how to herd cats 

effective partner relations and communication

the complete guide for effective communication in cpa firms

by marc rosenberg cpa and ellen rosenberg phd

marc rosenberg and dr. ellen rosenberg, an experienced clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience in private practice, collaborated in the writing of this monograph. they have worked together on cpa firm projects involving partner relations issues, and their experiences are chronicled in this monograph.

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this monograph guides you through all of the issues, considerations and details related to creating strong, functional relationships between partners and effective communication throughout your firm. the goal of the monograph is to strengthen cpa firms through effective communications.

topics include

  • the causes of difficulties among partners
  • groundwork for forming partner relationships
  • partner collegiality vs. accountability
  • how to be a good partner to your partners
  • choosing the right partner from the outset
  • when it is best for partners to stay together and when it is best to part
  • communication: what it means, why it’s important
  • how to have effective partner meetings
  • what partners should talk to each other about
  • health and psychological issues
  • why partner conflict is good and how to resolve it
  • partner relations issues for women and for men

from the introduction

one of the most difficult issues for cpa firm partners is the relationships and communication between partners and the resulting, inevitable conflicts. unless the partners of a firm work reasonably well together, it is almost impossible for them to achieve results that are any different than a union of solos would accomplish practicing under one roof while sharing staff and overhead.

when partners don’t work well together, the success of their firm is threatened, in at least eight ways:

  1. management is weak because the partners don’t trust each other.
  2. partners point fingers at each other when important duties go unattended.
  3. accountability is non-existent.
  4. the staff are demoralized by the mixed messages they get from partners who are not on the same page.
  5. staff don’t stay around long because of the obvious signs of partner strife. they certainly would never want to be partners with this group of disgruntled people.
  6. clients are under-served because firm partners’ expertise isn’t shared.
  7. prospects are lost when partners refuse to team sell.
  8. innovation and visioning stop because partners are focused on work in the “here and now” and don’t spend time innovating and developing a vision for their firm.

until the partners of a firm learn how to get along and work well together, problems such as those listed above remain unresolved and can paralyze the organization. indeed, there have been several occasions throughout my career in which i declined to work with a firm (on a project such as strategic planning) because i saw right away that the firm and its partner relations were so dysfunctional. i knew that my work and the fees they would pay me would be a waste of time and money.

– marc rosenberg, cpa

table of contents


chapter 1: setting the ground rules of the partner relationship

“call me now or call me later”

basic ground rules that should be established upfront

partner collegiality vs. accountability: can we have both

choosing the right partner from the outset

bringing in a new partner: thresholds and core competencies

firms should not allow transgressions

chapter 2: communication

poor communication: we know it when we see it

how do we define good partner communication?

forums for partner communication

partner meetings

partner retreats

informal forums for partner communication

chapter 3: what being a good partner is all about

how to be a “good partner” to your partners

what do partners owe their firm?

partner teamwork

partner performance feedback

a partner performance evaluation form

managing under-performing partners

chapter 4: why partners should stay together (or part company)

when is it best for partners to stay together and when is it best to part?

why should partners stay together?

chapter 5: resolving partner conflict healthy disagreements – why conflict is good

examples of partner conflict

resolving conflict

chapter 6: health and psychological issues

important personal health issues

a few words about men

a few words about women


about the author

marc rosenberg, cpa

卡塔尔世界杯常规比赛时间 commentator marc rosenberg is a nationally known consultant, author, speaker on cpa firm management, strategy and partner issues.

president of his own chicago-based consulting firm, the rosenberg associates, he is founder of the most authoritative annual survey of mid-sized cpa firm performance statistics in the country, the rosenberg survey, available here from the 卡塔尔世界杯常规比赛时间 store. he has consulted with more than 700 firms throughout his 20+ year consulting career.

accounting today magazine annually acknowledges marc rosenberg as one of the 100 most influential people in the cpa profession and inside public accounting has repeatedly recognized him as one of the ten most recommended cpa firm consultants in the country.

click here to see him on 卡塔尔世界杯常规比赛时间.

effective partner relations and communication