The right managing partner


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Today's accounting firms are facing unprecedented uncertainty. These organisations have to adapt to increasing political changes as well as embracing the digital revolution, enabling the automation of process-driven activities and transforming their roles into that of strategic advisers.

Navigating through these factors and challenges is a key marker of a successful firm. Today's accounting practices have become multi-functional groups where partners recognise that the best interests of the client and the firm lie in pooling knowledge and allowing clients access to every service the firm can provide.

So how, in this context, will the role of the managing partner change?

Clearly they will require different characteristics from those deemed necessary in the past. In all but the smallest practices, the job of managing partner is not a part-time position. Too many firms believe that this function can be undertaken in addition to normal client work.

Managing partners are often reluctant to give up their client base, which has given them their power and recognition in the practice. But the reality is that, although it may be possible to retain a small amount of client work, anyone considering taking on the mantle of managing partner must be prepared to “invest the majority of their time in running the business.”

Some partners will never be comfortable in anything other than a technical role and the idea of going out and generating new business is anathema.

The managing partner has similar powers to a corporate managing director; this individual must traverse and balance ethical, technical as well as corporate roles.

1. Getting the work done is equally important as work life balance.

2. Humility making themselves approachable so they may recognise excellent performance in other.

3. Socialising so they may forge greater business relations.

Managing partners need to be dynamic and daring – qualities not always associated with accountants. The right managing partners must be able to engage, develop and retain employees and business clients.

1. Engage people's creative sides

2. Develop people's skills

3. Hire and promote the right people

4. Generate diversity and inclusion

5. Share a compelling vision

The number of successful firms in the independent sector is proof that these qualities do exist.

The pressure for effective management is coming from all aspects of the firm's business, including fee generation, efficiency, productivity, brand awareness and, to some extent, internationalisation. This has highlighted the need for change in the entire organisation and, above all, for better and more strategic people to head up the business.

The first challenge is the selection process. What is needed is a person with commercial acumen and a proven track-record in developing the business and monitoring the firm's performance. However, the managing partner must also be able to hire and promote the right people, properly estimating people's ability and potential (Team Building). Some managing partners rearrange the business to their abilities, while others apply their abilities of the firm.

The managing partner must have the support of all the partners and should garner their loyalty and team work, assessing their own individual roles to play in the development and support of the core business activities. The model is perhaps something akin to a cabinet, but with the prime minister, or managing partner, having been delegated ultimate power and authority.

The job description of managing partners varies from firm to firm. In many cases it does not exist at all in any formal fashion, but is simply a vague and undefined 'understanding'. Such a role must be properly defined and the correct designation of powers must exist for the position to work effectively.

In a world dominated by technicians, the managing partner must be a 'people person' with good interpersonal skills. Accountancy training may not have equipped him or her for this. However, the managing partner must be able to influence the other partners, who will usually have strong individual authority. The value of diversity and inclusion, his or her ability to harness the power of the collective and the value of the differences will increase the managing partner's strength's and may be the key factor if the firm is to grow, prosper and operations sustained.

It is the managing partner's job to drive the business forward and this will inevitably mean change. Unless all of the partners and the rest of the firm are on side, it will be an uphill struggle.

The fundamental measure for success remains the same.

• Is the budget being delivered and is the firm making the budgeted profits?

• What are the key performance indicators, are they being met?

Key issues are therefore strategy and guidance on overall performance and new investment (whether in people, IT, premises, marketing or other priorities) in which the managing partner's role is that of a facilitator of change, managing the situation and monitoring colleagues.

Sharing a compelling vision is ultimately important to goal congruence; the motivated and enthused employee delivers purpose in their work.

In a modern practice, the skills of the managing partner are crucial to its success. Strong and effective leadership is required to help firms adapt to meet the changing needs of the modern marketplace. The right person must be at the helm:

1. To bring future value to the table

2. Improve Business Performance

3. Future governance risk, management and controls

“No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people tells all. Integrity is everything.”

Dwight Bailey is chiefi internal auditor at Petrojam Limited

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