During my three-plus decades as a member of the American workforce, I've been employed by some very good companies and some not-so-very-good ones. I won't regale you with stories of my experiences - both good and bad - as experience has taught me that those tales are best relived in a group setting accompanied by an adequate supply of adult beverages.Which brings us to the marquee subject of our opening issue of 2009 - our inaugural Best Firms to Work For feature, a ranking of 60 U.S. accounting firms that were rated as superior workplaces via a series of demanding criteria.

Much has been written on how to help transition good firms into great ones. Again, I'm not going to use this space to bloviate on what firms should be doing to elevate how they're perceived, because, as you can see from our list, there are quite a few firms doing exactly that.

Over the course of the year, many CPA firms across the country are feted as "Best Places to Work," on a national basis by such high-profile publications as Working Mother, and more regionally by local business journals and civic associations.

But the truth is that, in many instances, these are apples-to-oranges comparisons, where the same criteria were applied to an accounting firm and, for example, a restaurant or office supply chain. With that in mind, we set out earlier this year to divine a profession-centric roster of the best accounting firms to work for, and so we partnered with workplace consultancy Best Companies Group, which managed the overall registration of the process, as well as the survey and subsequent analysis process.

To be eligible for consideration, all entrants had to be public or private U.S. accounting firms with at least 15 employees. Nearly 200 firms applied and entered a two-part survey process to determine the winners. The initial leg consisted of evaluating each nominated firm's workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience.

On a side note, I chuckled as I envisioned this process being applied to some employers, who, shall we say, couldn't have hailed a cab to get close to a Best Firm nomination. And as I've noted, there's unfortunately no shortage of those companies.

But on to more positive events.

The combined scores determined the top firms and the final ranking, which appears on page 29 of this issue. Some of the winners will be familiar names, while others may not be as high-profile. Nonetheless, they all share a place among the profession's elite and, as a side benefit, being honored certainly can't hurt with the two "Rs" - recruiting and retention.

Accounting Today's Top 100 Firms listing also began as a listing of 60 firms that quickly expanded to the century mark, and I'm confident that the Best Firms to Work For will as well. Because I'm quite confident that there are more than 60 great firms to work for out there.

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