Purple Papers

Debunking the Partner Buy-in Myth

How many times have professional services marketers heard the following?

That’s a great idea, but how can we get buy-in?
Personally, I think it’s the thing to do, but partners won’t want to pay for it….
Even if a few people will do it, you’ll never get full partner buy-in….

Achieving partnership in a firm may be the fulfillment of a professional ambition (nothing wrong with ambition!), a reward for hard work (nothing wrong with hard work!), or a recognition of a unique skill-set (nothing wrong with unique skills!). Partners are lauded, revered, respected, and compensated differently than all other firm members. However, not every partner should be allowed to influence every firm decision.

Is it counter-intuitive for a partner who resisted electronic timesheets to have any say in whether a firm implements a new time and billing software program? Does it make sense for a technical partner who works independently to have any significant influence over personnel issues? Probably not, yet the mythical partner ‘buy-in’ provides avenue to stop vital initiatives in their tracks.

Professional service partnerships tend to cede the right of ‘buy-in’ to partners more than other industries. As contrast, hedge fund manager David Einhorn recently agreed to purchase a minority interest in the New York Mets for $200 million. While it was not revealed exactly what percentage of the team Einhorn will own (definitely less than half), one thing is clear – as a minority owner, he is not going to be able to choose new uniforms, change the price of hot dogs, or demand any trades be made. Einhorn is not entitled to automatic ‘buy-in’ on key decisions. He may certainly be consulted, but his $200 million hasn’t guaranteed him ‘buy-in’ carte blanche.

A consistent message during the executive track at the recent Association for Accounting Marketing summit in Chicago was that strong leadership is vital for overall success of professional service firms. Michael Newtown, Managing Partner of Fuller Landau, LLP flat out stated that democracies don’t work. Mr. Newtown’s firm rose from the ashes of nearly splitting to instilling a cohesive, successful culture.  Strong leadership provided direction without getting mired down in ‘buy-in’ paralysis.

As marketing leaders within our firm, we are charged more than ever with positioning the firm for the future. The PICPA is forecasting increased mergers and acquisition activity within the accounting industry. Firms with strong leadership will be well-positioned to make the most of opportunities. Wade Clark, Chief Growth Officer of Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC told the AAM crowd that his firm was getting questions from potential acquisition targets about their marketing programs. Mr. Clark’s value to his firm jumps dramatically when he is positioned as a key driver to the overall expansion of the firm.

Strong leaders are able to set personal agendas aside and determine what is best for the firm. When consensus is required, progress is often stymied. Why should a partner with a close retirement date choose to invest in an acquisition today? Why should the same partner choose to ‘buy-in’ on an expensive software program that won’t provide true benefits for several years? As you plan for the future, keep the phrase ‘best interests’ of the firm in mind. Sometimes feathers will be ruffled, and marketing can help lead the charge away from the status quo.

Want More?

If you liked what you read, then you may also like these.

A Brand Doesn’t Just Happen

The tagline and the brand that's been built around it was developed through a process–and a fairly long one, at that. It most likely entailed numerous interviews in focus groups with athletes and aspiring athletes to understand...

A Good Reputation is Good for Business

What is reputation management or what we at Moiré like to refer to as a "brand ambassador?” There are a number of keys to developing strong client relationships, but one of the most important is becoming a “trusted advisor.”

March Madness as a Form of Client Education

Most people eagerly anticipate March's arrival. The days get warmer, cherry trees bloom, the sun still shines in the later in the afternoon and you can hear birds chirping for the first time in months.

That’s A-Moiré: Moiré to Sponsor the 2019 LMA National Conference

Moiré is heading to HOT-lanta on April 8. Get your swag on and pick up a famous doodle pad, or just say hello!

Can I Tell You a Story?

Successful marketing is all about the ability to tell good stories. Most companies work to get their name and capabilities into the marketplace by connecting with their audience.

Proud Sponsors: 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference

Moiré will be attending, speaking and sponsoring the LMA Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on November 1, 2018.