Over the last few months I’ve been reviewing lateral hire business cases for people who want to join a Big 4 firm or large firm as a lateral hire at director or partner. Any Big 4, or large international accounting or law firm will want to have a lateral hire business case before they hire in a lateral director or partner. In this blog post I share what I have learnt in the process.

Your business case as a lateral hire only needs to do 2 things.

When you boil it down, your presentation of your lateral hire business case only needs to do 2 things. These are:

  1. Demonstrate there is enough of a marketplace or opportunity for you to grow a partner – sized practice.
  2. Give your future firm’s partners the confidence that you are the right person to be able to realise this opportunity.

It really is that simple.

How to demonstrate the marketplace opportunity.

Many lateral hires at partner or director level are being brought in for a firm to grow a new practice, or plug a ‘skills’ gap in order to allow the firm to access more of a client’s spend. This means that your business case needs to firmly demonstrate where there is work to be won. This can be done in many ways, e.g.

  • What is the size of the market both now and in the future?
  • What are the triggers or drivers for the growing market? This is often technology or legal/regulation change driven.
  • What is the type of work which can be sold to which type of client? And what would be the typical size of an engagement?
  • What evidence do you have personally that there is this work out there to be won?
  • How the new firm’s current client list or strengths will complement what you bring to the firm.

How to give your future firm’s partners the confidence that you are the right person to realise the opportunity.

It is not enough to demonstrate that there is a marketplace which will sustain a partner-sized client portfolio. You also need to demonstrate that YOU are the right person to deliver this opportunity. This evidence can take many forms, e.g.

  • A list of which clients will follow you, their potential value, and any restrictive covenants you may have with these
  • A list of potential prospects and your key contacts at these prospects
  • A list of your key introducers and historical level of referrals from them – both value and number
  • Key roles you have had to-date (and why these are valuable)
  • Your authority in the marketplace, e.g. where you have been asked to speak or any articles you have had in the trade or national press

But it’s not just about what you have done in the past. Your future partners will want to know what you are actually going to do in the next 12 months to realise the opportunity. This means outlining your marketing plan for the next 12 months. E.g

  • Key prospects or introducers which you will target
  • What you plan to sell and to whom
  • Any pipeline opportunities that you can take with you
  • What profile building activities you will do

What to ditch from your lateral hire business case.

When you have poured hours into your business case, it can be very hard to detach yourself from the detail. This is where a pair of external eyes can really pay dividends. Typically the challenge is not what to put in, but what to take out. My recommendation is to go back to your business case and ask the two questions:

  • Does this evidence the market opportunity?
  • Does this evidence my credibility and ability to build a partner-sized client portfolio?

If it doesn’t do either of these, then it probably needs to be deleted from your business case. For example:

  • Your family or marital situation is rarely relevant
  • The size of your Twitter reach or LinkedIn network and average views on something you put on LinkedIn is normally not good enough evidence of your ability to grow a business. Remember it’s quality over quantity…
  • A ‘mission’ statement. Your future firm is more interested in the top line and bottom line growth of your practice over time.

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