I am not talking about a highway map. Instead, I am talking about the "National MAP Survey of CPA Firm Statistics." Marc Rosenberg, the president of Chicago-area The Rosenberg Associates (www.rosenbergassoc.com), compiled the survey. In its sixth year, the survey, which is based upon responses from 218 firms, provides a wealth of information, including a breakdown of the responses by firms with annual net fees over and under $2 million, as well as for sole practitioners.

But what I find most interesting aren't the raw numbers, but rather Marc's comments on what he thinks some of the compiled statistics mean.  Benchmark figures can be best used as a springboard to an evaluative process, for which Marc is an eminently qualified contributor.

One statistic, that he looks at rather closely, is the average annual billable hours of a staff member. It is 1,506 for firms over $2 million, down from 1,622 in 1999. He attributes the significant decline primarily to firms' reluctance to do anything that would cause staff to leave. Rosenberg does point to 27 respondent firms that averaged 1,700 or more hours from each of their staff.  He felt they were probably able to get more hours for the following three reasons:

1.      They make it clear what is expected of the staff.

2.      They have effective systems for scheduling so the staff is kept busy.

3.      There is a healthy relationship between the partners and the staff.

I should point out that there is an analogy between highway maps and MAP surveys; the better you are able to read them, the more likely it is that you won't get lost. Also you will arrive at your destination that much quicker. 

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