Since New York is performing its best impression of International Falls, Minn., this winter, I was particularly elated at the three-day reprieve that the Winning Is Everything practice management confab in Vegas annually affords me in January.

It's not that I don't relish the Siberian-like de-icing of my front steps with a pickaxe or shoveling the equivalent tonnage of the U.S.S. Intrepid every other day, mind you.

So the sacrifice of flying to a sunny climate whose temperatures this time of year hover in the low 60s is, unfortunately, a non-negotiable "somebody's got to do it" mandate that comes with being editor-in-chief.

But I digress.

When I arrive, I operate on a rather basic principle. Everyone in attendance is most likely smarter than me. Having graduated college in just three terms - Nixon's, Ford's and Carter's - I sort of wince when minds far brighter than mine occasionally solicit advice or get me to prognosticate on the next generation of trends.

But I don't need to be Alvin Toffler or even Faith Popcorn for that matter, to gauge what trends and strategies will likely remain at or near what Madison Avenue used to refer to as "top of mind awareness" for CPAs and their firms.

Let's start with M&A.

After two dizzying years of more mass marriages than a Moonie convention, 2011 will, according to those on the front lines, make 2009 and 2010 pale in comparison. On a personal barometer, Accounting Today's summary page of M&A in our print edition may have to be expanded because of volume.

The go-go years of 2005 to 2007 unfortunately lulled many firms into a false sense of security and therefore they held off on tough decisions like succession planning until it was too late. Many are now pigeonholed into merging as one of the few avenues left.

What about transforming your firm when a change is badly needed? Does your firm have leadership that can eschew the "we've always done it that way" culture and marshal the resources necessary to transition an antiquated mindset of managing metrics to managing a business?

Does your firm challenge the younger staff members and include them in relevant committees and working groups, not to mention provide a variety of options for advancement. If not, you'll surely keep your HR departments busy scheduling exit interviews.

We are currently compiling the massive data dump that we use in producing our annual Top 100 Firms revenue ranking and without giving you too much of a sneak preview, the early results, quite honestly, are not shaping up to be quite as rosy as in years past.

I don't have to be a managing partner to know that 2011 will be almost cutthroat in terms of growth and client retention for many firms. And that sobering fact had better remain top of mind. If not, you'll provide real estate and human capital opportunities for those that didn't forget.

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