The Siegfried Group and AccountAbilities bear watching. They are two examples of what I expect to be a growing trend--entities entering into arrangements to provide staff to CPA firms on a retainer type of basis. The idea is that if a firm doesn't have enough internal staff for an engagement, the entity will provide the necessary seasoned staff and expertise.

The Siegfried Group for some time has provided needed staff to corporations, but as of late it is targeting accounting firms, and boasts a Big 4 firm as a client. Interestingly, The Siegfried Group until a few years ago was primarily operating as an accounting firm. Now it is known as a professional services partner, and generates most of its revenue from these staffing arrangements.

AccountAbilities, a relative newcomer, just announced it had been awarded a contract to provide staffing services to Rachlin Cohen & Holtz, a CPA firm in Miami, ranked 70th in the Accounting Today Top 100 Firms Survey.

As staffing problems continue, I see more firms turning to professional services partners, as well as to firm associations, alliances, and networks for guaranteeing needed staff. Potential clients are very aware of the firm staff shortages, and are asking questions when proposals are presented. In some cases, the perception with regard to staffing at the CPA firm is the sole reason for selecting another firm.

These alternative staffing sources, available when needed, will also allow firms to bid on more engagements, another common complaint from firms expressed as "We could get plenty more work if we only had the staff."

The marketplace is reacting in creative ways to the continued staffing problems at CPA firms, and I expect that to continue. The way that we can operate seamlessly in a virtual manner will only add to the creativity. For firms that position themselves right, the availability of staff will no longer be a problem.

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