Profits certainly help

What Really Makes CPA Firms Profitable?

The Rosenberg Associates; $95

The question in the title of What Really Makes CPA Firms Profitable? led us to the Micawberish thought that it must have something to do with income exceeding expenditure. While that's certainly a requirement for profitability, firm management expert (and perennial member of our Top 100 People list) Marc Rosenberg goes far beyond it in this monograph, with a host of best practices and strategies to improve your firm's profits in a wide range of areas that include benchmarking, partner relations, marketing, and more. Given its valuable advice on maximizing profit, it could just as easily have been titled What Makes CPA Firms Really Profitable.

 

Stage left, even

Business Exit Planning: Options, Value Enhancement, and Transaction Management for Business Owners

Wiley Finance; $75

Even though all the firms you know are either merging with or being acquired by all the other firms you know, don't be fooled into thinking that M&A is the only option for exiting a business. A wide range of possibilities exists for your clients who are business owners, from public offerings to ESOPs to liquidation. Business Exit Planning goes into all of them, but more important, it lays out the steps for creating a comprehensive exit plan, including the actual method of exit. With a wealth of real-life examples, the book will be invaluable in helping you advise clients on making a graceful exit, and may even help you a little, too.

 

Not so rhetorical

The Fraud Triangle: Fraudulent Executives, Complicit Auditors and Intolerable Public Injury

CreateSpace; $19

Before his recent death, trial lawyer Allan Littman aimed to answer the usually rhetorical question, "Where were the auditors?" In The Fraud Triangle, he places them squarely at the heart of recent scandals, not as fraudsters themselves, but for failing in what he saw as their duty to expose fraud on their watch. He outlines a history of the auditing profession in which it downplayed its role to detect and prevent fraud in order to win more non-audit business from clients, aided at every step by complicit regulators. All in all, a fairly scathing indictment, and a cry for auditors to live up to the higher standards of the profession.

 

Beyond Dickens

Winning CFOs: Implementing and Applying Better Practices

Wiley Corporate F&A; $60

Charles Dickens was a great author, and his literary works will live forever. His accounting processes, on the other, shouldn't, but as Winning CFOs points out, many of them seem to be just as long-lived as Bleak House. The book is an excellent guide for bringing a company's finance functions out of the Victorian Age and into the 21st century, with best practices and strategies on everything from speeding up reporting, improving analysis, managing the team, and communicating with the C-suite. It includes plenty of templates, questionnaires, draft memos and checklists to speed the way, and a companion Web site with all sorts of electronic media to help.

 

Grow and die

Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top, and Stay There

Harvard Business Review Press; $29.95

All businesses go through a cycle of birth, growth and eventual death - just ask buggy whip manufacturers, corset makers, or print journalists. We here at New Products are resigned to the eventual gentle decline of our livelihoods, but those with more interest in their businesses will be glad to learn from Jumping the S-Curve that there is a way to circumvent the natural cycle by foreseeing and moving into new areas. It's not easy, however: The method the book lays out involves a combination of insight, dedication and discipline that many will find daunting. To start, you have to cultivate your ability to identify significant market insights that will give your business a new lease on life; then, you have to develop a set of integrated and distinctive capabilities, as well as a stable of talented high performers to meet your needs; and finally, you have to time your jump more or less perfectly. It requires a lot of hard work and talent, but the book includes many examples of companies that have successfully negotiated the change, so those who want to up-end the natural cycle will know that there's hope.

 

True consultants

The Consulting Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Expand a Seven-Figure Consulting Practice

Wiley; $19.95

It's becoming more common to see "and Business Advisors" tacked on at the end of CPA firm names, but it's not always clear if the firm is truly embracing consulting as the equal of its usual tax and accounting work. If it is, it would be wise to read The Consulting Bible to get an idea of what makes a true consultant - and a successful one. Author Alan Weiss has some very specific ideas on the subject, starting with the basic premise that consultants need to consider themselves partners, not employees, of their clients. From there, he goes on to offer detailed, often counter-intuitive advice on everything from whether you need staff and how to create proposals, to how to value your services and structure engagements, and much more.

 

Credible sources

Business Confidential: Lessons for Corporate Success from Inside the CIA

Amacom Books; $24.95

Business Confidential is full of secrets that the CIA learned, not from spying on businesses, but from scrutinizing itself: examining its hiring and training practices, how it collects and analyzes intelligence, and how it manages change and risk. Turns out that it offers valuable lessons on all three, particularly in terms of developing loyal, motivated, flexible employees. If you find yourself wondering, as we did at first, why you're reading about the hiring practices of the employers of Aldrich Ames, or the analytical approach of the agency that brought you the "slam-dunk" case for WMD in Iraq, remember that those are the rare exceptions - you never hear about the thousands of dedicated CIA employees who loyally serve their country, and when the agency gets its analysis right, the U.S. stays safe without ever knowing it was in danger.

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