You don’t just wake up one morning and decide you want to become an equity partner. It may seem daunting, but you must take your professional development in your own hands. Ambition will really set you apart from your colleagues, and you may even have been spotted by your employer as potential partner material, but you’ll need to plan ahead.
It’s not just about having sound technical knowledge. To get to the top, you must win people’s trust and hone your communication skills. And your clients will expect a breadth to your experience, which means you have to grab opportunities to broaden your expertise and sharpen your skill set. So where should you start?
ASK YOURSELF WHY?
Becoming an equity partner is not simply a promotion. You cease to be an employee and have a stake in the business, and are responsible for its success. This comes with a raft of responsibilities, so ask yourself: what is motivating me to apply?
Talking to current partners is a useful way of finding out exactly what the role entails. Ask about the processes it took them there; every firm is unique and there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to selection criteria or the process involved.
You should also consider the commercial need for a new partner as much as your own motivation. You may be billing yourself to succeed a partner who is leaving or retiring, but it could be that a new market opportunity has opened up. You need to think about how you will help the company excel in this new environment.
STRENGTHS AND VALUES
It is also important to assess how aligned your values are with those of the organisation. As an ambassador for the firm, you will need to stand by the decisions made by the partnership, even if you disagree with them.
Understanding exactly what your own strengths, skills and values are is hard enough, but you must also ensure that they shine bright enough for your colleagues to notice. Make time for those activities which maximise your value. Recognise the importance of learning to delegate, as it will stop you from getting bogged down in short-term delivery.
WINNING NEW BUSINESS
As a partner, you’ll be defined as: the finder who brings work in, the minder who coordinates activities, the binder who brings people together, and the grinder who delivers the work. You’ll be measured on your financial performance, which will include fee targets and new business brought into the firm.
Winning new business is one of the most difficult skills for aspiring partners to master. You’ll need to increase your client base and the level of service you offer to existing clients by demonstrating that you are reliable, and that you understand client expectations and how to manage them.
Learn to have sensible business conversations, and not just technical ones, to show that you can advise as well as analyse the issues facing clients. It helps to read widely and have opinions on business and commercial issues.
You’ll need to be referred for a partnership, so find a mentor who supports your candidacy and is willing to take the time to guide you through the process.
But you’ll also need to gain the trust of all your fellow partners, if you are to be chosen over other candidates. You can achieve this by demonstrating a willingness to deepen your expertise and that of your organisation in general. Consult with acquaintances in other organisations and share that knowledge with your colleagues at work. By volunteering to host events, and developing a list of contacts in every specialism, you’ll show that you are engaged with your sector, and that you want others to be engaged as well.