What’s Keeping Leaders at Small to Midsized Accounting Firms Up at Night?

Highlights from the CPA Firm Management Association 2016 National Practice Management Conference

We had the pleasure of attending the CPA Firm Management Association 2016 National Practice Management Conference in late June.  The conference provided an opportunity for firm leaders, administrators and service providers to network and share best practices.  The agenda and conversations seemed to revolve around a few key topics, highlighting the issues that keep firm leaders up at night.  Below are some highlights of the two key topics and discussions shared over sessions, roundtables and networking conversations.

Recruiting and Retaining Talent

dreamstime_xs_41136928Over half of the sessions at this year’s conference revolved around recruiting or retention.  Session topics included employee balance and wellness, diversity and inclusion, using technology for recruiting, and attracting and engaging great people.  Each of the roundtable lunch-and-learn discussions included recruiting and retention as their most popular topics, regardless of firm size.  During my participation in the roundtable for firms with 50-75 people, the group shared some of their best practices on the topic of recruiting.  Many participants in our discussion treat recruiting as a continuous process, not just something to do as positions open.  They post for hard-to-find positions, such as seniors or experienced tax professionals, on a weekly or monthly basis on job boards, their websites and LinkedIn.  A few participants shared that they use both internal and external recruiters to call on talent in the area.  Many also talked about the importance of getting involved early in a prospective employee’s career, beginning investment and networking with college accounting clubs and professors. The topics of recruiting and retention have been part of ongoing discussions with our clients for a few years, and we see these as continuing issues for many firms.

Technology Integration and Adoption

Technology was also a popular topic, both in the sessions and as part of the exhibits.  Many of the service providers exhibiting at the conference had technology offerings.  Attendees wanted to know how technology could be integrated (e.g. how can document management, billing and practice management flow seamlessly) and how they could get their firms to adopt and actually use what they implemented.  For integration, many shared success stories for partial success – getting a few of their programs to work together.  But, for the most part, attendees were still frustrated that there wasn’t a clear leading solution.  All recommended speaking with multiple technology providers and even engaging a technology consultant, depending on how intricate your firm operations are.  For adoption, the clear recommendation was adding a human element to the technology.  One way to do this is to identify a champion within the firm that can own the process and be a source for training and encouraging people to use selected software.  Additionally, many firms cross-train accounting and tax staff and administrators to help leverage the workload, creating efficiency and increasing adoption.  Here are some ideas that Inovautus Consulting has shared on the topic of technology – everything from CRM to practice management.

There were some amazing speakers and topics at the conference. If you contact us, we would be happy to refer you to some of the speakers and exhibitors that we met.  We also encourage you to contact CPA FMA to learn about their other events and conferences that can provide insights for your firms.

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