Would Lord Sugar make Partner at your firm?

Would Lord Sugar make Partner at your firm?

How to make partner in a professional services firm

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I have just walked through the door following a great meeting with a leading law firm, discussing Partner promotion pathways and assessing candidates for future leadership positions.

And tonight I will be tuning into a favourite of mine – the new series of the Apprentice!

Now, ok, we all know the show is much more about entertainment than leadership and business acumen. The teams are dysfunctional as the key objective is for them to showcase their individual credentials, and most will protect their own position rather than follow the task leader. But I love it!

And… it is in itself a process to identify a Partner. In this case, a Partner for Lord Sugar and a £250,000 investment. And there are some key themes that can help firms identify Partner potential and have a positive impact on their business.

Do firms know what they are looking for in new Partners?

Have they defined what a successful Partner is? And, just as importantly, do the candidates know? This is vitally important, and in our experience, often missed or ‘assumed’. What do we think Lord Sugar is looking for? Given the many references to his own career and experiences when passing on advice to the candidates, it could be argued that he is looking for….well, another Lord Sugar. And, why not? He is looking for an entrepreneur, an individual to drive a business. But what if he was looking for a team? Imagine a team of identikit Lord Sugars!!Often firms fall into the trap of promoting a ‘type’ to Partner. Clearly, we would expect to see many candidates strong in attributes such as technical expertise, revenue generation, financial performance and a wider awareness of the firm. But what about other key attributes that may not be strong in the current Partner team. We are talking here about the people and team aspects of leadership, innovation, emotional intelligence, agility, and change leadership.It’s important for firms to have a clear idea on the required attributes which will drive the business strategy. By assessing the diversity, strengths and weaknesses of their current teams then a clearer picture of what is needed can be created.

Does the promotion process (if there is one) really test these attributes?

Are people set the right tasks and asked the right questions to clearly demonstrate their strengths and how they can make a successful Partner in a PSF?Anyone who’s a regular viewer of the Apprentice will recognise the standard negotiation, presentation and interview tasks. (And maybe recall the disastrous financial decision when ordering too many chickens, the lack of client understanding with “Derek” the hot tub man ((who was in fact called Anthony!)) and cringed at the some of the ill prepared pitches). Whilst this makes fantastic viewing, the tasks often highlight a clear lack of the basic commercial acumen which is key for Lord Sugar.So how could the firm I met with today introduce stages in the process which clearly test the attributes that they are looking for? Maybe it’s managing a business or community project, turning around a poor performing team/division or taking a new idea to market?

Who decides if someone is suitable for a role?

Are the views of the whole team taken on board and is feedback sought from external parties?Lord Sugar uses two trusted and experienced aides throughout the tasks and also enlists the help of others in the infamous “interview” stage. Based on our experience, some PSFs can learn from this. We have seen many instances when the opinion of one individual has disproportionately impacted a person’s promotion prospects and human nature means we all too often recruit/promote people similar to ourselves (the halo effect!). We recommend seeking the views of clients, the team, leaders who do not directly work with the person and also external objective parties.

What if there are more candidates ‘successful’ in the process, than current positions available?

We regularly ask clients about their succession plans. Have they identified a pipeline of potential Partners? Do they know who is next in line? And the development needs of the people to get them there? Is there a risk of losing talented individuals? And can roles be created to meet their strengths? I wonder if Lord Sugar really does just invest in one winner. Or if investments and roles are offered to others who also show real potential during the process? If he sees genuine talent, would he really just let it go elsewhere?

And finally…

What next?

If successful, what happens after the traditional celebratory drinks? The post promotion development plan is critical in our opinion. When working with clients we strongly advise that all candidates need a ninety day post promotion plan, which remains tied in to the assessment process (a Partner probation period if you like!). We also recommend having someone work with the individual, to help support, drive, and focus them on their key objectives and on-going development. Without this, there is the risk that candidates don’t deliver on their promises made or, even worse, deliver on them elsewhere. A lack of ongoing support and direction could be perceived as disinterest. And Lord Sugar’s track record is not great here – Simon Ambrose the winner of series 3 represents the longest reign with three years as an employee under Lord Sugar. (It is a salutary lesson to see where all of the other winners are now.)

So two questions to leave you with…

  • Are your Partner promotion processes providing leaders of successful PSFs of the future?
  • And out of interest, would Lord Sugar make Partner at your firm?

We would love to discuss how you could improve or create a successful promotion process– please contact us on 01892 610060.

theGrogroup specialise in helping Professional Service Firms grow business results by optimising: strategy, talent, business performance and business development.