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17 Game Changing Ideas for CPA Firms to Join Forces and Get Ahead

HamburgerAre you ready for the McWhopper? Recently, fast food behemoths Burger King and McDonald’s announced they would partner up to create a pop-up venture featuring the hybrid mega sandwich for a charitable cause. With such heated competition in the quick-eats restaurant industry, the two companies have struggled to maintain marketshare. While a merger is nowhere on the horizon, a short-term partnership, which has already garnered the two some much-needed positive PR, seems like a win-win.

Coopetition, where competition meets cooperation, is not new, but may be more pervasive as businesses seek innovative ways to capture customers’ attention. The dynamics of business, risk and competition have evolved, creating opportunities for businesses to consider unlikely partnerships, complementary resources or diverse skill sets to supplement their offerings. Coopetition could mean developing complex relationships, or combinging forces with simple tactics for maximum gain. A recent Forbes article cited how unofficial coopetition occurs in mundane ways, for instance at networking events.

Your firm can benefit from more deliberate partnership with peers, from cost sharing to talent sharing. My team of CPAs supporting the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS), most of whom come from the small firm space, have these ideas on how you can use coopetition to better foster and attract talent, share ideas, staff or expenses, serve the community and position your practice in the marketplace. The benefits are limitless: from creating efficiencies and saving money, to developing a more agile team and gaining recognition as an employer of choice in your community. Consider these ideas:

Foster and attract talent:

1) Co-mentor a high school student

2) Combine resources to fund a college scholarship for a local student interested in pursuing accounting

3) Jointly train and share an intern

4) Co-sponsor a booth at a recruiting event at your local university

5) Co-sponsor a job posting on an online site:

5a) Work together to identify strong candidates

5b) Pool resources to fly the best candidates to a central location where you can both interview them.

6) Co-host a staff training session

Share ideas, staff or expenses:

7) Collectively brainstorm ideas about technology platforms

8) Cooperate and help neighboring firms’ up-and-coming practitioners gain much-needed audit hours to pursue the CPA by assigning them some of your audit work

9) Share office space or equipment to help one another economize

10) Leverage PCPS Networking Groups to idea-share in person or virtually with same-sized firms all over the U.S.

Serve the community:

11) Compete against one another in a local charity race or fundraising drive

12) Serve on an NFP board together

13) Start a cooperative one-day, pop-up tax service for those in need in your community

Position yourself in the marketplace:

14) Develop a strategic alliance of firms that performs supplemental or complementary services to those that your firms provides

15) Lean on your alliance firms when you have staff out on maternity or sick leave, or tied up with other projects

16) Co-host a small business summit for local business owners

17) Co-develop and deliver a small business training course

The AICPA has a number of tools and resources to help you achieve your coopetition goals.

  • The Forming Alliances with Other Firms resource is just one piece of the AICPA’s PCPS Invigorate the Focus on Quality Toolkit available to all CPAs. This particular tool can help you expand your services and drive quality by developing a network of peers.
  • The Tax Practitioner’s Toolkit and CPA Marketing Toolkit for Small Businesses contain a number of resources that can help you as you host events in your community.
  • The PCPS Human Capital Center, for PCPS members, houses resources to help you set up mentoring and internship programs and assess, develop and attract talent.
  • PCPS member firms, especially smaller practices, can benefit from the Section’s relationship with Accountingfly, an accounting specific job board and network. Create a free profile on accountingfly’s job board and become automatically eligible to participate in their Meet the Firms Week program for free. And here’s a related coopetition suggestion: You could partner with another small firm to promote a dual-firm internship. Through Accountingfly’s site, you can co-produce a video that highlights why working for two different firms in the same locale is a benefit for prospective interns while expanding your reach to attract the best candidates for your internship program. 

Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, Vice President, Firm Services & Global Alliances, American Institute of CPAs. 

Hamburger courtesy of Shutterstock.

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