Last year there were 17 Practical Accountant Practice Innovation Awards given out. The award goes to public accounting firms that take the lead in developing a new service area, improving services to their clients, or promoting efficiency in the practice of public accounting.

One of my favorite winners was the firm that started from scratch and created an alliance of independent regional accounting firms, consultants, and vendors to secure local market engagements from public companies seeking Section 404 compliance services. This initiative helped the accounting firm realize its strategic goal of entering the 404 market, contributing to both some $1.9 million in new revenues and to staff growth, and returned, on average, a 58 percent margin per project, almost two times the firm's average margin.

This will be the seventh year for the award. I have noticed that the firms that submit entries are extremely proud of their accomplishments, and enjoy sharing the formulation, strategic planning, and execution details of the innovation. There are also many repeat winners. These firms usually proudly display the award plaques in their reception area, and publicize on their Web site and their newsletter that they have won the award a number of times. They also often win other awards, such as the "Best Place to Work."

Although we get a good number of entries, I am surprised that we don't get more. Are firms too busy? Do they not see the benefit? Is no one responsible for submitting entries? I also wonder if it is because not enough time is being spent identifying what exactly makes a firm unique and then publicizing it both internally and externally. In today's environment, I think it is particularly important that a firm capitalize on what distinguishes them from their competition.

With that in mind, let me explain how easy it is to submit an entry. To be considered for the award, firms must submit a brief but detailed description of the innovation that they believe fits the stated criteria. They should detail the resulting benefits, especially any associated increase in revenue or cost savings.

You may access September issues from prior years to get an idea of the innovations that have been previously recognized.

The winners will receive a plaque and be profiled in our September 2006 issue. Prior years' winners can participate as long as the submission is on a different basis from their award-winning innovation. Judging is by the Practical Accountant's editorial staff.

Submissions, with the name of the firm's contact person, must be received no later than June 30, 2006, preferably by e-mail. My e-mail address is Regular mail should be addressed to Howard Wolosky, Practical Accountant, SourceMedia, One State Street Plaza, 27th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10004.

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