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Partner Selection Criteria in Today’s Environment. August Aquila AQUILA Global Advisors. AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC. August is the CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC which specializes in succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, compensation plans and transformational strategic planning

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partner selection criteria in today s environment

Partner Selection Criteria in Today’s Environment

August Aquila

AQUILA Global Advisors

aquila global advisors llc
AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC
  • August is the CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC which specializes in succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, compensation plans and transformational strategic planning
  • Selected as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People” in the Accounting Profession by Accounting Today in 2004, 2007, 2009 to 2011
  • AAM Hall of Fame member, founding AAM Board Member
  • Former partner in top 100 firm – Friedman, Eisenstein, Raemer & Schwartz (FERS)
  • Former executive with American Express Tax & Business Services, Inc
  • Selection criteria more important than ever
  • Determine you firm’s philosophy
  • Characteristics of an equity partner
  • Personality traits of an equity partner
  • Know your numbers – Buy-In
why have a partner admittance plan
Why have a partner admittance plan?
  • Do you currently have . . .
    • Too many partner employees rather than partner owners?
    • Too many underperforming partners?
    • Too few rising stars?
    • Just too many partners?
why now
Why now?
  • Scarcity of good people
  • Fewer entrepreneurs
  • Fewer employees want it
  • Firms facing profit squeeze
  • Strong fee competition
  • Succession issues
when do you make someone an equity partner
When do you make someone an equity partner?

 Some Considerations:

  • Profitability of the Firm.
  • Leveraging requirements to accomplish your return on equity
  • Overall growth of the Firm
  • Individuals with unique talents
fixed number of partners
Fixed number of partners?
  • As a firm grows, should the number of partners also grow?
  • What are the firm’s expectation for gross revenue per partner, realization, etc?
  • What character and competence are critical?
know your numbers
Know your numbers
  • Do you require some minimum level of origination?
  • Some minimum level of billings?
  • Would you depart from these levels and why?
before assessing candidates
Before assessing candidates

Make sure you . . .

  • Establish realistic policies and admission criteria that majority of partners support.
  • Review them to ensure they remain realistic with the passing of time.
  • Make certain that partners remain acutely aware of the firm's policies and partnership admission criteria.
  • Improve the partner evaluation procedures to minimize the number of under-qualified candidates who receive actual consideration.
not my fault partners not welcome
Not my fault partners not welcome

Do it

Solve it

Own it

See it


Ignore it

Not my job

Finger pointing

Tell me what to do

Cover your tail

Wait & see

Source: The Oz Principle

equity partners
Equity Partners

Equity partners should be individuals with a high tolerance and passion for the risk of ownership

different views on what being a partner means
Different Views on What Being a Partner Means
  • My clients are the firm’s
  • I introduce others to my clients
  • I pass what I know on to others
  • Partner supports firm decisions
  • Management adds value through coordination
  • My clients are mine
  • Don’t trust others with my clients
  • I hold on to what I know
  • My rights are paramount
  • Management interferes in my plans

Individual > Firm

Firm > Individual

equity partners1
Equity Partners
  • Positive Characteristics:
    • Puts firm first
    • Team player
    • Lives the firm’s values
    • Has a high degree of emotional intelligence
    • Accountable for his/her own actions
    • Staff want to work with him/her
professional traits
Professional traits
  • Commitment to:
    • the firm
    • client service
    • on-the-job training
    • life-long learning
    • the profession
    • personal & professional ethics
character traits
  • Integrity
  • Respect for others
  • Entrepreneurial desire (motivation)
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social presence
  • Sense of humor (can laugh at him/herself)
  • Embraces change
  • Stretches oneself outside of comfort zone
  • Accountable
critical characteristic
Critical characteristic
  • Make sure the partner fits into the culture of your firm
    • Do they share the firm’s vision?
    • Are they motivated by it?
    • If they are getting on your bus are they in the

right seat?

competencies of a partner
Competencies of a partner
  • Categories
    • Technical/Niche Excellence
    • Business Development
    • Client maintenance (Satisfaction/Retention)
    • Business Management
    • Personal Production
    • Leadership
    • People Developer
technical niche excellence
Technical/niche excellence
  • Does the individual bring a needed expertise to the firm?
  • Are they passionate about a specific industry?
  • Does the individual have a "professional identity" within and outside of the firm for skill in their specialty areas?
business development
Business development
  • Acquire, develop, and retain clients
  • The ability to develop and originate new clients for the firm is one of the most significant criteria
  • Brings in business for self and others
  • Will you admit someone into the partnership without this skill?
client maintenance
Client maintenance
  • Most firms encourage new partners to establish a professional relationship with clients
  • The ability of the partner to relate and interact with a client is an important factor to be considered
client maintenance1
Client maintenance
  • Do clients like working with the potential partner?
    • Measure client turnover
    • Client loyalty
business management
Business management
  • Client profitability
  • Billing and Collection
    • DSO WIP and A/R
    • Write downs
  • Clients managed (book of business)
personal production
Personal production
  • Billable hours
  • Cash collected
  • Leverage
  • Help others
  • Manage a department and/or a niche area
  • Gain confidence of team, partners, and clients
  • Transfer client relationships
  • Cope with change
  • Firm fan
people developer
People developer
  • Provide on-the-job training and mentoring
  • Give staff the opportunity to get involved with clients
  • Staff stay at the firm because of the partner
  • Staff want to be on partner’s engagements
buy in buy out
Buy-in Buy-out

Make sure you have a buy-out formula

before you let someone buy-in

buy in1
  • Needs to be fair
  • Discount?
    • Sweat equity ≠ what the market will pay.
    • Average internal valuation is 65% - 75%
  • Average buy in amount around $110,000
key questions
Key questions
  • How do owners determine a price?
  • How and on what schedule should the new partner make payments?
  • What percentage of ownership should the firm offer?
  • What is the new partner actually buying?
what is a new partner buying
What is a new partner buying?
  • An interest in accrual basis capital (ABC)
  • An interest in the goodwill (G)
  • Firms use different approaches:
    • An interest in both the ABC and in the G
    • An interest in the G (but no interest in the ABC that exists as of the date of admission)
    • An interest in the G at a discount and full price for the ABC
buy in terms vary by firm
Buy-in terms vary by firm
  • Some firms may offer a better price and larger ownership because new partner has brought in a lot of business
  • Some firms may offer a small ownership percentage for free based on contributions that new partner has made to the firm
  • Some firms believe new partners should pay full value and seek full payment of the purchase price, which includes both the accrual-basis capital (ABC)—that is, the equity of the partnership interest—as well as 100% of the “goodwill” value (G), defined as 100% of gross fees
buy in formula 1
Buy-in formula #1
  • Facts: The owners give an interest in the G (but no interest in the ABC that exists as of the date of admission).
  • The owners retain 100% of the tangible assets but give the new owner a share of the intangible asset (G). The new owner shares in the future growth of the tangible assets
buy in formula 11
Buy-in formula #1
  • Example: Individual gets a 5% interest in the G and the existing ABC is $1 million
  • If a year later the ABC is $1.2 million, the new owner now has a 5% stake in the increase, which would equal $10,000 (that is, 5% of $1,200,000 – $1,000,000 = $200,000 X .05 = $10,000).
buy in formula 2
Buy-in formula #2
  • Facts: An interest in the G at a bargain price e.g. 75% of current value.
  • Firm grosses $2 million (G value) and has $500,000 in ABC.
  • The new person buys a 5% interest at full price for the ABC and pays for only 75% of the value for the G portion
buy in formula 21
Buy-in formula #2
  • Example: The new owner pays a total of $100,000
  • The full price for the ABC (5% of $500,000 = $25,000)
  • Plus the 75% price for the G (5% of $2,000,000 X .75 = 1,500,00

5% x 1.500,000 = 75,000).

buy in formula 3
Buy-in formula #3
  • Facts: Firm grosses $2m, ABC = $500,000
  • Buys a 5% interest in the G at full price (that is, 100% of current value) and 5% interest in the ABC at full price
buy in formula 31
Buy-in formula #3
  • Example, owners who require the new owner to pay full price for the 5% interest in both the ABC and G, would obtain $125,000.
  • 5% x 500,000 = $25,000 plus
  • 5% x 2,000,000 x 1 = $100,000)
  • This has been a brief overview of what needs to be considered when you bring in a new equity partner.
  • The key is to have crystal clear guidelines for admitting an equity partner.
  • Determine what is right for your firm.

What did I forget to address?

for more information or help
For More Information or Help
  • For a free consultation please contact:

August J. Aquila952-930-1295