It's is coming back with a vengeance. The term "one-stop shopping" first came into the accounting vernacular a number of years ago when the so-called corporate consolidators gobbled up many accounting firms including some decent sized regional ones. The idea was that corporate consolidators saw the clients of these firms as candidates for additional services and products.

The effort basically failed. In part, it was probably because of culture clash--the partners of these firms didn't feel comfortable in this corporate world which promoted proprietary products and services.

Well, one-stop shopping is now back. No the consolidators didn't adopt a new business model. Rather, this kind of shopping is being widely adopted by the large regional firms that remained independent.

They have adopted a few techniques to ensure success. For one, these firms have acquired smaller firms that fill gaps in various service areas. They have also joined international firm associations so that they can easily handle international transactions through their affiliated firms. They also made acquisitions of, or entered into joint ventures with, non-CPA firms that can provide desired services to their clients. For example, just last week, there was a joint venture announced between J.H. Cohn LLP, one of the Northeast’s largest accounting and consulting firms, and UIC, Inc., a leading independent risk management consulting firm.

So, why is one-stop shopping successful now for these independent regional firms when it wasn't successful for the consolidators who acquired regional firms years back?

I think it is because these independent regional firms are primarily selling services, not proprietary products. Also, the partners in control of these firms know their client base extremely well. They are able to identify the types of services their clients need, and rather than trying to sell them all their available services, they identify that core of clients that will really benefit from a particular service and target them.

What it really comes down to is that CPAs earned their "most trust advisor" reputation because of the professionalism they exercised over time in their dealing with their clients. That is the critical point and why I believe one-stop shopping is turning out so successfully now for a number of accounting firms. Unlike the consolidators, the CPA exercising professional judgment remains the ultimate decisonmaker, and that is the all-important difference.

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