Every CPA nurses dreams about becoming a partner one day; after all, if there’s no ambitious goal to propel you forward, what’s the point of even trying to climb the career later in the first place? Far too often, however, accountants make small, simple mistakes that add up over time, often sabotaging their progress when it comes to attaining that long-sought-after promotion.
Here are the tips you should follow, and the basic skills you’ll need to possess, if you want to one day become a partner.
Building up from humble beginnings
What every accountant with dreams of becoming a partner must realize is that, like most careers, you can’t ascend to the heights of the accounting industry overnight. To succeed in the long-term, you’ll need to build gradual progress, slowly gaining the needed skills, social capital, and experience you’ll need to make it as a firm partner one day. So, what are the absolutely essential skills that every partner will need to attain success in the 21st century accounting industry?
First and foremost, you should understand that it all comes down to your clients. If you’re a difficult to work with accountant who regularly hassles clients, you shouldn’t expect to achieve a lucrative partnership, which is more often than not a reward for a successful career defined by bringing in more clients for the firm. Don’t think that just because you’ve been working for a few years, or have become an essential member of a firm, that working with clients face-to-face is beneath you. The minute you forget that you exist as an accountant to serve these clients is the moment you throw away the potential to become a partner one day.
Furthermore, you can’t hope to become a partner by following the dated playbook that others have relied upon up to this point. Tomorrow’s partners will need to be incredibly tech savvy, for instance, because the accounting industry of the 21st century will in many ways be utterly dominated by now-emerging technologies like machine learning algorithms and big data analytics operations. Thus, if you want to one day be a partner, you need to keep a continuous eye on the future of the industry ,and begin investing in the technical skills you’ll need to thrive in the workplace of the future dominated by machines just as much as it is by men.
Read up on the tech trends accounting firm leaders need to be aware of if you’re unsure of where to begin. Furthermore, you should deeply examine what some of today’s most successful partners do on a daily basis to come to gain an understanding of what’ll be expected of you, should you one day become a partner yourself. Check out what partners at the Big 4 do to keep themselves busy all day, and come to gain a comprehensive understanding of their responsibilities and privileges, and you’ll be better suited towards handling the role of a partner in the future.
Know what to avoid
As we’ve already covered, many accountants fail to attain a partnership because they simply don’t know what easy to avoid mistakes they need to be keeping an eye out for. Consider how many CPAs shun basic administrative duties as being below them, and you’ll come to see why so many firms pass over these accountants when the time to add a new partner comes along; those accountants who think they’re above basic administrative duties and run of the mill duties won’t be welcomed with open arms into the ranks of company leadership.
Furthermore, too many accountants cheerfully describe themselves as workaholics, shutting themselves away in offices to work extraordinarily long hours. While it’s doubtlessly helpful to show that you can be a productive employee, you don’t want to wall yourself off from the rest of the company; as a matter of fact, being a people person is a vital part of attaining a partnership one day. After all, leaders need to be jovial and interact frequently and positively with their employees, so if you’re shy-minded, don’t expect to be named a partner anytime soon.
This doesn’t mean the introverts of the world are doomed to never attain a partnership; there are many ways you can boost the soft skills necessary to become a savvy socialite. Never allow yourself to forget that a vital part of becoming a partner is becoming a leader of men and women in the workplace, and you’ll achieve your goals much quicker than those accountants who are only in it for themselves.
Above all else, learn to sate your appetite, and don’t go chasing after a partnership so much you overdo it. Perseverance is important, but understand that you’ll slowly need to build trust with existing partners and demonstrate your skills to the firm before being rewarded with a partnership. Keep an eye on the long game, and work diligently, and you’ll be a partner before you know it.
Gary Eastwood is a CPA licensed senior accountant from Seattle, Washington. He received his CPA license from the Washington State Board of Accountancy in 2001 before relocating to Onawa, Iowa in 2008. Over more than 15 years of accounting experience, Gary has worked with multinational health service providers and independent CPA firms. He has a proven ability in dealing with business clients from a variety of backgrounds as well as leading companies to greater efficiency and profitability. He is familiar with both US GAAP and China GAAP.