Congratulations, CPA firms. You're dodging the economic darts better than most folks these days.
You did a great job of managing expenses and keeping costs down during the recession. Your revenues were down a bit, but your net income per partner remained steady. In short, the generally accepted adage is proving true: You were the last ones into the recession, and you were among the first ones out.
That's Mark Koziel's take, anyway. Mark is director of specialized communities and PCPS/ firm practice management at the AICPA, and he's been crunching the numbers from the 2010 National Management of an Accounting Practice (or MAP) Survey. He found a little bit of everything for CPA firms:
Opportunities: The recession and subsequent regulations have turned corporate America into a minefield. Firms can help businesses cross that field unscathed. “Regulation and tax complexity is ever growing,” Koziel said. “Being able to make sense of that complexity for clients is a huge opportunity for firms.”
Challenges: At the same time, firms are businesses too, and they're dealing with many of the same complexities their clients are facing. They kept their expenses in check, but according to Koziel, the real challenge is finding a way to reinvest those savings back into the firm to spur growth.
The future: As time goes on, firms will be bombarded with ever-increasing change and complexity, especially on the technology front. “Firms need to stand up and recognize the technology changes that are taking place,” Koziel said. “Even if they don't want to play in that space today, it's going to come very quickly.” And that circles back to opportunities: Keeping up with these changes not only helps firms, but positions them to help their clients as well.
I spoke with Mark about some of these issues during the 2011 Maryland CPA Summit in Baltimore. Listen to our conversation in its entirety.