Partner Groups: Only as strong as the weakest link. (Part 1)

Francesca Radbill, Radbill Consulting

Kelly Monestime, Monestime Marketing, LLC

Unfortunately, the expression “too many cooks in the kitchen” is, all too often, very applicable to professional service firms.  The fact is, this is what it can feel like when you have multiple partners running a firm. While each partner is highly skilled (after all, they made it to partner level), not all partners are well-rounded in the skills they need to be effective in their roles.

Often times, each member of the partner group brings a strong proficiency in one area that when combined with their other partners, makes for a strong leadership team.  We see this with service specialties, industry leaders, niche champions, operations and even technical strength. But, today’s partners need to possess more than just one of these capabilities if they are going to “fire on all cylinders”.

A well-rounded partner will bring his or her unique skill to the partner table as well as an entrepreneurial spirit, high degree of emotional intelligence and above all else – skilled leadership.  But what exactly is “leadership”?

To be an effective leader, you are able to assemble, inspire, motivate and retain teams, therefore allowing you to create the next generation of leaders.  It’s that simple. But how many of us were taught how to do this?

Since leadership isn’t something that comes naturally to most people, and most of us were never taught how to be a leader, it can be a cause of major disruption at the partner level and have a negative impact to the firm as whole (be sure to read Part 2 of this article next month which details these impacts).  This is one of the primary reasons professional service firms struggle with succession planning. While they possess amazing technical expertise and deliver exceptional client service, they fall short as leaders, failing to create their successors so the organization can carry on without them in the future. We know the result…the firm who always wanted to remain independent but is now forced to sell.  

Think of your partner group as a chain. When the links of the chain are closed, the chain is strong and nearly unbreakable. But, when there are weak links that open, the chain falls apart. If each of your partners are a link, then it is critical for each link to be strong and unbreakable. This requires providing each partner with the educations, guidance and coaching he or she needs to be successful.

Yes, every individual who sits at the partner group is amazingly skilled or they wouldn’t have attained their partner title.  However, chances are what got them to partner 5, 10 or 30 years ago, is not what will make them successful partners in the future.  Investing in your partner group is essential to achieving goals and continued growth. Encourage them to attend conferences, participate in webinars and read books, not only about the industry but also about leadership and firm management.  Some of the most successful firms even invest in internal training programs tailored to meet their specific needs and/or executive coaching for individuals with unique challenges. After all, it is in everyone’s best interest for every partner sitting around the table to be firing on all cylinders and everyone is responsible for helping one another to reach their full potential.  

Monestime Marketing, LLC is a marketing consulting firm that specializes in helping professional service firms realize the hopes and dreams they have for the business.  Monestime Marketing partners with Radbill Consulting to deliver training programs specific to your industry and customized to your individual needs. Learn more at