The ongoing problem of recruiting and retaining good people -- along with a heavy volume of mergers and acquisitions and the deployment of technology as an integral part of a firm's culture -- will be among the marquee issues to impact the profession in 2006, according to members of the Advisory Board, a group of high-profile consultants and practitioners.

"Development of your people will be the No. 1 hot button issue of 2006," opined Advisory Board member and industry consultant Jay Nisberg president of Ridgefield, Conn.-based Nisberg & Associates. "There is a compensation and recruiting battle for good people. Sometimes you have to allow for new opportunities."

Nisberg also predicted that partner compensation "will reach levels long deserved and never before seen," and that in the M&A arena, sale prices of firms will reach as high as "twice gross fees and beyond."

Nisberg, along with other Advisory Board members, gave prognostications for the profession to attendees at the 2006 annual practice management confab, "Winning is Everything," held in Las Vegas.

In the area of partner compensation, Jeff Pawlow, president of St. Louis-based practice management consultancy the Growth Partnership, said that firms "will get out of the practice of [giving] raises and begin paying for performance. Instead, they will put the money aside and tell the firm employee they have to earn it." Pawlow was named as the newest member of the Advisory Board earlier in the week.

Accounting Today columnist and president of Manhattan, Kan.-based Boomer Consulting Gary Boomer labeled technology culture within a firm as a growth accelerator. "It's a firm process, not an IT function," he said. According to Boomer, firms that have not yet adopted a document management process had better do so soon, along with establishing an integrated financial reporting system.

Allan Koltin, president of Chicago-based PDI Global, projected a bustling season of mergers within the profession, particularly among local and regional CPA firms, and he also advised attendees to look for big leadership changes at several of the larger firms.

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