I am the sole owner of a estate planning firm in Evansville, Indiana. I have three associates that work for me and four staff members. I am 64 and wanting to get started on a succession program - either by forming a partnership with one or more of the associates or with another attorney or attorneys that I might bring into the firm via merger. I have always been on my own so I am a little cautious. I do want to work another eight years or so. What pitfalls should I be looking out for?
Creating and maintaining a successful partnership takes a lot of work. Partnerships fail for numerous reasons but the number one reason for failure is "poor fit." Poor fit can destroy a partnership before it even gets started. Fit isn't as much about "the money" (financial goals) as it is about personal and professional goals.
- So be careful who you select to be your partners.
- Don't feel that you have to make all of your associates partners.
As you consider future partners give some thought to the following:
- Compatible work ethic - Determine whether each of you envision working long, hard hours to accomplish firm goals. Are each of you willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done?
- Shared vision - Do each of you see a similar outcome? If everything were working perfectly what would that look like?
- Alignment of values - Do you share consistent and similar values? Each of you list your top five and compare.
- Integrity - Do each of you have the same views and principles?
- Dealing with conflict - How do each of you deal with and manage conflict?
- Trust - Do you trust each other?
- Sense of humor - Can each of you laugh, be lighthearted and have fun?
Before you decide to partner with someone it is critical that you determine where you agree and where you disagree on key issues.
Invest the time in getting to know your future partners at a deep interpersonal level and make sure that your personal and professional goals mesh.
If you do a good job insuring that you have a good fit you will go a long way toward insuring a successful partnership.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC