Benchmarking for Dynamic Strategic Planning 

by Kyle Hawk, CPA, CGMA, CM&AA 

Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk and Loyd, LLC operates a bit differently than a typical CPA firm. We’ve always created our own path, and tend to manage the firm by our people rather than our numbers. We make decisions based on what is best for our team instead of focusing only on the bottom line. However, in order to really position your firm for success, you have to make sure you’re aware of your metrics and how your firm stacks up in the marketplace. Because of this, our firm regularly participates in the biennial AICPA PCPS/ National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey. The survey allows us the opportunity to gauge how our firm compares to the top performers in the profession, and provides insight into the areas we need to focus on in order to continue growing and thriving.

Why We Participate in the MAP Survey

When we initially began participating in the MAP survey, it really helped us to look at our firm in a different light.  Through gathering the data for our firm and then seeing the results of our peers, we are able to both identify the areas where we were performing well and zero in on the areas where we could improve. After completing the survey, we look at these areas of opportunity and strive to implement changes that will address any issues. For example, since the 2014 survey, we have made a number of improvements in terms of benefits, compensation, IT and our consulting niche areas. We have moved to the cloud based network environment and are now utilizing more virtual and remote workers. 

Because the survey is so comprehensive, it does take some time and effort to complete. We have an excellent firm administrator who has been with the firm for over 25 years, and she really does the majority of the “heavy lifting” in completing the survey. She brings partners (typically either our administrative partner, managing partner or myself) in as needed to gather data or get feedback, but she completes around 90% of the survey on her own. Though the survey requires some time to complete, we feel that the value that comes from the results far outweighs the time investment. There isn’t a section in the survey that we don’t analyze and find insightful.

How We Plan to Use Our Results

Our survey results are a direct influence in creating our firm’s strategic plan. We use the survey data to create our own list of key performance indicators (KPIs) that align our firm goals with the information from the survey. We then take this list to our annual partner retreat, do an in-depth analysis of the results to see how our firm compares and build these insights into our strategic plan.

It’s also very helpful to be able to compare our results with other firms of comparable size and geographic region. From a benchmarking perspective, we want to be able to look at firms who are as similar to us as possible. However, it is also always enlightening to see how the top performing firms in the profession separate themselves. This year, we acquired another practice and will now be included in a new firm size comparison based on fees. I’m particularly interested to see how we are performing in comparison to the larger firms who are now our peers.

I would encourage other firms to participate in this year’s survey as the benefits are numerous. Gathering the data can help you look at your firm’s numbers from a new perspective, and the insights you will gain from the results can be a key piece of your firm’s growth and development into the future.

Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, LLC is a medium firm with offices in McPherson, Hutchinson and Wichita, KS. Kyle Hawk CPA, CGMA, CM&AA is a partner. Sign up here before July 15 to participate in the 2016 MAP Survey.


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