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The True Meaning of Partnership

By Bob Denney

When I began consulting, it was my plan to focus on working with corporations. But one of the first calls I received was from the managing partner of one of the international accounting firms. When I said I wasn’t an accountant, he replied, “You don’t need to know accounting. You just need to understand a partnership.” That firm became a client and I began to learn how partnerships should work.

What Partners Are and Are Not

Over time, I came across a short piece that beautifully and succinctly defined a successful partnership. It was exactly the message I had been trying to deliver to law firms and accounting firms. Since then, I have used this piece as the opening section in all my reports and I have seen it change the attitude and culture of many. It’s pretty simple. Here it is:

A good partner is the other partners’ biggest supporter—and severest critic.

A good partner doesn’t just make the other partners look better. A good partner makes the other partners be better.

Successful partnerships are based on four principles:

    1. Change is inevitable. “There is no progress without change.”—John Wooden
    2. Leadership is essential.
    3. Great minds don’t always think alike. They sometimes think differently.
    4. Partners are not independent. They are interdependent.

In a true and successful partnership:

    • The partners look to the future—but often with different perspectives.
    • The statement “we’ve never done it that way” doesn’t end a discussion, it starts it.
    • The partners don’t just share credit, they increase the amount of credit to be shared.
    • Partners do not merely build their own practices, they help feed and grow other business in the firm.

What’s best for the partnership is more important–and ultimately more productive – than the desires of any one person.

Bob Denney is President of Robert Denney Associates, Inc., providing strategic management and marketing counsel to law firms throughout the United States and parts of Canada. A respected speaker and author, his articles appear in many legal publications. His firm publishes the highly regarded reports on “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession.”

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Bob Denney Bob Denney

For 45 years, Bob Denney provided services to over 400 U.S. law firms and legal organizations as well as serving as an outside director and interim CEO for public and privately held companies. At Robert Denney and Associates, Bob provided management, leadership, strategic planning and business development services and was a respected speaker and author.  His articles appeared in many legal publications, but he is best known for producing highly regarded reports on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession. Bob passed away in 2021 at the age of 89.

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