Sharing the Burden of Leadership

How Platinum helped to structure a path for future leaders in a professional services firm to ensure growth after the retirement of key principals.

Situation

A 50-year-old, highly respected engineering and consulting firm was faced with how to manage and grow the business upon the retirement of two senior principals out of only four voting shareholders.The two younger partners were concerned about gaining new business, developing employees, maintaining quality and continuing success of the firm.

Challenges

  • No clear-cut process was in place for identifying how to fill the shoes of the senior partners — who had been the firm’s major rainmakers and project leaders— and still maintain steady growth.
  • No visible process was available for those highly capable professionals in the firm to determine their future career paths, or to offer long term incentives to stay.

Solution

Platinum Consulting was retained to structure a three stage process for the identification and development of future partners. Early steps included framing a vision of future growth and opportunities for success that the original partners all believed in, and identifying the selection criteria for future, effective partners to support this vision. Next, a plan was created and communicated to all the firm’s professionals to demonstrate how the firm was positioned to grow. Platinum facilitated one-on-one, structured conversations between the firm’s partners and high-potential professionals to determine interest in becoming partners.The last step was creating a three level, five-year Associate program that mapped out the expectations for future partners in terms of increased responsibilities, project leadership and new business development. Incentive pay and potential equity in the firm were included in the new program.Those Associates who proved to be effective within three years could be promoted to an Associate Principal level with more leadership involvement through strategic planning and decision-making, in addition to increased incentives. After five years, successful Associate Principals were eligible to become Principals with voting privileges as shareholders.

Results

Over the past four years, the two senior partners retired and the two younger partners have benefited from a broader base of more involved leadership for growth. Of the seven professionals who were originally identified, two have earned Associate Principal status. One of these has recently opened an office in a new market where the firm is experiencing growth.The number of Associates in the program has grown to 14 today. The firm’s revenues have grown by 30% percent each year over the past two years.

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