big 4 business case

We regularly help lawyers, accountants and consultants with their Business Cases for Partnership. This is often helping our clients put together their Big 4 Partner Business Case.

This article summarises what I learnt from this experience:

Timescales are normally very tight

I’ve always known that firms (even Big 4 firms) have a habit of tapping their future partners on the shoulder and asking them can you submit your Business Case within a week. It has happened too often for me to see this as a coincidence. The well-organised firms are as guilty of doing this as the disorganised firms!

There is the published timetable for a firm’s Partnership Promotions Process. And then there is what happens in reality. These can be two different things.

So why does this happen so much?

  • Last-minute additions to the promotion process. Typically the Big 4 firms (and larger firms) will have “long long” lists, “long” lists and “short” lists of people going through the process. Often these names will have been on the list for quite some time. However, when someone comes to prominence unexpectedly, they can get put into the process quite late in the day. For example, when a client of mine joined a Big 4 firm as a senior manager, they were considered good enough to be put straight away onto the director promotions process.
  • Poor communication about what is needed by when. One of my clients had been told informally that he would be put into the director promotions process at his Big 4 firm. The official communication from HR  about the invite into the director promotions process appeared many weeks later. In that communication, my client discovered the timescales for the process. His promotions form needed to be submitted within a week.
  • Partners wanting a say in a Big 4 partner Business Case. This is probably the most common scenario for anyone submitting a Business Case in a Big 4 firm. (I’m sure it must happen in other firms as well!) I’ve seen it happen many times over when the partners in a business unit want to get together to discuss the future partner’s Big 4 Partner Business Case before it is finally submitted. It may not be the partners in your unit wanting to get together to discuss your case. It could be that you need to have it ready for a meeting with your partner coach or mentor.

In my book, Poised for Partnership, I discuss getting started on your Business Case as soon as possible. This is exactly why you need to do this – you never know when you will get a tap on the shoulder and be asked to submit your Business Case for partner.

But what happens if you are asked for your Business Case and don’t have it formalised yet?

Given that most of us don’t just have their Partner Business Case to hand, it’s important that you can always show something to your Partners about your Business Case and what you are doing about it. One of our favourite tools to help people do this is to produce a Talksheet. Your Talksheet has many purposes, such as:

  • Allows you to talk through your Big 4 Business Case for Partner (or any Business Case for Partnership!) easily and simply with potential advocates and sponsors for you and your partnership aspiration. (This is the step which Big 4 potential partners most often miss out) 
  • It provides the bare bones of any presentation you do about your Business Case for partner in a Partner Panel Interview (formal or informal)
  • It gives you the clarity to crunch your Business Case to just the absolute essentials.
Talksheet Example

We encourage everyone of our clients to produce their Talksheet if they are on Partner Track or soon to get onto Partner Track.

Click here to download your professionally designed Talksheet template to help you create your Talksheet in under 60 mins.

Need more help to get through the Partnership Admissions Process? Why not get a copy of our book Poised for Partnership? Making the transition from senior employee to partner in a professional services firm is the hardest career move you will ever make. The fully updated 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership is a clear roadmap (for the post COVID-19 world) that strengthens your case and makes reaching partnership inevitable if you’ve got ‘the right stuff’. And if you haven’t, it will show you how to get it. Chapter 12 of Poised for Partnership looks in detail at the Partnership Admissions Process.

It’s often about what happens outside of the process

People in professional services often think that the Partnership Admissions Process is a fair process. After all, this is what we want to believe.

It is not a fair process.

The people who often make it through the process have done the lobbying and work outside of the process so that their Business Case is seen as a done deal. But it’s more than just the process. It’s how you are viewed and seen before you get to partner.

In fact, we discovered there are 12 key indicators which demonstrate your readiness for partnership. Fail to score highly in any of the indicators, and you could hinder or even sabotage your chances of making it to partner. We put together the Partnership Readiness Assessment, which shows you which of the indicators you need to focus on to improve your readiness and chances of making it to partner. Over 1000 professionals, just like you, from all over the world, have taken this assessment. If you take the free assessment, you will get a detailed report with tailored feedback to your specific situation. It will take 10-15 mins to complete. Take the assessment here.

Make every word fight for its place in your Business Case

Every time I’ve read a Business Case for partner – both for Big 4 firms on Mid-Tier firms – it always suffers from this problem. Too much waffle.

So much waffle that, in fact, the key facts often get lost. As I say to people, make every word fight for its place in your business case. If the sentence doesn’t help strengthen your case then take it out. Short and sweet is much better than war and peace.

This is another benefit of producing a Talksheet for your Business Case for partner. The very discipline of creating the Talksheet cuts out any waffle from your Business Case for Partnership.

Click here to download your professionally designed Talksheet template to help you create your Talksheet in under 60 mins.

You often need to be too valuable to lose before your Business Case is accepted

The main premise for most people’s Business Case for Partner is that they have become too valuable for their firm to lose. However, what constitutes too valuable to lose is often different regarding a candidate’s and the partners’ viewpoints. i.e. there is a perception gap.

When the economy slows down or gets turbulent, or your partners are worried about the future profitability of your firm, that perception gap gets bigger. In other words, you now need to have a very strong case to be made up to partner.

I was once asked for a meeting by the partners in a mid-sized professional services firm. I’d been working with their future partners on their Business Case. In that conversation, I was asked for the right reasons to tell one future partner that their case wasn’t strong enough for that year. As I pointed out to the partners, this future partner headed up their practice area and had built a client portfolio and business significantly bigger than some of the junior partners in that firm. A long debate then started. Eventually, the partners agreed to make this individual up to partner. The clincher? It would have taken too long and been too expensive to recruit a replacement for them.

If you need help with your Business Case download our FREE guide to creating a cast-iron Business Case for partnership. It’s heavily based on Chapter 11 of Poised for Partnership. The guide will take you through what to put in your Business Case.

Politics do matter

Unfortunately, one of the people I helped make up to partner got knocked back. Not because she didn’t have a very strong case. Actually, she had a very, very strong case. It was because of firm politics. The team she belonged to was getting hammered as a result of Brexit. Therefore, it wasn’t the right time to admit anyone to partner from that team. Yes, it was an incredibly short-sighted decision by the partners, but that often happens.

What’s in Progress To Partner which will help you with your the final step up to partner?

Progress to Partner is our membership site that will give your the knowledge AND confidence to fly through this final step up to partner.

It’s like a Netflix for your career in the professions. Find what you need to watch or read at the time you need it. Within the site, you’ll find over 150+ courses, videos, checklists, templates and plans to help you progress your career to partner. Amongst the many curated resources (no more unnecessary scrolling or searching), you’ll find:

  1. On-demand courses on how to create and articulate your business case, including our most downloaded course “How to Build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner”
  2. A section on the Partnership Admissions process with guides and recordings to help you find your way through the process with your sanity intact.
  3. Recordings and checklists on how to ace your partner panel interview
  4. On-demand courses on how to win the right sort of clients
  5. Proven advice on how to still do the day job and find the time to get through the Partner Track process

Check it out!

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