From partner first to firm first; an end to the cult of the individual

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You are exceptionally good at what you do. And from the comfort of your full time job you think you can do it better. For yourself. For your clients. For your industry. So you listen to your inner entrepreneur and start a business… Wind forward 10 or 20 [or more] years and you are surrounded by people just like you, exceptional, doing what they do - for you.

In partner-led, professional service businesses today there is a dichotomy. The client wants personal service, from someone they deeply trust. You employ individuals who excel at building these relationships and owning them. But managing your team feels like managing a Premier League football team full of strikers. Everyone scoring goals. When it comes to collaboration and alignment... frankly, it's dysfunctional.

Founders and leaders must complete the transformation from being on a personal mission, to leading a collective of like-minded superstars, to ultimately leaving a culturally aligned legacy business that can contribute to their industry ecosystem in a self-sustaining way, set on a trajectory of long-term growth.

Exit Planning consultant Jean-Bertrand de Lartigue said that culturally aligned businesses are ‘considered as close to a pure “investment” as a business can come… This type of business has the least chance of succession related failure, and is therefore considered the most valuable to a prospective buyer.’

To achieve this there must be a conversation about brand; one of the primary strategic tools for achieving alignment, facilitating collaboration, democratising responsibility and enabling growth. Capturing and systemising what’s made you successful in a clear and coherent brand will help pass on more than just knowledge and skill, but the good will and the spirit of the business. Brand can help build cultures where knowledge can be transferred in the context of shared goals, shared vision and values. Partners and employees are enabled to think beyond themselves - thinking firm first, team second, individual third. New superstars are nurtured, clients are collectively loved and the business can enjoy a future beyond its’ founders wildest dreams.

Fiona Burnett