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CPA Firms are at a Crossroads - 2012 and Beyond

Strategy choices signAs I travel the country meeting with small firm owners, I am finding that most have weathered the recession. Most firms report flat revenue or very moderate growth (1-3%). Firms have done a good job sharpening the pencil and controlling expenses effectively, and this has enabled them to keep their bottom lines respectable. They are running lean and mean today; but what about tomorrow? 

The market is still constrained and firm revenues are projected to be flat through 2012 at least. The millions of small businesses in this country are still stuck in neutral, and unlike many public companies, they are tight on cash, feeling constraints on their credit lines, not hiring and not yet making the investments necessary to grow their businesses. For many clients, their marketplace and industries have changed -- never to return to what they once were. Today’s complexity in new regulations and legislation adds to the time lag in making key decisions for their businesses.

Across the country, firms are at a crossroads today. There has never been a more important time for them to engage in serious planning to consider where they need to go in 2012 and beyond. One road to take is to hold on and hope that things get better. The other is to take a hard look at their own firm’s DNA, marketplace, clients, services and demographic makeup. I have found that many firms do not have a very effective planning process for their own business. They may have an annual retreat for a few days and clean up a number of old problems, only to return to the same old tune when they get back. Busy sole small firm practitioners are the same in that few take a day or two away from the office to plan their business’s future. 

The CPA Horizons 2025 Report is a must-read for firms committed to the business planning process with a strong desire to build long-term strength. In future blogs, I will give my view of the insights revealed in the report and what firms need to be seriously considering for sustainable success. Download the CPA Horizons 2025 Report and let me know what you found of greatest interest.

James C. Metzler, CPA, Vice President – Small Firm Interests, American Institute of CPAs.

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