Sometimes my advice irritates people. Take last week, for example.
I was speaking at The Advisory Board’s Partner Compensation Symposium, and took a question from a CPA firm partner who asked when to promote his 31 year old associate. This associate showed Ability, Will, and Commitment, but didn’t yet have a great book of business.
I thought a book of business was important in his firm, so I responded by saying, “Help him build his book for the next 18-24 months, then promote him.”
Jerry Cukier disagreed, and told me so in this email on Friday (which he has given me permission to reprint):
“Just wanted to drop you a small note. It was nice meeting you and enjoyed your presentation. However, I have to be honest with you I lost you once a question was asked about making a partner at 31 (if I am remembering that many days back) and with no book of business but handles clients etc etc. You answered I would wait a few more years. Why? When I was that age or when most of the people in that room were that age, did they have any book of business. No way. Let’s face it, accountants who are partners today think they are the best and brightest and know when it is time to make partners. Most of them know crap. I would have thought the answer is yes make him\her now.
“Here at Soberman, book of business means zero. We identify people and move them up. There is only upside rarely downside. You train your people and ensure they can take care of clients. You work with them to make them comfortable marketing, speaking to people, making presentations. And guess what, with an open system of partner compensation, people look up and say I want to make that and what is it going to take.
“I look at my history when I made partner, couldn’t get a client if my life depended on it early on. I consider myself a good marketer with a good track record of building our business.
“I think the answer is simple. If you believe that your firm needs to grow, and you want to make more money than train people and bring them in. You won’t make less money.
“If you were consulting to your client you would probably tell them that every small business is there for one reason and that is to build it and eventually sell it (simplistic but true).
“Stop thinking that you can keep people for 10-15 years and try something new.
Have a great day.
Jerry Cukier, CA
Partner, Assurance & Advisory
Soberman LLP , Chartered Accountants”