*This blog is an excerpt from chapter 2 of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter focuses on ‘Direction’ and helps you to work out whether partnership is right for you and if it is really what you want. Download the full chapter for free here.

Far too many professionals see making partner as just another promotion in their career. Yes, it is a promotion and a major milestone, but it is actually the most difficult transition that they will ever make. One that they have to be ready and prepared for. To help you prepare for this transition from senior employee to owner of the business, here is what changes when you make partner.

What changes when you make partner?

seedlings to represent business growth checklists1. Business development is not optional or something you only do when your client workload is low. Business development is part of the day job.

When you’re partner, you can’t put business development off or do it ‘when you have time,’ this is now your job. Before you make partner, you have to demonstrate that you do business development each day and that you actively win your own business because that’s what you’ll be required to do when you’re partner. (Read: How to finally make business development a part of your daily routine)

2. Creating harmony and positive working relationships within the partner group is often more important than being right.

Making partner (and successfully being a partner) is just as much about being ‘a member of the club’ as it is being technically proficient. This means, learning when to pick your battles and keeping the right people happy. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with the other partners in work, social, and travel settings, so you have to like each other and get along. (Read: How to be seen as ‘partner ready’ by becoming a member of the club)

3. You need to motivate your whole team or practice area rather than just yourself.

Another big change when you transition from employee to partner is that you’re no longer just thinking about yourself. You are now responsible for leading and managing others, including motivating them! The key to a good leader is not just to delegate, but to communicate and motivate. (Read: What is the biggest priority as a team leader? You may be surprised)

a plant growing in a pot of money to represent what changes when you become partner4. It is no longer just about hitting your billable time targets, it is about making sure that anything you do is focused on helping the firm increase its profitable revenue.

While you still have your specific role to do, you are now the owner of the firm first and foremost. This means that every single thing that you do needs to be done with the future of the firm in mind. You are responsible for generating revenue so almost any activity you engage in is an opportunity to market yourself, your firm, and your network. (Read: Why winning business successfully is all about the right mindset not skill level)

5. You share in the profits rather than get paid a salary. This means that if the firm is having a lean year, you may be required to put your own money into the firm and forego your ‘salary.’

Many professionals don’t think about losing their employee benefits when they think about what changes when you make partner. This is a big change though! As owner of the business, you are not paid a salary, you won’t have employee benefits (e.g. sick pay, annual leave, pension etc), and you are responsible for paying your own taxes at the end of the year. If the firm is having a lean year, partners will be paid last and are also potentially subjected to capital calls. (Read: How much do Big 4 partners earn in the UK? [updated 2020])

6. There will be times where you will have to make decisions that will not be universally popular. For example, performance managing someone who you trained with and consider a good friend.

Like with any promotion, there are negatives that come with additional responsibilities and managing people. It’s a difficult time, especially when you’re a new partner, to have to manage people who you used to be ‘one of the team’ with. (Here is some guidance for managing others)

a woman standing on a mountain with outstretched arms to symbolise the firm's future being your responsibility7. The short- and long-term health of the firm and how it is led and managed is now your responsibility.

As a partner, you now share responsibility for the financial success and stability of the firm. This means making management decisions about how the firm is organised and operated. Depending on your status, you may even have the right to vote on firm issues or other obligations. The point that we are making here is that, when you become partner, you have to make crucial decisions that impact the health of the firm.

How to prepare for these changes

Like we said previously, this transition from employee to owner of the business will be the toughest transition that you will ever make. So make it easier on yourself! Now that you know what changes to expect, take some time to plan and implement habits and behaviours that will make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.

Are you ready for Partnership?

Having DIRECTION is one of the 12 key indicators for making Partner. Find out how you measure against these criteria and discover what you need to work on by taking our Partnership Readiness Assessment!

1. Make sure that partnership is what you really want

The transition will be just that little bit less painful if you know that partnership is something that you really want. Can you imagine working yourself into the ground only to make it to partner and then finding that you hate it? That won’t be good for your wellbeing, not to mention your reputation if you decide to step down within the first year.

To make sure that you’re heading in the direction that you want, here are a few things you should do:

a monkey looking at himself in the mirror to represent what changes when you become partnerReflect on your vision/direction, your values, and your purpose/your why.

  • Do an internet search as there are many exercises freely available on the internet for you to work through.
  • Complete module 2 of the ‘How to truly commit to moving your career forward’ on-demand course within our Progress To Partner membership site.
  • Book a coaching session with your personal coach to help you get the clarity you require.

Do your research on what it means to make partner and what you’ll have to go through to get there.

Make sure your firm is right for you and do your due diligence.

  • Do you ‘fit’ in your firm? (i.e. do you have good friends? Do you find that the firm’s official and unofficial values are closely aligned with your own? Do you have a sense of ‘belonging’ within your firm? Are you happy with what you will need to commit to the firm in order to get to partner?)
  • Look through the partnership agreement ( How quickly do you get your capital back if you leave? Do you get your capital back in full when you leave? What your capital is being used for?)
  • Check whether the firm is solvent, robust, and well managed (look at the last three years of annual accounts and the most up-to-date management accounts the firm has; PI insurance and claims, and the firm’s strategy for the future etc).
  • Seven massive differences between working for Big 4 and Mid-Tier firms

a business man tightening his tie2. Start thinking, acting, and feeling like a partner

Knowing what changes when you make partner helps you to start building the skills, habits, and behaviours that you need. As you can imagine, if you do this well in advance of the partner track, you’re going to be a strong candidate and the transition to partner will be far less jarring.

To help you start thinking, acting, and feeling like a partner, here are some useful resources:

Know what changes when you become partner AND prepare for it!

Before you start the journey to go for partnership, take the time to fully explore the implications of making partner in your firm. Once you have done so, then answer these questions: Is this right for you? and Is it what you really want?

If your answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, would you be better off making partner in another firm or even changing your career path altogether?

If your answer is ‘yes,’ make this transition easier on yourself by making the changes that your partners want to see now.

Don’t forget to download the full chapter of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter will help you work out what motivates you, what makes you tick, and whether partnership is right for you and if it’s what you want. Download the full chapter for free here.


Discover your Partnership Readiness Score

Are you ready for partnership?

Do you know what your weaknesses are?

Take our free Partnership Readiness Assessment to see how ready you are for partnership! Measure yourself against the 12 key indicators and identify where you need to work on to be a stronger candidate.

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