It’s an interesting dilemma – should I take the offer of partnership, or should I start my own practice? It’s also a dilemma faced by the lucky ones. The accountants, lawyers or consultants who have got to the point in their career where they are a hot property. This was a question posed to me recently, and a great one for the career clinic.
So, what should you think about or do, if you are facing this dilemma. After all, you can’t really do both – or can you? Here are our thoughts:
What are you being offered?
The first thing to find out is what you are actually being offered. Is it actually partnership, or the promise of partnership? These are two very different things. Many firms will offer you, in effect, a salaried partner role until you prove yourself. Proving yourself, normally amounts to “can she/he fit in’ and ‘will she/he bring enough business in to justify his position around the partnership table’.
If you decide to consider the partnership opportunity, you need to do some due diligence on your firm. i.e.
- how much capital will I need to invest in the firm?
- what have been the average partner drawings over the last 3 years – is this good value for money?
- do I feel wanted by the partners?
- do I share similar values to the partners? Will I fit in?
- what will I bring to the partnership, that they can’t get anywhere else?
- what are the firm’s 5-10 year plans? Do they match my ambition and goals?
- what targets will I be asked to hit year-on-year?
What do you want and need?
You also need to think about what you want. After all, you only have one life. Whilst it may be very flattering to be offered partnership, there is nothing worse than becoming a partner and hating it. If you say yes to the offer of partnership, you could be signing up to working with your partners as equals for the next 10-30 years. Is that something you are excited about? Or concerned about? Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:
- what are my 5-10 year career, business and personal goals?
- will becoming a partner in my current firm help me achieve these goals quicker than if I went it alone or joined another firm?
- do I have what it takes to start up my own practice? (Savings set aside, commercial knowledge, marketing expertise)
You can change your mind
On the surface of it, accepting an offer for partnership and starting up your own firm seem to be mutually incompatible. This doesn’t need to be the case. Firstly, you can always take your own practice and merge it into another practice if you find that you want to be part of a bigger firm. Or you can (with the right negotiation) take your clients with you and start up your own practice. You may find that staying within your current firm and enjoying the resources it can offer you may make it easier to grow your own client portfolio. When you have your own client following, you are pretty much master of your own destiny.