No two business cases for partnership are the same. Not even within the same firm. At least, not the successful ones! A partnership business case needs to focus on the needs of the situation in which the partner vacancy arises. Canny professionals will rewrite their business cases to suit. In this article, I introduce the types of business case and give you a start on what each type needs to include.
A well organised firm will have a long term plan for their partnership needs. They will look at up-and-coming stars in the firm and earmark them as potential partners. When a partnership vacancy arises, they will already know the business case for filling it. Just as your first job applications were different for each position, so your business case for partnership needs to be adapted to meet the need.
A different partnership business case for each situation
It may surprise you that there there are many different types of partnership business case. The How To Make Partner Career Kitbag includes a sample business case for you adapt, but the key word is sample. Your business case must fit you, and it must fit the situation where your partnership opportunity arises.
I count seven different ways in which you may be able to make partner. That means seven different directions for your business case to focus. I go through them in greater detail in my book, Poised for Partnership, and in this article, I’ll give you some thoughts to get you started on how you can increase the impact of your business case for partner.
A vacancy has opened up because a partner is leaving
This sounds like a perfect situation – surely you just straighten your jacket and step into the space? Sadly, it’s never as easy as that. When a partner reaches the end of their career, or leaves the firm, their clients might take the opportunity for a change. So, stepping into a departing partner’s shoes is not as simple it seems. You are going to have to work hard to maintain and increase your predecessor’s business.
In this situation, the business case needs to cover:
- How you will protect the existing business. Analyse the inherited portfolio to show what needs to be kept (and how), and what can be let go without too much heartache.
- How you will increase the slice of the business you are taking over. A retiring partner may have dropped down a gear or two over the past year. How are you going to take the work out of mothballs?
- How will you ensure a seamless handover (If you have the luxury of a handover!)
- How will you bring in new clients to replace the ones you are likely to lose?
Part of the firm is growing, and needs a partner to run the business
A new area of work may demand partner-level leadership because it is so important, so complicated, or the clients are very particular about only working with partners. If you are given this type of work, existing partners may be generous enough to pass on some of their clients to help you get established. Don’t expect them to give you the best, or easiest ones! In this situation, the business case needs:
- Irrefutable evidence of why you are the safest pair of hands for this new business.
- Your plans for expansion of the clients your partners pass on.
- How you will win your own clients.
Your client portfolio is too valuable for the firm to risk losing it (and you)
This is a common situation for potential partners. The effort you put into building a profitable client portfolio really pays off when the firm acts to protect it. When this happens, the business case for partnership needs to include:
- Details of how the portfolio has increased year on year.
- The portfolio’s value to the firm.
- Your plans to grow the business further.
- The value you Don’t forget this – you want the firm to treasure you as well as your portfolio!
- Evidence of why you need to be made partner rather than continue as you are.
You have a valuable network that could benefit other partners
If you have worked in industry for a number of years, you are going to know a lot of people who are great potential clients for your new firm. Not only for your own client portfolio, but also for the existing partners. Many people transferring to partnership from industry worry about their lack of selling expertise, that’s when the business case needs to demonstrate:
- Who you can introduce to the firm, and what value they will be.
- Evidence of your reputation and kudos within the industry.
- Your experience and how that will enrich the firm.
You have built a strong relationship with a valued client
It sometimes happens that a particular client develops a strong trust and liking for working with one particular member of the firm. In this situation, the partnership may consider making you up to partner to make sure they retain that client. The business case in this situation needs to show:
- How you have expanded that client’s account and the amount of work that comes from it.
- The strength of that client’s loyalty to you – if you leave, will they follow?
There are opportunities to expand into a new marketplace
This type of partnership offering is usually for lateral hires who have experience that the firm is lacking internally. In this situation, the business case needs to demonstrate:
- Your credentials in the new business area.
- Your track record of winning business.
- How you will fit the new department into the firm’s existing infrastructure.
- The team you will build to support the work.
- The risk and success factors of the new market.
- How many clients you will bring with you.
You lead a support department and need to be privy to partner-level conversations.
This is a rare situation, but it happens. It’s more likely when it’s happened before and when you are providing amazingly good value and are personally liked. If this happens to you, the business case needs to include:
- Examples of where other firms have taken a similar step and profited by it.
- Examples of how previous difficult situations would have been easier with your involvement.
- Plans for how your current work will improve even further once you are a partner.
What to do next
Your business case for partnership is one of the most important documents you will ever write. There’s more information and helps on the How To Make Partner website. The free Career Kitbag includes a partnership business case template to get you started as well as sample business cases based upon those of real life successful partners.
This article was originally serialised in a different form on the How To Make Partner website.
Get your copy of the 2nd edition of How to make partner and still have a life
To get your copy of How to make partner and still have a life at a 20% discount, use code HTMPG20 at the checkout on the Kogan Page website. Click on the image buy your copy
Heather 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’, Poised for partnership 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.