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Follow this simple process to build a crisp, clear and powerful business case for partner in your Big 4 firm

Are you wondering how to build a business case for partnership with impact and no waffle? Heather Townsend, co-author of How To Make Partner And Still Have A Life and The Go-To Expert, reveals all…

Lately, I have been talking to a lawyer who is being put up for partner in a few weeks’ time. This is unexpected and she is learning the hard way about writing a business case in a week!  In an ideal world, your partnership business case will evolve over a period of months as you consult with key people in your firm.  However, life doesn’t always work out like that!

The following post contains the highlights of my advice to her as she focuses intently on achieving her Mission Impossible!

1.     What is the firm’s headline strategy?

The Big 4, BDO, and Grant Thornton are among the small number of firms that have a very clear process for making partner. Unfortunately, they are the exception as many others have a vague and seemingly mysterious process.  To make partner, you have to know the headline strategy for the firm – whether this is explicitly stated or not.  Every firm has one, even if it’s just “do more of the same.”  If you want to join the partnership club, find out what this strategy is – and there may be different versions of it depending upon who you talk to!

The best business cases make a strong link between the firm’s strategy and how the potential partner will help the firm achieve it.

2.     How will you strengthen the partnership and increase the profits?

This is where you show them ‘why me’.  Keep it tied into what the partnership wants to achieve.

3.     Write a 1 sentence and a 3 sentence sell

Cut the waffle. In just one sentence summarise why you should be made partner.  Being so brief will force you to focus on the key message for your business case and for your presentation pitch at the panel interview.  Your one sentence could be something like this:

“My relationship with the Tesco account will grow into a partnership-sized portfolio, helping the firm fulfil its strategy of creating a strong retail sector team.”

Once you have your one sentence perfect, expand it to three sentences – this is your short pitch.  Every word has to fight for its place in your short pitch, and this forces you to be very clear and succinct with your business case.

4.     Storyboard your 3 sentence pitch

Take your three sentence pitch and before you dive into the detail, use it to tell a story about your business case.  One of the best ways to do this is to create between 5 and 10 slides, and write the story using only the slide titles.  A typical example might be:

  • 3 sentence pitch
  • Reason 1 to qualify the pitch
  • Reason 2
  • Reason 3
  • Risk of not promoting you to partner this time

5.     Fill in the detail to support the story in the slide headlines

Although you are now adding more words, keep them punchy and relevant.  Don’t ever make the font smaller and smaller to get all the words onto the slide.  You are not writing War and Peace!  You do not want the panel to feel bored, or to have trouble reading your slides, and you want to leave yourself something to say, not just read what’s on the screen.  Keeping everything short and impactful forces you to really focus on the most important message.

6.     Expand your slides into the full business case

Finally, take your punchy story and expand it, as much as is necessary to give the partners enough detail to appreciate the case you are making for partnership.  Don’t go over the top, still make every word count – the partners will appreciate a business case that is clear and easy to read and doesn’t present them with page after page of impenetrable text.

Using this simple and iterative process will really focus your mind on the key elements of your business case and give you all you need to make an impact in your partnership interview.

FREE live webinar to help you build a cast-iron business case for partner

Computer keyboard webinarOn the webinar on 27th January 2015, we are going to show you:

Vector add remove circular itemThe 2 things that your business case must clearly demonstrate to make partner

Vector add remove circular itemThe common missing 4 elements from most professionals’ business cases which radical reduce the impact and effectiveness of your business case for partnership

Vector add remove circular itemHow to tackle your business case if you are a lateral hire or coming from industry back into practice.

Click here to register on the 2pm GMT webinar

Click here to register on the 8pm GMT webinar

Further Reading

This article originally appeared in a different form on the How To Make Partner website

Author Credit

GTE thumbnail_100Heather Townsend helps professionals become the The Go-To Expert. She is the author of the  award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, and ‘The Go-To Expert’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. 

Heather blogs regularly at How to make partner and still have a life and works with future and current Big 4 partners and professionals from mid-tier firms all over the world

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