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Different types of partners

Eight posts in 2 days, not bad. Since I've caught up on questions, wanted to blog about something I've been meaning to touch on -

Partner personalities fascinate me. In the beginning, I thought it took a certain kind of personality to become a partner. But having worked with so many partners over the years, I've realized that there is a wide diaspora of personalities that make it to the big leagues. Let's break it down -

a) the partier - These are the partners that are all about client service, not so much the audit work. They come in, chat with the clients, set up dinners, hang out with the audit team, talk about the issues at a very high level, and then head out. They are rarely in the office, and you always wonder what they do on a daily basis.
At the same time, you really want to be like them. These partners are great to have when you're hoping to reduce work, set up happy hours, etc. but when it comes to accounting issues, good luck.

b) the i-don't-give-a-shit partner: These are the partners who just don't care about most issues. You bring up an issue, they ask you to come up with a solution, and then either say yes or no. Most issues are just not big issues, and they'll probably end up siding with the client in that it's not material. In order to survive as such, they'll make sure to pad their teams with rock stars so they can relax at home. They probably work 3-4 days a week, and rarely a full day.

c) the unresponsive partner: These are the partners you have to email/call 10-11 times to respond. Only other way to get their attention is to ambush them in their office. They'll then bring up issues at the last minute when you don't have time, so you have to scramble to work overtime in order to address their issues. Problem with these unresponsive partners is that they always have good questions right towards the end.

d) the anal partner: Oh how I hate these types of partners. Once you reach partner, you'd think your level of review/requirements would go down, but for these partners, it actually goes up. This makes life for the senior manager - manager hell. You'll ask for all sorts of memorandums on everything and anything. Every little issue needs to be addressed. H-A-T-E working with them.

e) the reasonable partner - These are partners who know what they're talking about, understand that the Firm's requirements are sometimes unreasonable, and don't add undue burdens on the teams. They're good to work for since they can help explain how things work for you, and at the same time, make sure you contribute your worth to the team.

f) the jerk - This is the partner who is both unreasonable and unresponsive. He or she then blames you for not doing your job, even though you didn't receive the right guidance on what he or she is looking for. Because of the unresponsiveness, you take matters into your own hands, and are then reprimanded at the last minute when the partner actually reviews the work. They will make your life hell and make you want to quit. I know of a few who either quit or did everything in their power to roll off these specific jobs. I've been lucky so far, but don't want to jinx it.

g) the know-it-all: This is the partner who just talks, and talks, and talks. They actually like what they're doing and love explaining things to you, even though you probably don't understand half of it because it's so technical. They are very good at what they do, and you can always go to them with questions, but you will invariably end up doing more work and tackling more issues because of them. Not saying it's a bad thing, but still.

I'm sure I missed various other personality types. Feel free to touch on them in the comments section.


Anonymous said…
I recently caught up with a friend in NYC who recently started as an audit associate at a Big 4.

One thing that I found interesting was how he told me about the way work stations and cubicles are set up. Left, top, and right sides are all covered with steep sidings resulting in a very anti-social work environment.

I also asked him if he's had a chance to befriend co-workers, and he said no - people don't talk to each other unless they have to and people dread working in teams (i.e. it's just a requirement of the job, not actually very team-oriented).

Are Audit jobs this depressing of an environment? At least in some finance and consulting jobs you have bullpens and chance to be collegial with people in your level. I guess not so at all in the accounting world? Are people really that boring and fit the stereotypes?
Anonymous said…
Definitely seen a majority of those listed. Fortunately, the partner at my largest client has a very engaging personality - always willing to explain everything to the fullest in terms of the audit realm.

Is it difficult to move to a different office location within the same Big 4 Firm? How do you approach this and how important is the timing?
Anonymous said…
Oops, wanted to address the first post - I think it's very different across geographical locations, firms, and down to the very teams. To my knowledge, the Big 4 firms recruit heavily on personality, teamwork, communications, etc. (pretty much soft skills) after the initial resume review. With that being said, the Big 4s are usually structured like a pyramid, meaning the largest portion of the firm are people in the same age group, making it easy to connect and "hang out." (similar to the bullpens you were referring to). It's really what you make of it.
Anonymous said…
Nice blog, keep it up :) I certainly recognize the description for different partners.

Just recently started working for the big 4, and I'm enjoying it so far. There's alot of stuff I need to get into, with a steep learning curve, which I guess is everything you look for in a first job :) I'm not sure whether or not this is what I want to do for the rest of my life though. This depends of course on what type of career I can make for myself within my firm.

So I was wondering, I keep hearing that having experience from any of the big 4 on your CV is a major advantage in looking for other jobs. But what kind of jobs specifically? Is it limited to just accounting/controller jobs, or are there other types of jobs where a "big 4 background" is held in high regard.

Also, how are the possibilities of moving from audit work to consultant/advisory work within the same firm?
Anonymous said…
I am really glad I've found your blog. It provided a lot of answers to my questions. Thanks!

I'm currently a first year senior in the tax practice for a big 4 firm. The experience so far is nice but I've been thinking a lot about switching to audit. The reasons being, I feel like audit has so much more exit opportunities (Controller, CFO, Partner etc), you get to learn how company operate, and you can basically find a job anywhere in the world not just limited to US. As for tax, I feel like once you are a tax guy, you will always labeled as a tax guy so your exit opportunities will only be limited to jobs related to US tax. Is my understanding correct?

Also, do you think it is a good idea for me to switch given I've invested 3 years in the tax field already? And would I be starting over as a first year audit staff and would I need to take a pay cut? please advise!
Anonymous said…
in regards to the tax senior looking to switch to audit - DO IT.

first of all, i do not think you will be a 1st year if you switch.if your firm has the need, they might slot you in as a 2nd year. an audit 5th year at my big 4 firm transferred to tax and they brought him in as a 2nd-3rd year.

and yes - audit has better exit opportunities available. i would highly recommend doing the switch. im not sure all big 4 tax works the same, but it is usually management and above that interacts with the client. in audit, you are the one doing all the interacting. you are face to face with CFOs, controllers, asst controllers, managers, senior accts and etc on a daily basis. and if you can make a good impression that can go a long way. hope this helped
Anonymous said…
Thank you!
Anonymous said…
I work for a Big 4 in Europe and I want to continue my carreer in USA (in audit if possible). My firm encourages the international carreers but I think it's not that easy.
Do you know anyone that has moved from Europe to USA? How it worked? Hard to fit in? Is it hard to adapt yourshelf to the local GAAP?
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Hi, I have been an auditor with a small audit firm for the past 6 years, i have been applying to all the big 4's(even associate positions), i am an asst mgr now. but have not received any calls or interviews...could you provide any insight?
Anonymous said…
Great Blog!

I have an interesting scenario for the industry experts... I've been working in law enforcement for 8 years as a street cop in a big city, but I really want to get into forensic accounting. I'm working on an accounting certificate (36 quarter units - enough to sit for my state's CPA when combined with my BA) and I almost completed my MBA in fraud. Would I need to start from the bottom as a staff auditor? Is it possible to become a good auditor without being a straight A accounting student (assuming I've done really well in auditing courses)? How quickly could I work into the forensics side of a big firm? Would they even hire me at this juncture, considering I'm 30? Any insight is helpful!
Anonymous said…
For those of us trying to get out of audit, do you propose being specific regarding client experience on the resume (eg "Caterpillar") or ambiguous (eg "Fortune 500 industrials).
Anonymous said…
Are there any cool people who are Auditors? They have a funny/nice personality but they are Super Auditors and are perfect @ their jobs.

Also have you ever had a really good auditor leave w/o warning? Like you found out the day they were leaving.
Anonymous said…

Great blog!! I discovered it last week when I was in the middle of a hectic work period. I thinks this gives you the picture of an Big4 Auditor’s life with his good and “not so good” points.

I will try to read old posts as I think you write very well and tell very interesting things about auditing.

Just a confession: some years ago, I seriously thought about joining one of the four Audit Firms to start a new path in my career, but finally I switched my decision and moved into a different kind of company….right choice? Who knows!!!, at least this blog helps me to guess how my life could have been…;-)

Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!!!
Anonymous said…
Future-Partner said:

Cheers, man!!

Really nice blog.... I have learned a lot about auditing companies (specially the main 4) and thanks to all your posts over these years, and all the experiences you have shared here I have decided that in the near future I want to pass my CPA exam and will focus on building a career in auditing.

Wish you the best in the future, you really deserve it!!!

Anonymous said…
You pose a good scenario.

My background is big 4 audit in Australia, 6 years experience. In answer to your question, you would have great opportunities to join a big 4 firm for a number of reasons.

First, the firms are tending to look towards candidates with other worldly experience than straight uni student. Particularly from roles with significant soft skills, as this is how we build our business.

Secondly, you obviously have a passion for your chosen path. I would be doing everything to get myself in front at career fairs, cpa meets/seminars etc... ideally at one of the larger offices as not all big 4 offices in the US would have a forensic division.

Good luck!
Anonymous said…
I really enjoy your blog. As a soon to be graduate going into one of the big four in a few months there are some really interesting topics to read!

On a side note, did you stop blogging? As far as I can see there are quite a while since your last post :/
Anonymous said…
This is the BEST blog I have ever seen in my whole life. I am seriously thinking about joining a BIG4 here in my country, Portugal (you now economic conditions are really tough here) and I could learn a lot about their ways of working thanks to your posts.
Please, post again, it´s been a long time since your last one and I am really excited to read you again and learn more about a daily auditor´s life.
I promise not to drink the kool-aid (at least in my first year, I guess) :-)
Muito obrigado.
Anonymous said…
Hi dude,

What has happened to the blog? I think this is one of the best ones I have read in my whole life. Hope you update it soon, for me is like reading about my daily work routines.

Thanks a lot for the time you have dedicated (and hope you will be dedicating) to it.

Anonymous said…
notfordisplay said…
Thank you, I appreciate the compliments.
Cindy Mkhabela said…
thanks a million very insightful even though I am still a student. The kind of people we work with when we have group assignments might be one of the partners I may have to work with in future, I might as well learn how to deal with them know while I'm still studying so by the time I start working it won't be a surprise.
lindelwa dzimba said…
I suggest that you prepare yourself because there will be more of those people when you start working. Therefore, you just have to get used to working with such people.

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