Art of Accounting: One-partner businesses

The reality of being a partner in a firm, regardless of the size, is that you are running a “one-partner business.”

That is so since it is your responsibility to manage the relationship with your clients, staff it, see that the deliverable reaches the client on time and coordinate everything to make that occur, that the pricing of your services is agreed to and paid when due. You also are responsible for budgeting the work and the realization and making sure the proper mix of staff are assigned and doing what they are supposed to be doing. You ensure that coordination with other departments is timely and smooth and does not delay the work from being completed. General administrative work you would perform would be to evaluate staff performance, hiring, promoting or firing decisions, juggling assignments when there are conflicts with other partners, creating a pathway for succession for handling your clients and admitting additional partners, mentoring staff and guiding them in their careers.

While you would not be involved in paying expenses, getting bills in the mail, system and IT changes, office configuration, or evaluating other partners, you will be “running a business.” Because of this I believe it is incumbent upon all partners to take practice management courses and develop, hone and improve such skills. A minimum suggestion is two days a year plus regular reading of articles, blogs and columns (such as this and the abundance of other articles that appear in Accounting Today), books, webinars and podcasts. Further, when attending courses you will have interactions with colleagues in similar circumstances throughout the country (I’ve even met people from Australia that I am regularly in touch with) and these provide valuable insights you will definitely learn from and help in your growth.

Yes, you are running a business—it just isn’t referred to that way. Act like it!

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.


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Edward Mendlowitz