CPA Firm Practice Management Feed

CPA Firm Practice Management

CPA Firm Practice Management covers a wide array of topics from succession planning, human capital management and practice development. CPA Firm Practice Management also includes the use of marketing, like social media and SEO, and developing new clients. The Private Companies Practice Section is a membership section of the AICPA consisting of public accounting firms. PCPS’s mission is to make practicing CPAs and their firms successful through education and advocacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

5 Facts Recruiters Need to Know about Millennials

Young-professionalIs your CPA firm involved in the scramble for talent? As I give presentations and work with CPAs around the country, it seems like many CPA firms are in hiring mode. Increasingly, I’m telling these firms that to remain competitive, they must understand their younger recruiting candidates—Millennials. Millennials are the generation born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s.  I tell CPA firms, if they want to get into the Millennial brain, they should be aware of five important facts.

Fact #1: Millennials are poised to take on more responsibility. The oldest members of this generation have now entered their thirties. With about 10 years on the job, they have built the kind of experience that CPA firms need to remain successful. However, if they don’t believe the firm offers them the opportunity to grow and contribute, these younger professionals won’t hesitate to move on to a better option.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Employee surveys or one-to-one discussions can help you better understand staff expectations.

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A Business Model with No Managers? Yes, it Works

Lone-businessmanThere’s a lot of talk within public accounting about altering the existing business model to adapt to a changing marketplace and the evolving needs of our clients and staff. At my six-person firm, we decided to take a leap into the future by completely rethinking our business model. In July 2012, we went from a traditional firm—one with an office and a hierarchy—to a digital practice where there are no managers. Virtual means a lot of things to different people, and for us it meant closing our doors on our traditional office location. We tried it as an experiment beforehand, and it worked so well we decided to switch completely.

At the same time, we also instituted a Results Only Work Environment, in which we rate performance, not attendance. For us, that also meant doing away with the management structure. I lead the firm and set our future direction, but I don’t know what anyone is doing throughout the day. In fact, no one oversees what our team members do all day—or tracks their vacations or time off--as long as they achieve the required results for the firm.

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3 Tips to Find Your Professional True North

CompassFinding your professional true north, a path you can be passionate about and one that will provide you with direction in the future, is attainable – when you have the right navigation. Whether it is honing your personal skill set, positioning your practice for growth or transforming your organization’s technology infrastructure, it is important that you be the navigator. There are endless possibilities to explore, pursue, master and achieve, and it is important you arrive exactly where you want to go.

Keep in mind that finding your way often means asking for directions and talking with others who have already arrived at your desired destination. They can tell you what is not on the map and the best roads to follow to enhance the quality of your journey. Here are three quick tips to find your professional true north:

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Succession Planning: The Talk You Need to Have

Succession-planStrong planning skills are a must for anyone who wants to be at the top of their field. CPAs have these skills in spades. Our fingerprints can be found on the successful business plans of companies throughout the country—from the mom and pop store down the street, to the Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, and everything in between. Helping organizations chart their long-term future makes us indispensable threads in the fabric of the U.S. economy.

Why, then, do so many of us not engage in planning for the long-term future of our own firms?

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The Many Advantages of Defining Your Firm’s Value

Business-meeting

It all began when I did some research on how our firm members could better understand their worth and confidently present their value to clients and others. We settled on an approach in which participants answer questions about who they are, what they do, how and why they do it, what sets them apart and why clients should do business with them. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by really considering the answers to such seemingly simple questions.

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3 Succession Planning Tips from Comedy’s Best

The AICPA hears a lot from CPA firms that are in need of a succession plan, and challenged by acquiring new talent or engaging the next generation of staff. In figuring out how to leave their firm in good hands, I think the profession can learn many lessons from today’s comedy leaders like Lorne Michaels of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Harold Ramis, as Bill Sheridan pointed out in his Feb. 26 post on CPA Success. They’re working a smart succession planning model. They each gather together a group of gifted staff and give them the opportunity to develop their strengths, making for some very valuable broadcast properties.

Through SNL, Lorne Michaels has nurtured a long list of actors who went on to movie or television stardom after cutting their teeth on the show, including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert and John Oliver each have their own shows, and Steve Carrel has had both television and movie hits. A lot of talented people have left each program, but that’s alright because the shows’ successes—and the achievements of their alumni—attract new generations of promising young people who want to come on board.

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The Urge to Merge Continues

With 2013 in our rear view mirror, many want to know what the merger and acquisition marketplace will look like in 2014. I have been involved in anywhere from 75 to 100 M&A deals a year over the last 4-5 years, and over 1000 deals since 1990. My firm’s involvement may include deals which we develop ourselves, or deals in which we are brought in to consult upon.

What we’re seeing is a very steady M&A market with potential for growth in the future. With baby boomers gearing up for retirement, the M&A market among CPA firms could certainly heat up and my firm is fielding a number of calls from practitioners looking for guidance.

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Top 10 Tax Resources for the 2014 Tax Season

Top-tenCaffeine, check. Office supplies, check. Patience for lost or late documents, check. What else do you need for tax season besides, of course, sympathetic family and friends?  Knowledge and technical resources help, as does convenience in finding them – so keep these resources from the AICPA bookmarked to help you prepare returns, manage your office, advise and communicate with clients, and even keep a sense of humor.

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Latest Trends Affecting CPAs

In our last live blog from the 2013 AICPA Insights Live webcast series, Jim Metzler, CPA, AICPA Vice President - Small Firm Interests, Public Practice and Global Alliances, discusses the trends affecting CPAs, the challenges and opportunities practitioners face, as well as best practices being used at successful firms across the country. (Email subscribers: Read the live blog on our website.) Don't forget to register for the last AICPA Insights Live webcast, Worst IT Practices CPAs Can Advise Businesses to Avoid, 1 to 2 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

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Finding the Silver Lining in Succession

Succession-planWhen people talk about succession, they tend to focus on issues such as valuations, buyout amounts, deferred compensation, partnership agreements, the development of new leaders and client retention. Not much is said about the emotional side of succession. Let’s face it: As with any transition, succession hurts. Owners struggle with letting go of the business and the relationships they’ve built,  and the new owners struggle to gain a foothold in their new roles.

Even in a well-planned and executed succession, there are a number of events and circumstances that cause some level of discomfort.  Succession tests the personal and leadership strength of the outgoing owner and, when not recognized, can deflate the excitement of the incoming owners and even threaten their future success. If we acknowledge this side up front, we’ll be better able to set ourselves on a smooth and successful journey. So, what tough challenges should we prepare for on the road to succession?

 

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Would You Recommend the CPA Profession to Your Kid?

Professional-kidsWould you recommend the CPA profession to your kid? This is a question I used to ask the partners of my firm in Buffalo. I did our firm’s recruiting and felt this was an important question, because every new hire was someone’s kid. And in a small market like Buffalo, chances were, I actually knew their parents. I had to look those parents in the eye and tell them that when their child accepted a job with my firm, it was the right career move. I felt it was important for the partners to understand, if there was something in the firm that wasn’t good enough for their own kid, they had the power to fix it.

That same question sparked some lively discussion when I posed it to a group at the AICPA’s E.D.G.E. conference in Austin, Texas, this month. It goes without saying that the CPA profession provides virtually unlimited opportunities, offering a solid set of core competencies that can be put to work in a wide range of situations. Our CPA training and credential have formed a solid stepping stone for many of us, myself certainly included, to a very rewarding career.

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New Gmail Tabs Could Hinder Efforts to Reach Your Customers

Not too long ago, Gmail started rolling out a new layout which features different tabs to group your emails. By default, Gmail users see three tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions. Users can now find their emails on one of these tabs, based on Gmail’s settings. This change doesn’t just affect Gmail through your browser, but also through the Gmail app on your smartphone. (If you access your Gmail through IMAP or Exchange settings on your smartphone, you will still see all emails in one inbox.) Google says it made this change to give users more control of their inbox.

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3 Crucial Areas of Focus for Benchmarking

Maybe it’s an inherent competitiveness or just the pursuit of improvement, but it is commonplace for people to seek out benchmarks that they can use to assess their relative position or performance. It interests people to know how they compare to their peers. Benchmarks have a place in business, too, and can be an invaluable instrument to help business owners succeed.

Trusted-business-adviser

Equipped with an intimate knowledge of their clients’ finances, accountants are uniquely positioned to help their business clients think strategically to achieve success. With assistance from accurate and relevant data, accountants can help their business clients by comparing their financial performance to the performance of their peers. This ability to effectively benchmark is one way to transition from a quarterly tax specialist to a trusted business adviser.

Assuming that accountants are able to get their hands on reliable industry data, it becomes necessary to isolate a few specific metrics that will be especially useful across industries. While different industries and companies measure success in their own unique ways, a few metrics are almost universally indicative of a company’s financial health.

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Selling Your Practice? Make Sure You Cover Your Tail

Insurance-puzzle-pieceMergers and acquisitions and the many issues associated with turning a practice over to new owners are hot topics right now. According to the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, succession planning was a concern for firms of all sizes. Practitioners are aware that a proper transition of clients and staff is crucial, but it’s also important to address questions about potential outstanding liabilities.

How are past claims against a practice handled when one firm is sold or merged into another? I recently received a call from a practitioner asking just that question. She was the sole owner of a three-person firm who was selling to her two employees. She was quite concerned that uncertainties about possible past liabilities might stand in the way of the sale.

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Tapping Into Creativity: The Concept of Intrapreneurship

InnovationIn the U.S., 12.3% of the population is identified as a nascent entrepreneur or owner of a business less than three years old. That is roughly 22 million people between the ages of 18-64. The number is even higher if you factor in the growing number of people who think about owning a business or work inside an organization. And who wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur? They’re passionate, resilient, decisive and fearless. And because of these personality traits, they are often more innovative than their corporate counterparts.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could harness those personality traits in your own organization?

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3 Questions You Should Consider for Your Succession Plan

Succession-planThe AICPA’s Private Company Practice Section recently released results of its 2013 CPA Firm Top Issues Survey and succession planning is among the top 5 concerns for firms with 11 or more professionals. It’s no surprise to me. In fact, I’m elated firms have succession on their minds. My only surprise is that succession planning wasn’t cited as a top concern for all survey respondents.

Succession planning is an issue many CPAs have been avoiding for the last decade or so. Like many of our clients who may be uncomfortable discussing planning finances for a family that will continue to exist without them, we CPAs are in a tad bit of denial about our own mortality. We may not even realize the opportunity we have to establish a legacy and mentor others as we plan for the future of our firms.

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Health Care Reform: The Questions Just Got More Complicated

Health-care-file“What will health reform mean to my small business clients?” That was one of the hot topics identified at the recent AICPA Private Companies Practice Section Executive Committee meeting, and it’s a question that I and my colleagues on the PCPS team have been hearing from CPAs across the country. In addition, in the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, “the effect on firms of new federal and state regulations (i.e., increasing complexity, costs to comply)” was one of the top five issues for sole practitioners, possibly due to increased concerns and client inquiries about implementing provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  PCPS uses the Top Issues Survey results to inform members about the challenges being faced by other firms and to monitor and respond to member needs.

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4 Ways to Attract New Clients

New-clientWhat’s one thing that CPA firm owners can agree on? While the top issues affecting CPA firms vary based on size, bringing in new clients is a common concern for all. That’s one of the many things we learned from the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues survey, which asked CPAs what’s keeping them up at night. The biennial survey, conducted by the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section, reveals the chief concerns of CPA firms like yours.  

We released the results of the Top Issues survey at the AICPA’s Practitioners Symposium TECH+ and AAM Summit on June 11 in Las Vegas. The survey responses are categorized by practice size, with top five concerns lists for sole practitioners and for CPA firms with 2 - 5, 6 - 10, 11 - 20 and 21 or more professionals. The findings offer unique insights into the critical challenges facing practitioners across the country, and enable the AICPA to understand and analyze the trends and challenges, and thus provide appropriate solutions and resources to our members.

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How Specialization Can Improve Your Service Offerings

In our last live blog session from the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit, Jerry Love, CPA, CGMA, ABV, PFS, CFF, CITP of Abilene, Texas, offers insight as to how CPAs can specialize and improve their bottom line. Specializing will:

  • Deepen existing client relationships – with each additional value-added service that you offer a client, they rely on you more heavily as their trusted advisor.
  • Increase the firm’s bottom line with additional revenue streams.
  • Retain staff – specialized services provide staff exposure to a wider array of assignments and fulfilling career paths.

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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What is the Next Generation of CPA Firms?

Join the new generation of CPA who is finding success by reimagining and recreating the traditional CPA firm for the 21st century at the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit.

  • Leverage new technologies.
  • Implement new workflows.
  • Invent new client acquisition and relationship management systems.
  • Improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Grow revenues.
  • Optimize profitability.
  • Embrace value pricing.
  • Kill the billable hour.
  • Attract, nurture and motivate the best talent.

Get ready to renew your commitment – and be inspired anew – to transform your life, and the lives of colleagues and clients for the better.

Join Rick Telberg as he moderates this panel of young CPA professionals including:

  • Jason Deshayes, CPA, Vice President, Butler CPAs, Albuquerque, NM
  • Michael Elliott, CPA, Manager, Dittrick & Associates, Inc., Burton, OH
  • Joy Lizotte, CPA, Owner, Joy L. Lizotte, CPA, LLC, Lake City, FL

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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Are You Using Digital Signatures?

Kicking off day two of the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit is the session "What‘s in the Future for Digital Signatures?." Business in general, and the CPA profession specifically, have long sought a solution to the inefficiencies of ink and paper-based signatures. Has technology finally solved the problem or do we continue to wait? There are many popular “solutions,” but do they really solve the problem(s)? This session, presented by Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA2Biz, a subsidiary of the AICPA, and Brian Fox, CPA, founder of Confirmation.com, will define the problems and compare and contrast some of the proposed solutions. (Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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New Taxes and the Cost of Healthcare and Insurance

The 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit takes place June 10 to 12 in Las Vegas. I am live blogging from select sessions throughout the three days. The first session is "The Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business: New Taxes and the Cost of Healthcare and Insurance" with Mark Dietrich, CPA/ABV, of Framingham, Mass. Mark wrote a prelude on AICPA Insights which generated a lot of interest and conversation.

This session covers the Accountable Care Act, which is the most significant and costly social spending legislation since the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Its impact extends beyond health insurance, and envisions a system of regulation and taxation that aims to restrict the impact that income has on access to healthcare, except the wealthiest top .1% (one-tenth of 1%) of taxpayers. (Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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Small Businesses and Health Care Reform – What Now?

Health-care-reformThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform) seeks to change the way health insurance premiums are established, just as the Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care did in Massachusetts. As CPAs’ small business clients begin to implement the requirements of health care reform, CPAs need to understand two significant ways in which their small business clients, and their own small practices, may be affected.

The Small Group Insurance Market and Increasing Premiums

The first big change that health care reform brings is the prospect of “merging” (formally or via rating rules) the small group insurance market with the individual insurance market. The individual market typically has the highest costs of all the health insurance markets due to the actuarial risk of a single covered life and the time and expense of selling single policies. The small group market, historically 50 employees or less, but in the case of health care reform, 100 employees or less (mandated to expand the risk pool base of small businesses who might also absorb the cost of the merged individual market), is significantly less risky and thus has lower premiums. As has been the case in Massachusetts, if the formal merger of the two markets’ risk pools takes place in your state, it may cause small business premiums to increase dramatically. If you or your client presently have more than 50 employees and are covered in your state’s existing large group market risk pool, premiums could rise once the small group level increase to 100 employees becomes effective in 2014.

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10 Skills for Mapping Your Journey to Partnership

Partner-handshakeDo you have firm partnership in your sights? If so, good for you! Although there is no “one size fits all” approach for a senior manager to become partner, there are steps CPAs can take to strengthen their skills, expand their knowledge and develop personal characteristics that can bring them closer to achieving their goal. Beyond working hard to stand out, here are some things we did that helped us better position ourselves to become partners at our firm, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC. You may want to consider these tips as you set out on the road to partnership.

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How Unlimited Vacation Works in My CPA Firm

Exotic_vacationBefore starting my own CPA firm, I worked at a large, national accounting firm and found I was never actually able to use up my three weeks of annual vacation time. However, when I went to work for a local boutique CPA firm, I only got ten annual vacation days. There was also no policy for telecommuting and no flexible schedules or incentives for being more efficient than expected, such as being rewarded with more paid time off. “Face time” in the office ruled. Initially, I was okay with limited vacation, but a couple of years in, I realized that I would really value more flexibility as part of my compensation package.

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Virtual Work Teams Are Coming

Virtual-teamAs the economy continues to recover, the impending retirement of our nation’s Baby Boomers will create a labor shortage far greater than any we have experienced in the U.S. Professionals with the right skills will have their choice of employment opportunities, which will drive demand – and salaries – up. CPA firms that provide truly motivational and engaging environments will win the recruiting and retention race.

That’s why learning to manage the challenges and possibilities of virtual work teams is a must for today’s current and emerging partners. The need for increased workplace flexibility generates passionate conversations by CPA firm leaders and team members. Employees are challenged to keep a steady balance between their work and their personal lives as demands in each continuously change. Some aren’t willing to make the firm their top priority.

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How Would an Unlimited Vacation Policy Work in Your CPA Firm?

Tropical-island-getaway-vacation

After this crazy, compressed tax season, you and your employees are certainly ready and deserve a vacation. But do you give your employees enough vacation time? How much paid vacation time is enough? Can you imagine that the answer might someday be “as much as they want?” Some companies are shifting toward an unlimited vacation policy because they believe it can enhance morale and minimize stress. Although only 1% of organizations offer unlimited paid time off, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, it is surprisingly most often used at smaller organizations. There are a number of advantages to offering unlimited vacation time in your CPA firm. They include:

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2013 TTI Survey Lists Top 10 Technology Initiatives in U.S. and Canada

TechnologyTechnology allows CPA firms to better understand, manage and grow their practices. Yet, it can come with its own set of challenges when trying to manage and retain data, secure IT environments and stay in compliance, according to the latest top technology initiatives survey from the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance Division.

The 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, conducted jointly by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, asked accounting professionals in public accounting, business and industry, consulting, government, not-for-profit and other organizations about their top 10 technology initiatives in 2013. Here's the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada:

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What I Learned from 10,000 Tweets

TweetingEarlier this month CPA Letter Daily’s Twitter account (@CPALetter_Daily) reached the milestone of 10,000 tweets. And with more than 15,000 followers, we’re one of the most popular AICPA Twitter accounts. Despite these milestones, I don’t know the secrets of Twitter any more than you do, but there are a few things I learned along the way to 10,000 that may help you with your Twitter opportunities. Here are seven easy-to-follow tips:

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Host a “Welcome to Tax Season” Celebration

"The Bruce Dickinson" (Christopher W..."The Bruce Dickinson" (Christopher Walken) delivering the iconic phrase "...more cowbell!" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we enter one of the most anticipated times of the year, why not host a celebration to mark its arrival? You know, show the business community that you are excited about this special season.

“Are you C-R-A-Z-Y?” you might be asking. It’s tax time. Parties are just not what we do right now.

This year, maybe it’s time for a change. Do something different. Welcome the arrival of tax season with clients and friends of the firm. After all, it’s your time to shine. Embrace your place in the spotlight.  

Take a tip from movie producers and best-selling authors who hold premiere parties when they release new films and books. Believe it or not, there are a number of strategies that you can adapt from their attention grabbing events. Even though your firm isn’t likely to have such an extravagant budget, you can achieve the same results with a simple gathering. It’s all about getting your audience excited! Not to mention spreading the word about your firm with viral conversation starters such as “Guess where I’m going tonight?” or “You will never believe who threw such a great party last evening.”

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What’s the Difference Between Winning and Losing?

3 Tips for Ensuring You’re Coaching a Winning Team

Vince-lombardi-statueI’m a sports fan. And I’m the mother of two athletic teenage boys. I’ve watched a lot of ball games over the years, and I’d like to think I’ve learned a little bit about coaching. Recently, I watched a basketball game where the home team lost, but should have won. 

Why do I think they lost?  Coaching.

Despite the team’s collective talent, the coach allowed selfish play and poor execution without consequence.  More importantly, he failed to adjust his strategies to counter the opposing team's strengths. Occasionally, talent alone suffices in order to win a game. Most times, however, how that talent is deployed makes the difference between success and failure.

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Tax Season: Our Time to Shine

Tax-seasonIt’s almost tax season once again. Can you think of a better way to kick off 2013 than adopting a fresh approach to this ever important time of year?

Here’s a thought: What if we all agree to tell a new story this tax season? Instead of framing it as a time to work your fingers to the bone, embrace the notion that tax season is your time to shine. Don’t you owe it to yourself, your colleagues and your clients to let the world know that you love tax time? After all, it’s what you have studied for and worked toward throughout your career. Even better, it’s the time when the world looks to the CPA profession for its tax smarts and number savvy, problem solving know-how.

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The Defining Dozen: 12 Metrics CPA Firms Should Track

Business-metricsThis time of year, CPA firms are thinking and planning ahead for their busiest season. That makes now a good time to consider whether your CPA firm will be operating at peak efficiency. Is your CPA firm making the most of current relationships and doing all it can to expand into new ones? While there are many metrics CPA firms use to evaluate quantitative performance, here are 12 metrics than can provide more qualitative feedback. These metrics can help CPA firms measure their reach with clients and provide insight into how well processes already in place are helping to identify opportunities with clients.

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An Interview with AICPA President and CEO on 2013

Barry_Melancon

The following is an interview with AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA. He was asked to share his thoughts about some of the major issues and trends that will affect CPAs in 2013.  

 

In the coming year, we will see the first efforts of the Private Company Council. What changes can CPAs and the companies they serve expect to see?

The Financial Accounting Foundation’s Private Company Council was created to address issues affecting companies that need GAAP-based financial statements. The PCC only recently began meeting, and will be weighing in on existing standards and ones in development. Private company accounting stakeholders are expecting prompt action by the PCC in modifying GAAP to bring more relevance and simplification to financial reporting.

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CPAs Play a Significant Role in Technology Adoption [INFOGRAPHIC]

According to the Digital CPA Survey, released over the weekend at Digital CPA: 2012 CPA2Biz Cloud User Conference, an overwhelming majority of CPAs say they have a role to play in technology adoption for their clients. Only 17% of CPAs say they play a minimal role or no part in helping clients embrace cloud, mobile and other emerging technologies that can improve business decision-making. Based on the survey results, the following infographic was developed (click on the image to make it bigger). Feel free to share with others.

CPAs-Role-in-Technology

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Experiment Will Affect All CPAs

Windows 8 PresentationWindows 8 Presentation (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

Remember when Microsoft was the 800-pound gorilla, the dominant software maker, the most valuable company in the world? That was about the time when Microsoft invested $150 million to save rival Apple from bankruptcy.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Apple has risen from the ashes to become the hottest company on Earth—a corporate behemoth that, for a time earlier this year, boasted the highest market capitalization in history, a claim Microsoft once could make.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has slipped from its perch on top of the corporate world and while it is still a business giant nowhere near a bankruptcy filing, the business shift from desktops and laptops to mobile devices and the cloud has put Microsoft in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind.

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Preparing New Leaders Starts with Succession Planning

Vision-conceptWhat does it take to be a leader in your organization? Every accounting firm should be able to answer that question. And, more importantly, the answer should be known to future leaders so they clearly understand what they have to do to advance, especially when senior partners start to retire.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but the 2012 PCPS Succession Survey for multi-owner firms reveals that only 15 percent of firms have a leadership training plan in place. Couple that with the fact that the number one perceived challenge to succession planning is that senior partners lack confidence in those moving up the ranks, and you have a major roadblock to a firm’s health, longevity and ultimate survival.

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Selling a Business or Advising a Seller? Tips to Navigate the Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal cliffWith about 10 weeks left in the calendar year, it would be difficult for even the most motivated business owners to complete their company’s sale by Dec. 31, unless they’re already in process.

Some owners are hustling to get that process done to avoid falling over the tax cliff set to take effect Jan. 1. But the principles of selling a business apply no matter what the calendar says, according to Scott Miller, CPA/ABV, an expert presenter for the Oct. 30 Journal of Accountancy webcast, Inside Buyout Basics and the Tax Cliff: A Timely Combination.

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3 Myths of Succession Planning

Sometimes we CPAs are blind to our own advice. We spend hours every day working with clients, steering them toward financial prosperity, helping them prepare for retirement and ensuring their businesses thrive well into the future. What are we doing for own practices? Not always enough.

Although succession planning is a proven strategy for achieving long-term firm goals, the 2012 PCPS Succession Survey reveals that only 46 percent of multi-owner firms have a written, approved succession plan. In addition, six percent of sole proprietors have a practice continuation agreement however, that’s only a first step toward developing a full succession plan.

Dispelling the following three common myths may help further grow succession planning’s role in practice management. It may also help CPAs reap a succession plan’s full benefits—client and staff retention, a more comfortable retirement and the peace of mind that comes from being prepared for the future.

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What is a ‘Digital CPA’?

Digital CPA

There’s no question technology is having a huge impact on how CPAs and their clients conduct business, but the adoption rate isn’t uniform within the profession. Some practitioners are taking a wait-and-see approach. Others are sticking their toes in the water. And still another group is fully embracing technology and all that it promises—integrating innovation throughout their firm’s processes and workflows and becoming digitally present in today’s online world.

At CPA2Biz, we use the term ‘Digital CPA’ to describe the latter category. The Digital CPA harnesses the power of the cloud, the broad use of mobile devices and a carefully calibrated online presence to attract clients and build new service lines. It’s inevitable the entire profession will arrive at this same place one day – and that day isn’t far off.

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Value Pricing: Aligning Your Interests with Those of Your Clients

The days of providing services first and billing later are dwindling. As this blog post by Jim Boomer, CIO of Boomer Consulting, Inc. indicates, an increasing number of accounting firms are moving into the digital age and transitioning their practices from billing in arrears to value pricing strategies, in order to better align their interests with those of their clients.

Billing: Where's the Real Client Value?

Value pricingAccounting firms have been billing for, well, forever. Billing may make sense to you as a practitioner, but it may not to your clients.  The truth of the matter is, clients are often baffled by that final bill―which can result in them questioning the real value of your services, or even worse, causing them to look for a better deal elsewhere.

Clients explain the scope of their project (taxes, auditing and the like), firms do the work, tally up the hours spent by partners, junior associates and administrative assistants and send out a bill for services rendered. However, as most firms can attest, a client's reaction to that bill is rarely, “Well that's not so bad at all!” Instead, it will result in an angry client creating perceived indifference between the firm and the client—the number one reason why clients leave. It isn’t about the price, it’s about the surprise of the price. Then before you know it, the client leaves.

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Optimizing Your CPA Firm for Local Search

More than 167 million people will shop online this year. Social commerce sales are expected to total $9.2 billion by the end of this year and could climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015. Consumers are not just shopping for the latest gadget; they’re buying everything from groceries to professional services, including those offered by your CPA firm.

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Expanding Your CPA Services to the Government

Federal-spending-on-financial-services-FY-2011In today’s economic climate, even with budget cuts on the horizon, the U.S. government is the largest consumer in the world. Yet, for many businesses -- small businesses in particular -- the thought of doing business with the federal government can be headache-inducing. Last year, the federal government spent more than $850 million on financial services. Just more than half of this was spent with CPAs; the remaining half was spent on other financial services, including debt collection.

The demand is there, but is it possible for a small CPA firm to capture a portion of this market? While well-established Fortune 500 firms have a definitive advantage in the contracting industry, the federal government has taken steps to level the playing field and create a more small-business-friendly environment. Two examples of this are small business goaling and set-aside contracts. 

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4 Pieces of Advice to Help Clients Collect Money Faster

Imagine having more than 1 out of every 3 dollars you’ve earned tied up and inaccessible.

That’s money you can’t use to advertise, to develop new products and services, or to hire employees.

For many business owners, that scenario is a day-to-day reality as they sit with 40 percent or more of their assets tied up in accounts receivable. Obviously, when it comes to money that your clients are owed, they want to collect as quickly as possible.

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4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Online Presence

Manage online presenceIt’s important for any CPA firm to have a strong presence online. According to Local Search Usage Study: Bridging the Caps, From Search to Sales, 70% of consumers go online first for local business information. Are potential clients finding your firm? Not only do you want to be easy to find in cyberspace, but you also want to present yourself as an expert and trusted financial advisor. A simple website is a start, but is not enough to give you an edge in today’s competitive environment. In order to find new clients, and keep the ones you already have, focus your efforts on ways to boost your online presence. I have found that even small efforts go a long way toward a more prolific online presence.

Here are four steps to raise your online credibility and widen your client base in the process.

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National MAP Survey Provides Insight to CPA Firms

National MAP SurveyIt’s valuable to have a perspective on the current state of firms, no matter your role in the CPA profession. Knowing the existing best practices in areas such as staffing, training and technology is important. The 2012 PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey, which is being fielded now through July 20, provides you the opportunity to expand your knowledge base on these hot topics. This comprehensive look at CPA firms’ key strategic data is the largest firm practice management survey project of its kind. Contribute your answers to the survey and you’ll have access to the results when complete.

A unique benchmarking tool, the PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey reveals key performance indicators broken down by firm size and region so that it’s possible to make meaningful comparisons among firms. It also assesses how firms are doing and spots emerging trends.

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5 Ways to Lose Money on Your Engagements

As CPAs we are experts in determining profitability and well aware of the components that go into it.  We do a great job coaching clients in the manufacturing or construction business on the factors they need to manage in order to improve or maintain margin on a product or construction job. Yet despite our coaching, many great clients continue to experience eroding margins year to year. Their attention to what it takes to manage profitability seems to fade away. For us who are CPA firm business owners, we are no different. Owning a business, including a CPA firm, is full of distractions, time demands, fires to extinguish, dates and people to manage, new compliance demands and complexities, etc. Like our clients, we know what we should be doing, but the pressures of the busy season somehow cause us to take our eye off the ball.

Here is my list of the top five ways to erode the profitability of CPA firm engagements.

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Why Social Media Participation Can Be Good for CPAs

Social mediaCPAs may justifiably be wary of sharing personal and professional information on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  After all, many CPAs spend their days verifying facts in the form of numbers – and adding “notes” in financial statements when there is any question of the veracity of those facts.  How then could these same CPAs be comfortable tweeting about the newest changes in the LIFO accounting procedures or writing a blog post on whether book authors should deduct their home office on their income tax returns?

Welcome to the brand new world of online relationship building, where being willing to “put yourself out there” on social media can help you connect with current and prospective clients.

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Use Video to Showcase Your Firm’s Personality

Lights. Camera. Snooze.

Video is a great medium for firms to educate and inform staff, clients and potential employees. But sometimes the content can be a little mundane. Why not take those formal interviews and how-to series to the next level?

Pull back the curtain and let people know what you are really like. 

Put a face to your firm. What are your employees passionate about? Is volunteerism important to you? Showcase your staff or fellow CPAs giving back to the community, like the Virginia Society of CPAs and the Illinois CPA Society did in their CPA Day of Service videos.

 

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Five Ways to Lose Your Best Clients

Maintain your clients

There are 29 million private businesses in this country, and every one of them needs their CPA like never before. Today’s complexities and post-recession external forces have made even the simplest business decisions difficult. As practicing CPAs, we face the very difficult dilemma of getting all the calendar year financial statements and tax returns out in a timely manner or seizing the time to capitalize on the opportunity to get deeper with clients and provide the value they seek from us. We all know what we should be doing, but the pressures of the busy season always seem to override them.

For decades practice management surveys consistently revealed that the main reason clients leave their CPA is a perceived indifference on the part of the CPA/CPA firm. CPAs care passionately about their clients. So what is it that we do to give our clients the feeling that we don’t?

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