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The CPA Firm Management Association

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA) is the new name of the Association for Accounting Administration, a membership organization for accounting firm managers. Along with the name change, the association's website (https://www.cpafma.org) is completely updated and offers resources and education covering a variety of subjects, such as partner issues, human resources, technology, and marketing and business development. Members have additional access to best practices, salary surveys, a lending library of more than 250 books, and a searchable member directory. CPAFMA associates with several organizations and makes some outside firm management-related resources easily accessible through its website. The News main page is a particularly good place to check for current information and coming events (http://bit.ly/1Himo0A).

Firm Administrator Resources

CPAFMA Professional Guidelines: “Core Values of a Firm Manager” is a two-page framework of the fundamental principles that the organization recommends as standards for accounting firm managers (available at http://bit.ly/1P34SA9). One such principle, independence, recommends keeping political activities separate from the practice, never making investments based on inside knowledge, and exercising prudence and restraint in financial affairs. Professional responsibility, on the other hand, is more outward looking and includes presenting a positive image of the firm to all parties.

MAPCasts are interactive web conferences that address a variety of practice management issues, including technology, human resources, and risk management. The programs are offered every one or two months, provide downloadable handouts, and run 60 minutes; the cost is $40 for nonmembers and $25 for members, with unlimited attendance at the user's location. Past seminars are available as podcasts, but are not available for CPE credit or interaction with the presenter (http://bit.ly/1N4iKUb).

The CPAFMA website offers access to NAPLIA's (North American Professional Liability Insurance Agency) ProSecure free 60-minute webinar episodes on loss prevention. So far, they've covered the most common sources of claims against the firm, who owns engagement files, and what to do if a subpoena is received. Future episodes are slated to address issues such as engagement and management letters, and claims for failure to detect fraud exposure from third-party reliance on the CPA firm's work (http://bit.ly/1YpzjSH).

The website also offers industry links to more than 30 websites for accounting firm associations, such as Accountants Global Network and Moore Stephens International, as well as accounting news and practice resources, such as the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). One of the best features is a drop-down list of state CPA societies that locates access to all of the states in one place (http://bit.ly/1Ib6D6n).

The CPAFMA job market is available to members and potential members. Employers can post jobs and review submitted resumes. Candidates can post their resumes and search open positions. This employment resource is that it is targeted to CPA firms, generally administrative needs, and is housed solely on the CPAFMA website (http://bit.ly/1le11TC).

The State of the Firm

CPAFMA offers access to the free executive summaries or purchase of the full reports for two recently released Inside Public Accounting (IPA) reports. The annual “Firm Administration Report” for 2015, sponsored by the CPA-FMA, is a must-read for CPAs to see what their fellow practitioners are doing, and includes responses from managing partners and other administrators at 121 U.S. non–Big Four firms. The data covers firm governance, professional and employment liability, human resources, marketing, information technology, charge hour budgets and profitability, client workflow, and tax return processing, among many other topics. Participating firms experienced an average of 5% revenue growth, and more than half track their profits by office, department, and client, but only 39% report profit by staff. Example best practices followed by the majority of respondents include a formal client acceptance process, procedures to trigger not starting new projects for nonpaying clients, and updating partnership agreements within the past three years. One area that was seriously lacking is rewarding staff for business development from existing or new clients (http://bit.ly/1Ypztt7).

IPA's “National Benchmarking Report” for 2015 provides key takeaways for CPA firms. The study summarizes data reported by over 500 firms for gross revenues and net income, charge and work hours, partner and staff compensation, governance, and staffing. For all but the smallest firms, net revenue increased between 4.5% and 7.9%, led by increases in business advisory services, litigation support, and wealth management services. Net income also increased from 4% to 10%, and net income per partner increased on average 3.5%. Interestingly, average professional staff compensation decreased, driven by turnover from more experienced staff leaving a larger percentage of less experienced staff to carry the assignments. In a related statistic, partner charge hours rose for all but the largest firms, indicating that partners were performing more client work and less “partner-level work” (http://bit.ly/1NLumMv).


The SBA Learning Center provides business owners and their advisors with more than 50 free online training courses that address starting a business, managing a business, financing, marketing, and government contracting (http://1.usa.gov/1tBT2h8). CPAs can inform their clients of the topical presentations that might provide some needed expertise for the business owner. But CPAs are business owners, too, and may find some of these courses beneficial for their own practices.

The training webinars are self-paced and include an index to allow the user easily repeat content coverage or move ahead to specific topics. Each course includes a resource link that contains over a dozen tools, such as consumer credit data, U.S. Bureau of Economic Statistics, employment statistics, and other data sources. The individual training sessions takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, and participants can receive course completion confirmation from the SBA.

Each webinar includes a text-based accessible version, downloadable in PDF format. The transcripts average 10 to 14 pages in length and include contact information for SBA assistance, links to related SBA articles and tools, and connections to the nearest SBA assistance. Many courses include worksheets or checklists that are worth downloading for stand-alone use.

Suggested webcasts for CPAs:

  • Understanding Your Customer

  • Market Research

  • Introduction to Pricing

  • Pricing Models for Successful Businesses

  • Competitive Advantage

  • Establishing Values for Your Company

  • Small Business Employee Recruitment and Retention

Suggested webcasts for assisting clients:

  • How to Write a Business Plan

  • Buying a Business

  • Finding and Attracting Investors

  • Financing Options for Small Businesses

  • Growing an Established Company

  • Selling Your Business

  • Strategic Planning

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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