BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 20 MAY 2020


12 steps to the top

If ever there was a challenging time to be pushing your way to the top – going for Partnership in a professional services firm – then this is it! Those Senior Associates and Directors who still want to make it to the top in the current business landscape are going to have to revisit their plan. The good news is that all the best learning comes in the toughest times. It’s easy to get lazy and sloppy and de-skilled when the work is just coming through the door easily. So this is the time to get yourself tooled up to the max in the whole raft of areas where you’re going to have to shine. Business Development & Pitching skills, Financial Management and People/Team skills would be good places to start I’d suggest.

Here’s a set of twelve simple points to consider if you’re revisiting your plan to push for Partnership:

1. What work do you really want and why? Be really clear on this. You’re going to be spending the next three decades working your backside off, so it would be best if you were doing work that you really love.

2. Know the competition. Who are you up against? I mean both the external competitor firms. And your internal competition from other Senior Associates/Directors. Can you differentiate yourself and your plan from them and theirs?

3. Understand the wider firm and department/team strategy. Be ready to show where your plan fits into this.

4. Do the maths (£). What’s your business case? How do the numbers stack up?

5. Find your sweetspot – your niche. Four things need to come together:

  • Work you love (see point one above)
  • It fits the firm strategy & plan (see point 3 above)
  • The market is there
  • The timing is right – there’s a space and need for you as a Partner

6. Find sponsors, advocates, champions. This is like an election campaign. Who needs to back you when it comes to a vote or even just when they’re asked for their views.

7. Make sure you understand the Partnership application process and the parameters and requirements. Often this is shrouded in secrecy and very hard to unravel. Who can you ask? Who went through the process recently and might give you some insight? Who will decide the application? Ask.

8. And make sure you understand the expectations once you make Partner. You don’t want any nasty surprises, so understand what’s expected in terms of roles, responsibilities, commitment, finances etc.

9. Say “no” to some stuff. What have you become involved in at work – committees, meetings, working groups etc – that you should seek to ditch to create more space and time for your push to Partnership. You need to create some space to focus on the things that are going to help your campaign and jettison anything that’s not essential to that.

10. Upskill yourself to the max. Business Development and Pitching skills will almost certainly be key. And good financial management abilities. And anything related to managing people and teams. Get yourself booked on good training programmes. Get on Amazon/Audible and get some of the best business and emotional intelligence books going. Can you access any coaching or mentoring programmes?

11. Timing – is this the right time for you to go for it? Your life – partner, family etc. The state of the firm. The state of the market/sector.

12. The stars have to align. There is some luck involved. Take the current Covid-19 crisis. For some reading this article, their business case will have been totally trashed. For others an opportunity has just arisen because there is going to be loads more work in your area. So just accept that you might do everything right and just not be able to make it at the moment. Or you might be lacking in some areas but get lucky and make it earlier than you’d expected.