herding cats 

how to engage partners in the firm’s future


the secrets every leader needs to know

by august j. aquila and robert j. lees

with an introduction by patrick j. mckenna and
preface by gale crosley cpa

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buy this book with the companion volume leadership at its strongest

partners are the culture in a professional services firm – what they believe, what they reward, what they do and how they do it determines what and how things get done.

and, if they don’t believe in what the firm is doing, they will never be effective role models who think firm first and actively bring the whole of the firm’s services to their clients.

here the authors identify six major challenges that multi-partner, multi-office firms need to address to engage their partners and to ensure everyone moves forward together.

they are:

  1. un-motivational firm vision.
  2. lack of clearly defined core values.
  3. lack of clarity around what being a partner means.
  4. ineffective or non-existent partner performance reviews.
  5. performance systems that are not tied to strategic initiatives.
  6. lack of successful firm leaders.

most firms consider these six challenges to be merely “touchy-feely” aspects of running a professional services firm. they take time to implement and the common response is that “we have clients to serve and this stuff just detracts us from our real job.”

but unless you embrace these challenges and get your partners actively engaged and performing for the firm and its future, you may find yourself without clients and without a viable future.


how to use this book

about the authors

introduction by patrick j. mckenna

preface by gale crosley

chapter 1: engaging partners in the firm’s future

chapter 2: building a bridge or welding girders together?

review questions for chapter 2: vision.

chapter 3: what do core values have to do with it?

review questions for chapter 3: core values

chapter 4: what does being a partner mean?

review questions for chapter 4: being a partner

chapter 5: tie performance systems to strategic initiatives

review questions for chapter 5: performance systems

chapter 6: how to use compensation to keep partners engaged

review questions for chapter 6: compensation and rewards

chapter 7: what successful managing partners do

review questions for chapter 7: insufficient managing partners


key concepts in review


about the authors


august j. aquila is an internationally known speaker, consultant and author and has held leading positions in the accounting profession for more than 25 years. he is ceo of aquila global advisors, a full-service consulting firm to accounting and other professional service firms in the us, canada uk and india. august focuses his consulting on designing compensation plans, resolving organizational and partner issues, transition planning and developing strategic plans.

before starting aquila global advisors, he held several executive leadership positions with american express tax and business services, inc. he was also a partner in a top-50 firm and regional marketing director for coopers & lybrand (now pwc) in chicago. in 2003 he was elected into the association for accounting marketing’s hall of fame and has been selected as one of the “top 100 most influential people in the accounting profession” by accounting today for several years.

he is the author of hundreds of articles and several books on practice management; mergers and acquisitions and compensation plan designs. recent books include the ca firm of the future (bombay ca society, 2013), performance is everything (aicpa 2012), compensation as a strategic asset (aicpa 2007) and client at the core (john wiley & sons 2004). august is also a co-author, with robert j. lees and derek klyhn, of leadership at its strongest: what successful managing partners do (bay street group llc, 2013), the ground-breaking research on how managing partners drive improvements in their firm’s competitive and financial performance.


robert j. lees is widely known for his expertise in the development of leaders of professional service firms and the creation and implementation of strategies that make a discernible difference to individual and firm performance. rob advises leaders across the globe and his clients include top tier firms in the law, accounting, and management consulting.

rob has spent nearly 20 years either consulting to professional services firm leaders or in senior positions in professional service firms. he was global head of human resources for ernst & young, head of ernst & young’s global leadership institute, and global head of workforce effectiveness for morgan stanley. before joining ernst & young, rob was human resources and marketing director of a large uk-based multiple retail company. he has also spent time on the faculty of manchester business school, and held a number of senior positions in human resources and learning in major uk companies. rob is a co-author, with professors tom delong and jack gabarro from harvard business school’s world-renowned leading professional service firms program, of the best-selling book when professionals have to lead. tom, jack and rob have also had an article on why mentoring is critical in professional service firms in the 100th edition of the harvard business review, and several articles on leadership in professional service firms in journals in both the uk and the usa.

rob is also a co-author, with august j. aquila and derek klyhn, of leadership at its strongest: what successful managing partners do (bay street group llc, 2013), the ground-breaking research on how superior managing partners drive improvements in their firm’s competitive and financial performance.

in addition to his book and articles, rob has authored several cases on critical issues in professional service firms, including business development, cross-selling, improving practice performance, strategy development, and implementation, and change.

browse all of august aquila’s best-sellers here

how to engage partners in the firm’s future


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