How do I stop our firm's partners awarding themselves unaffordable bonuses?

You need to warn the younger partners that these payouts are unsustainable and you fear for the future, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 27 Apr 2016

Q: I've just taken over as the CFO of a professional services firm with about 100 partners. The business has got itself stuck on a bonus treadmill, awarding annual payouts to senior people that only ever seem to go up. The costs are now insupportable, but I am apparently the only one who thinks it's an urgent problem. How do I persuade my fellow turkeys to vote for Christmas?

Jeremy says: As a CFO, you'll know all about due diligence. So I can't help wondering why you didn't undertake a little before accepting this job.

You presumably take your orders from some sub- division of those 100 partners, all of whom have their snouts in the trough. And you're the young newcomer who knows nothing of the firm's rich history and fine traditions, coming in and stirring up trouble.

Your only hope is to divide and rule. There must be some of those partners, because of age and seniority, who'll be gone before disaster finally strikes. It's pointless talking to them; they'll draw the ladder up behind them. You've got to get to the others and scare them witless. Then when they're screaming for mercy, reveal the worked-out rescue plan you prepared earlier. It will certainly be painful but they'll be grateful for anything. They may not grow to love you but they'll know they need you.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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