomes a major predictor of your success as a partner. After all, you wouldn’t want to promote someone to help you run your business if they couldn’t really be ‘bothered’…
5. Willingness to get involved in business development
It is very rare that anyone gets promoted to partner without a proven ability to win business for the firm. Therefore, if you want to catch the partners’ eyes for all the right reasons, then getting involved in business development is a good step in the right direction.
6. Emotional maturity
Emotional maturity is a very good indicator of relationship building skills. It is also a predictor of how well a person copes with the slings and arrows which are just part and parcel of the life of a professional advisor. Hence, partners use emotional maturity as a sign of partnership potential. Are you a moaner and groaner? Do you fly off the handle easily? Do you struggle to see the bigger picture? These are all signs that you need to work on your emotional maturity.
7. Commercial astuteness
As a partner you have a stake in your own business. Therefore, it’s part of your role to make sure that your business is profitable both now and in the future. This means to be successful as a partner you have to be commercially astute. Partners will always be looking out for those people who think commercially and could be relied upon in the future to take good commercial decisions on behalf of the firm.