Why did I do it? I started with hopes and dreams. I believed I could make a difference. I no longer want to kick the cat. I want to kill it. My evenings have turned from a nice glass of wine to half a bottle of scotch. Why did it come to this?

Suicide Mission?

It's never easy taking on the role of a practice manager. You're neither partner nor staff.  You can sit in this limbo land between both. In some firms, partners feel that they can veto every decision and in others staff will sometimes work around you and go opinion shopping with the partners when they don't like a decision. 

So many practice managers depart disillusioned, lacking the authority to manage effectively or support of the partners who are often unwilling to delegate. It can be a very frustrating place to be. 

And yet, in some firms they can be very effective and have very satisfying careers. Taking day to day practice management issues away from the partners has to be a good thing. Really, partners should only have a a few roles:

  1. Partners should love the clients to death building deep relationships and become the client's confidant and trusted advisor

  2. Partners should love the staff to death, mentoring them and coaching them to be as effective as they can be. 

  3. Partners should create the appropriate business strategy, culture, governance and accountability frameworks for the business to operate effectively. 

  4. Partners should build the firm's profile in the business community, build their personal networks, speak at events - all to drive new business. 

Everything else can be delegated. That means that responsibility for the day to day operations can be delegated. This is where the practice manager comes in. Unlike the partners, the practice manager's client is the firm. Their sole focus is the firm's performance. Once the partners have created the appropriate operating frameworks for the business, the practice manager should then have responsibility and accountability for implementation and day to day operations. 

That means partners need to let go. Governance frameworks would still ensure they have oversight through management meetings. This of course is easier said than done, particularly in firms where there was no practice manager previously. It's hard for business owners to take their hands off the wheel and let someone else drive and yet it is doing exactly that which is a key to success. 

Of course it's not just up to the partners. Practice managers need to masters of relationship management. They need to win the confidence of partners and staff alike. They need to skills to drive change, often in the behaviour of the partners themselves. They need the confidence to challenge the status quo which can often be difficult when they may not have a full grasp of the work undertaken by the accounting teams. They need to be thinking beyond the here and now and create an environment where the leadership team embraces change and actively embraces new opportunities and threats.

Partners are often terrible at implementing accountability and appropriate performance measures (often because they don't want to have the personal accountability). This is where a practice manager has a key role to implement and manage the accountability framework across the entire firm so that desired outcomes are achieved. A great practice manager, managing accountability effectively, can make a huge difference/

There are many successful practice managers. Everyone can improve, however. It was why we developed a specific workshop programme dedicated to this special group of professionals. Join us for our 2016 Practice Manager's Workshop coming up in Sydney on 22 July.

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David Smith Smithink