Benchmarking to Prepare for the Future 

by Andrea L. Campbell, CPA.CITP 

I originally joined my firm in 1989, when it was under the ownership of another CPA. I became a partner in 1997 and then eventually bought out my partner at the end of 2013. Now I am a sole practitioner, though I do have one part time staff who assists with tax work. Around 90% of the work my firm does is completed by myself. As a solo, I have a new set of concerns for my firm so it’s especially important for me to be mindful of how my firm is performing in relation to my peers. I need to be diligent about tracking my numbers to ensure my firm is in line for success. One way that I collect and organize this data is by participating in the AICPA PCPS/ National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey.

Why I Participate in the MAP Survey

One unique aspect of being a sole practitioner is that my future depends entirely on the performance of my firm. For example, my husband and I recently met with our personal financial planner and were discussing plans for retirement. Though I have many years left ahead of me, I realize that the success of my firm greatly affects the life my family will have once I eventually decide to retire. The MAP survey provides an easy and organized way to collect key firm data and, through continued participation, track how my firm is performing over time. Then, as I’m having meetings like those with my financial planner, I have comparative data readily available.

I also use the MAP survey to benchmark my firm’s performance and see how I compare to other firms my size. I actively participate in the PCPS 2005 Small Firm Networking Group, which allows me a forum to discuss my most pressing practice management issues with other small firm owners. However, while these meetings are an incredibly valuable resource, we don’t have the opportunity to analyze all of our firm numbers at each meeting. The MAP survey allows me to take a broad look at the black and white figures and see how my firm stacks up. While it is nice to look at the national and regional reports to compare my practice across all firms in the profession, I mainly utilize the firm size reports for benchmarking. Since geography can affect billing rates and staff compensation, looking at the data broken down by firm size is most helpful for me.

How I Plan to Use the Results

My firm has a high emphasis on technology and I use technology to make myself and my clients more productive and efficient. I am also a Certified Information Technology Professional, so it’s important to me that my firm is maximizing its use of technology. That’s why this year, I’m interested to look at the technology section of the MAP survey in particular. I will be very interested to see what other firms my size are investing in that area and how my costs align.

The value of the MAP survey is well worth the effort it takes to complete. I would especially encourage other small firms or sole practitioners to participate. It’s not often we get such a thorough look into how other firms our size are doing business. And while the benchmarking results may not radically change the way you manage your practice it does provide valuable insight into how your firm is performing and allow for better decision making as you move into the future.

Andrea L. Campbell, CPA.CITP is a sole practitioner based in West Bloomfield, MI. She also has one part time staff. Sign up here before July 15 to participate in the 2016 MAP Survey.


© 2017 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. All rights reserved.