Priming the path to partner

  • January 3, 2018
  • Mark Hughes CPA CFE

Is your CPA firm providing the opportunities you need to progress?

At many Metro Detroit CPA firms, there’s a certain pinnacle position in the organization that carries both privilege and responsibility: partner. Whether your firm has one partner or many, reaching that level can mean more autonomy, increased compensation, and a voice in firm-wide decisions. With a competitive job market for CPAs who are career-minded and looking to move through the ranks to partner, finding a firm that supports that progression is key.

If making partner is one of your career goals, ask yourself if your firm is helping prime that path for you. Here are four things your firm leaders should be doing to help you reach the next, and maybe ultimate, step in your career:

  1. INTRODUCE YOU AS THE LEAD ON CLIENT PROJECTS. Your partners should give you multiple chances to interact with clients and show you’re championing their work. Not only does it grow your relationship with the clients, it gives you confidence and experience managing the many personalities and complex assignments that come across a partner’s desk.
  2. INVOLVE YOU IN FIRM DECISIONS. Years before you become partner, you should be part of the group who makes decisions about the management of the firm. Raising and solving staff concerns, navigating a cultural merger following a firm acquisition, and setting firm strategy are all subjects that a senior staff member on the path to partner can weigh in on.
  3. BECOME INVOLVED IN THE BILLING PROCESS. Billing is an important partner responsibility at many CPA firms, and it can take a new partner many cycles to get comfortable with the process. To best understand the philosophy behind billing and learn your firm’s unique approach, you should have plenty of experience actually billing clients (and responding to clients’ billing questions) before you become partner.
  4. EXPOSURE TO NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES. Your partners undoubtedly have a vast network of resources whom they call on for leads and client assistance. Before you make partner, your firm should expose you to this network so you meet the people who are important to the firm today. Additionally, time allotted in your schedule now to get outside the firm and meet new resources means you’re building your network to support the firm’s success both today and in the future. Make sure the partner position that’s in your career plan is also in the plans of your firm’s current partners, so they can build a path that gets you there. If it’s not, perhaps it’s time to find a firm that is ready to help an ambitious CPA gain the experience necessary to be a leader in the firm tomorrow.

See ShindelRock partners talk about how they help junior team members grow their careers on the path to partner at