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Rainmakers: Exclusive Club Members

A recent conference of CPA partners revealed – yet again – that partner compensation remains one of two top concerns for firm owners (the other one is retention). Fairly compensating superb technicians, extraordinary administrators and revenue-enhancing rainmakers is still one of the most challenging equations in the professions.

After 14 years working with accountants and lawyers, here is what I have observed: almost without fail, the compensation system will favor those who bring in business over those who do not. It also seems to me that rainmakers have much more influence in their firms than pure technicians or administrators. It doesn’t mean they are more capable or concerned than their colleagues; it just means that their voices are clearer, bolder, maybe even louder – so their opinions typically are heard more often. And I’ll bet that if you surveyed your employees and asked who was the most admired in your firm, rainmakers would be at the top of the list. We can argue ad nauseum whether this is right or wrong, but it does appear to be true.

So if we are looking at this from a self-interested perspective, it would naturally follow that ambitious professionals who want to be and heard and respected within their firms and well compensated by their firms would make some attempt to bring in clients, or to get more work from current clients. But that doesn’t happen very often, which is why rainmakers remain members of a rather exclusive club.

There are several reasons: fear of trying something new, systems that reward only billable time, lack of business development skill, and partnership career paths that exclude business development training or requirements.

The good news is I think most CPAs and lawyers are beyond the point where they view bringing in business as unprofessional. At worst, they view it as a necessary evil. Believe it or not, this is progress. Now, if we could just move from that point to consciously creating firm cultures where business development efforts and results are supported and recognized, we could certainly increase membership in the rainmaker club.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009