Why are my expenses so much higher in one category than those for other similar-size firms? What makes my realization rates different? To be able to compare your own key performance indicators (KPIs) to those of your peers and gain these insights can be a real eye opener. It can provide a wake-up call about needed improvements—or about things you’re getting right. Unfortunately, though, small firms rarely have a chance to find out this depth of customized benchmarking data.
My six-person firm did find that chance many years ago, though, when we began participating in the precursor to today’s PCPS/CPA.com National Management of an Accounting Practice Survey. Your firm can also take part in this unique study—and there are many good reasons to do it.
The results offer participants a wealth of detail. Firms that participate don’t simply receive the results, they get a personalized report in an Excel workbook that compares their responses to those of firms with similar net client fees, in the same region, and against top performing firms. You don’t have to be a PCPS member to participate, but if your firm is a member you receive bonuses such as PowerPoint trend reports and a simple click allows you to run customized filters and related reports.
You may learn new things about your firm. The survey results were always highly anticipated in my firm. The entire process offered us the chance to discover interesting insights into our own financials. Our firm’s expenses for entertainment and education were a little higher than our peers’, for example, but we decided that was consistent with our commitment to client relationships and training in our specialized niche. The results allowed us to evaluate where we stood based on how well our peers were doing. Do you have more or fewer staff than other firms with similar revenues? Are your utilization rates the same? If small firms want answers to these questions, the PCPS/CPA.com National MAP Survey is one of the very few places they might find them.
There’s a new streamlined survey in 2018 that involves less time and effort. This year, it’s even easier to get your results and customized reports. The information you receive is focused on the KPIs that practitioners have identified as most important to them. We’ve been able to shorten the survey from nearly 300 data inputs in the past down to about 50 or 60 while maintaining the primary benchmarks for firms and other valuable data.
The results are easy to put to work immediately. You can now see your results at the push of a button. You can verify your data in real time and see your overall firm results as soon as your data entry is complete.
You can track your own progress. Your data is retained from survey to survey so that you have a singular opportunity to monitor developments over time, spotting trends you want to address and checking progress toward your goals. This history of your firm can be a valuable decision making and strategic planning tool.
You can peer into the future. The survey results provide a unique chance to see what your future might look like down the road. While all practitioners will want to understand how they compare with their peers, those that are seeking to grow can examine the data for firm size categories that are one or two steps bigger than their current firm size. Using real firm data, you can run the numbers to see what growth will look like and more easily determine how to get there.
The Time Is Now
It’s always tough for small firm practitioners to know how their financial and other results stack up against the rest of the profession. The PCPS/CPA.com National MAP Survey can provide valuable answers. The 2018 survey is being fielded through July 16. (Participants who have begun the survey before the deadline will have until July 31st to complete it.) I urge you to participate and make the most of this useful resource.
Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA is the Association’s Vice President of Small Firm Interests. Have questions for Carl? Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-252-4618. And be sure to sign up for Carl’s Small Firm Update webcasts. The next one will take place on June 7 at 2:00 to 3:00 PM ET.