Wanted: our next managing partner.

Author:Rosenbloom, Ira S.

Succession planning and the stress that comes along with it are quite the rage in the world of public accounting. When it comes to recruiting a firm's next managing partner, the challenge may be enormous. Leadership shortage is not new for the profession. We have confronted the lack of senior accountants, the scarcity of rainmaking partners, the need for entrepreneurial partners and the demand for pragmatic technical professionals, but the drama that comes from the challenge of recruiting the next managing partner is in a whole different class. In most firms, the managing partner is the central processing unit. Nearly all matters flow through his or her office. They have the final say, and in many organizations, the only say that matters. The hands-on model that so many managing partners have applied has brought great success to the profession, yet has created a significant lack of interest by others to perpetuate it.

Much like in the world of technology, it is time for a new operating system. We need to revolutionize the managing partner role in much the same way that technology companies have invigorated computing and data management. Firms that are currently dealing with succession at the managing partner level or will soon be should be taking the following bold steps if they intend to succeed at securing their next managing partner.

Put the position under the microscope. What does the managing partner do? How should his or her responsibilities change in the near term? Firms must prepare a complete assessment of the job requirements and job description with the input of multiple layers both within the organization and outside of it. The purpose is not to evaluate the incumbent's performance but to determine what the firm needs now and in the next five years. The owners and partners in training should be asked to rank the elements of the current job description in a way that will allow for useful analysis. A select group of outside entrepreneurs and centers of influence should weigh in on the current job description and future needs as well. A survey of desired attributes and abilities for the managing partner should be prepared by all current employees. It's also a good idea to include employees who were with the firm for three or more years and have left in the last three years. A job description that reflects multiple perspectives and that is deeply rooted within your organization will ensure critical buy-in and solid credibility. This type...

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