Engaging your partners
Are they building a bridge, or just welding girders together?
change — only how you get there.
Kaufman Rossin merges in
Friedman, Cohen, Taubman and Co.
Details: Florida accounting firms
Kaufman, Rossin & Co. and Friedman,
Cohen, Taubman and Co. have combined, expanding Top 100 Firm Kaufman
Rossin’s reach across the Sunshine State.
The merger was expected to take effect June 1. Financial terms of the deal
were not disclosed. FCT is a Broward
County-based boutique CPA firm that
has provided tax, audit and consulting
services to businesses for more than 15
years. FCT partners Andrew Taubman
and Ronald Friedman will join Kaufman
Rossin as principals. Also joining the firm
will be Lynn Brewer and Joel Galpern.
By RoBeRT J. LeeS and auguST aquILa
The more partners engage with the firm’s future, the better they
perform. So, the picture of the firm’s future has to be compel-
ling. It has to persuade people that they want to play a part in
making it a reality.
Nearly all of the firms we know agree with
the sentiment, but getting the partners engaged isn’t always easy. So, how do firms go
about engaging the partners and making sure
they remain that way?
We used the girders-or-bridge analogy in
our first article (“Get your firm pulling together,” May 2012, page 36). Both have value,
but building a bridge is a lot more compelling to most people. The picture becomes
even more compelling when it’s a bridge to
Rob Lees is a founding partner of Moller
PSFg Ltd ( www.mollerpsfgcambridge.com)
and a consultant to professional service
firm leaders worldwide, as well as co-author
of When Professionals Have to Lead. Reach
him at email@example.com.
August Aquila is a speaker, consultant and
writer; CeO of Aquila global Advisors (www.
aquilaadvisors.com); and the co-author
of Compensation as a Strategic Asset and
Client at the Core.Re ach him at aaquila@
aquilaadvisors.com or (952) 930-1295.
© 2012 Rob Lees and August Aquila. All
somewhere people want to go. It’s the ultimate destination that people engage with.
And the journey is a lot more enjoyable (even
if you’re not actually that keen on parts of it)
if the endpoint is exciting and has benefits
you share in.
These last points are critical. Partners need
to understand the benefits to the firm and
themselves. And they need to know what the
journey will entail (what we call the “how
to”). All the professionals we know are highly
analytical, and they need to know the detail
of the journey before they’ll embark on the
voyage. Just saying, “We want to be a top 10
firm,” for example, won’t cut it.
So, given the nature of the people in the
firm — who, in addition to being highly analytical, always want to calibrate how they’re
doing — there have to be distinct milestones
so everyone can measure progress. That
doesn’t mean that the firm can’t be opportunistic. The analogy of a journey is a good
one. Sometimes the winds change or the
train gets cancelled or there’s the opportunity to visit somewhere unexpected and you
change your course. The destination doesn’t
When we talk about having a compelling vision, we don’t just mean one that’s well-craft-ed. We mean a vision with a clear destination,
strategies for getting there (the “how to”), the
way progress will be measured and the benefits to the partners going on the journey.
Let’s look at an example of what can happen when all the elements (vision, journey,
milestones and a positive answer to “what’s
in it for me”) aren’t in place.
The managing partner of one of the firms
we know explained how he had come back
from Harvard Business School’s Leading
Professional Service Firms Program with renewed energy and a determination to drive
the firm forward. So he outlined his vision
of moving the firm from its regional base to
a leading national firm to his partners and
talked briefly about what they needed to do
to get there. But, to his abject disappointment, nothing happened.
Concerned about the lack of action, the
managing partner visited all of the offices to
talk through the plans and, during these visits, the partners’ concerns became apparent.
While they really liked the idea of becoming
a national firm, they felt that the only way to
achieve it was through a merger, which they
felt they would be on the wrong side of. As a
result, the partners didn’t engage with the
vision and returned to the thing they knew
best: serving their clients.
In the above example, the vision initially
appeared positive, but when subjected to the
partners’ analytical thinking, the “how to”
was clearly negative and the “what’s in it for
me” decidedly negative.
There is no chance of the partners being
engaged unless they are an active part of the
process. There is no point in managing partners coming up with a vision on their own
or with their executive team and expecting it
to be taken up by the other partners without
question. If the partners are going to engage
with the vision, it’s critical that they have an
opportunity to have their say about each of
Getting the influential partners on-
See engAging on 42
Mowery & Schoenfeld merges in
Baerson Witonski Berkowitz & Rubin
Details: Baerson Witonski Berkowitz
& Rubin LLC is merging its practice into
Mowery Schoenfeld LLC, headquartered
in Lincolnshire. The merger will create a
combined firm with in excess of $8 million
in annual fees, making it one of the Chi-cagoland area’s largest. BWBR, its partners and staff will combine in the newly
expanded offices of Mowery Schoenfeld
in Lincolnshire. Financial details were not
disclosed. Transition Advisors assisted
in the transaction. BWBR principals Dan
Witonski, Chick Baerson and Scott Rubin
will continue managing client services for
BWBR’s existing client base.
Whitley Penn merges in Null-Lairson
Details: Whitley Penn and Null-Lairson
combined on May 1, expanding Whitley
Penn’s presence across the Lone Star
State, particularly in the Houston area.
The combined firm will have nearly 300
employees, including 35 partners, and
will be a top 60 firm with over $50 million
in annual revenue, providing extensive
services in the country’s fourth and fifth
largest metropolitan areas.
Whitley Penn will be gaining several
government clients from the merger.
Null-Lairson’s clients in North Texas
include the Arlington, Lewisville and Forney independent school districts.