Many smaller firms are worried about their future. They are seeing increased competition and the availability of software that allow their clients to perform many of the functions that they previously supplied. In addition, staffing is a particular problem and it is extremely difficult keeping up with the latest technology. Many firms are also merging upstream with larger firms. Of course, the autonomy that these smaller firms prized is then gone. Some that want to remain independent are tending to specialize, but have to market their services much more.
Is there another solution? Probably, but it is going to be something completely different. Firms will really have to think way outside the box, So how about adopting an approach that has been used by other professions. It's actually quite simple. Don't doctors have practices in medical buildings and isn't it true lawyers comprise the bulk of the tenants of buildings near the courthouses?
How about a building comprised of CPAs firms? Economies of scale available in larger firms could result. For example, there could be a common receptionist, conference rooms--which all the firms could utilize, and maybe a small auditorium for seminars. The building could be wired with the latest technology and tax and accounting research software could be provided. The technology support staff could be a service provided by the building management; a similar approach could be utilized for marketing.
With so many areas of specialization, CPA firms inside the building would be able to make referrals back and forth. The expert in taxation of retirement distributions could make a referral to the CPA who is an investment manager and/or to the CPA with an eldercare specialization and vice versa. Also, when there was a staffing crunch at one firm, a simple posting could result in other firms helping out on a project basis. With so many CPAs in the building, all couldn't be busy at the same time.
The building would indeed have all the characteristics of a large firm, as a multitude of niches could be represented. Popularity of this approach might also help with succession planning, as other firms would be on waiting lists to move into the building.
And, to keep expenses down, the residing CPA with real estate savvy could assist on the building management and the CPA firm with the technology expertise could design and consulting on the network used by the tenants.
Is a building with a concentration of smaller CPA firms, the answer? The question is rhetorical, but isn't it better to talk about solutions, rather than lament about the problems?
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