Get the Answers You Need: The National MAP Survey 

by Carl Peterson, CPA 
Published June 08, 2016

You know everything there is to know about your own firm: How well you did last quarter and last year, your realization and utilization figures and what kinds of technology solutions you have in place. But do you know whether your firm is providing competitive compensation and benefits or if your billing rates are on par with others in your region? That’s what’s tough to know, and it’s the kind of concern that keeps practitioners up at night. 

If you’re worrying about how your own numbers stack up against firms like yours and how well positioned you are for possible growth, you can find the answers when you participate in the CPA profession’s premier benchmarking study: the AICPA PCPS CPA.com National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey. Why should you participate? I’ll answer that question and more.

What Is It?
This benchmarking opportunity covers all the key performance indicators that matter to firm owners and partners. It examines critical practice management issues, making it possible to compare your financial performance and operations to those of other firms, as well as gain strategic insights into building a more profitable and rewarding practice. You can benchmark your practice against same-sized firms regionally and nationally.

What’s New This Year?
The survey is regularly streamlined and the dynamic platform introduced in 2014 makes it easier to complete and more useful to your practice. Those who’ve participated in the past will notice updated content that reflects up-to-the-minute practice management concerns. When results are released this fall, users will find it simple to filter, analyze and drill down to the data you need most.

What’s In It For Me?
Taking part allows you to tap into a database of information on financial results, benefits offerings, staffing choices and many more critical indicators. It’s free to participate, and everyone who does receives a free personalized report with over 100 data points that include key performance metrics such as billing rates, salaries, hours charged/ compensated, services as a percentage of fees, major income statement statistics and more. The comprehensive report, which is free to PCPS members, features an additional 100+ performance metrics, valuable ratios and statistical analysis, as well as access to dynamic online reporting options. If you’re not a PCPS member, you can receive the comprehensive report by joining PCPS for a nominal fee.

Of course, PCPS also scrutinizes the survey results to broaden the AICPA’s understanding of practice issues and develop programs and resources that will truly meet your needs. 
 
How Can I Use the Results?
By reviewing the data, you can quickly spotlight areas where your results are stronger than those of other similar size firms, giving you valuable reassurance about your management choices. Just as important, the comparisons can alert you to where you fall behind others in the same size range so that you can rethink your approach. The results will also highlight emerging trends in the profession that should be on your radar. And if you plan to grow, results from slightly larger firms can help you get a better handle on what you’re aiming for and enable you to more clearly define your growth goals.

How Can I Get Firm Members Involved?
As is the case in most small firms, when I was in practice, my firm administrator/office manager had a solid understanding of our financials and our policies and procedures, and she was very invested in our firm success. Your administrative staff can be great resources when entering information and reviewing the numbers. And no matter what your objectives, the data, which will be available in the fall, can inspire some valuable discussions in firm brainstorming sessions. Whether you choose to share some or all of the data with your firm members, reviewing results together can enhance your firm’s culture and improve moral. You can create a sense of excitement about the best ways to build on success or fine tune weaker areas. For solo practitioners, the data can offer a rare perspective on the world outside your firm and spur your own thinking about your future.
 
Your Firm Matters
New users have until July 15 to sign-up and all users will have until July 31 to complete data entry. Depending on firm size, it can take one to three hours to complete, but it’s well worth it because it’s hard to put a value on what the results can do for your practice. The results have always reflected a broad population of firms in all sizes and regions, but the more firms that take part, the better the picture we’ll get of current practice. I urge you to participate this year. I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll be amazed at the insights and ideas it can generate.

Carl Peterson, CPA, is the AICPA’s Vice President of Small Firm Interests.  Have questions for Carl? Contact him directly at cpeterson@aicpa.org or 651-252-4618. Also, be sure to tune into his free Small Firm Update webcasts throughout the year.
 




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