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5 Advantages of Completing the National MAP Survey

Survey-groupI often meet CPAs who are committed to enhancing their practices but are missing crucial intelligence that would allow them to benchmark their results against those of similar firms. If you could use thorough and meaningful data on how you compare with the competition, but you’re not sure how to get it, the AICPA PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey is your answer. The profession’s premier benchmarking study, which remains in the field until July 31, the National MAP Survey, offers participating CPAs a comprehensive platform to perform a personalized diagnostic review of their firm every two years, deriving important takeaways. The new dynamic reporting options make it easy to download reports in a variety of modes, including Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files, based on each firm’s needs.

Here are five reasons to participate:

  1. Peer-to-peer comparisons: Survey results include key metrics broken down by firm size and geographic location. “It’s really comprehensive,” and because of the data breakdowns, “you’re comparing apples to apples,” Jackie Tracy of two-partner Mandel & Tracy, LLC, in Providence, Rhode Island, told me. Firms can compare their data with results from their peers to spot their own strengths and weaknesses. Bea Nahon, a sole practitioner from Kirkland, Washington says, “not only does it tell me what my peers are doing, but it also prompts me to consider changes I can make to improve my own practice.” Firms can make immediate changes that set them apart as a leading practice.
  2. The chance to redefine success: “This is a great tool,” said Joel Olbricht, of the 15-person Olbricht Storniolo Group, LLC, in Hampstead, New Hampshire, when we discussed the survey’s value. “The reward for a couple of hours of my time is a report telling me how our statistics line up against our competition in New England. I also find out how we compare with the highest-performing [U.S.] firms, which is important to me,” he says. One side benefit is the chance to track his firm’s results over time. “That makes participation in the MAP Survey more and more valuable each year.”
  3. Benchmarking vital information: The survey provides benchmarking opportunities for a long list of critical metrics. For example, billing rates are a key concern for Tracy. “The survey gives us a sense of how our rates compare with others of our size or larger practices, [as well as] firms in our region or across the board,” she says. “I can focus on measures that mean something in our practice.”

    Since staffing is a concern, even with her small firm of three professionals, Nahon finds it useful to learn how firms of her size and in her region are handling compensation and benefits. “Knowing what your peers are doing—what’s worked for them and what hasn’t—is great guidance,” she says. 

    When I talked to Debbi Warden, the founder of The Business Manager, LLC, in Greenwood Village, Colorado, she was happy to find that her numbers for billability, utilization and realization stacked up well against those of other firms, and that her write-offs were much smaller than the norm. “We learned what we’re doing right,” she says. “For the staff, it really reinforced the importance of how they track their time, which has helped us be more efficient.” The positive comparisons have also given Warden fresh confidence in her firm and her practice management choices.
  4. A basis for crucial conversations: Olbricht, who has four partners, recommends presenting the survey data at a partner retreat. “It’s the basis of some great discussion,” he says. “The survey asks for just the right amount of information. It drives good results.”
  5. An easy-to-use template for organizing internal information: Completing the survey is “a really good experience that every CPA should have,” says Warden. “I found I didn’t have the data I needed for the survey at my fingertips, which prompted me to reorganize the way I collect information.” The National MAP survey may also cause you to consider metrics that you may not have tracked previously.

    During his first year of participation, Olbricht learned what practice management information was required, and now completing the survey “has become a streamlined process, especially with the new software this year.” And the fact that it’s possible to save [your survey] answers and return later with more detail is an added convenience, Tracy says.

    Nahon found the survey process well worth the effort. “This is information you should be using to make decisions in your practice, and now you have it at your fingertips,” she says. “And I know the data is treated professionally and confidentially.”

I am enthusiastic about the changes that have been made to the survey platform for 2014. There is an infinite number of downloadable, metric-specific reporting options that will be accessible after results are released. I know that your firm is sure to benefit from the extensive, targeted information available in the AICPA PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey.  Please take advantage of all it has to offer by getting started on the survey today so that you’re able to submit your data before the July 31 deadline. “You have to keep your finger on the pulse of your firm,” concludes Warden.  “…the survey gives you a wealth of valuable information [to do that].” The National MAP Survey is just one of the many initiatives sponsored by PCPS on behalf of the profession. To learn more about what PCPS offers, visit aicpa.org/pcps.

Cindy Frey, CPA, CGMA, Project Manager - PCPS/Firm Services, American Institute of CPAs. Cindy’s more than twenty years’ experience in the profession includes small firm and financial accounting in not-for-profit as well as business and industry.

Survey group image via Shutterstock

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