CPAs for the most part have fared better than their clients through the recent economic downturn, and now is the time they need to think about retooling their business for future growth, according to Mark Koziel, director of specialized communities and firm practice management at the American Institute of CPAs.

Koziel offered this advice during his keynote speech in Las Vegas at the Accounting Today Growth & Profitability Summit. He claimed there are five things firms need to focus on in order to go through this change and evolve. They include the Five P’s: purpose, people, place, process and product.

First on his list of practice management “musts” was figuring out the purpose of the business, as he suggested that firms ask themselves the question, “Why are we in business?” He stressed that the profession will transition to the next generation through either organic growth or acquisition, but in order for that to happen correctly, firms need to ask themselves how they want their firms to look in the future. That, he said, starts with purpose.

“Making money is fine,” he said. “Good companies make money. Great companies have a higher purpose. In many cases you work very hard building [your practice] and eventually transition it to the next generation or sell it. You have the power and ability to change the practice. What does your practice look like today? And when you step out, will it likely be different that it is today?”

Koziel pointed out that AICPA statistics show there has been more merger activity lately than in the past several years, much of which has been with firms of similar size. He recommended that firms hire the right people; orient and assimilate them from the beginning; set career paths; train, compensate, and reward them appropriately; and create “a trust environment.”

“I really can’t stress training enough,” he said. “If you are worried about training people and having them leave, what if you don’t train and they stay? They are leaving because they are not advancing or getting challenged, and they are going to business and industry and government because they are [the ones] doing the right training for advancement.”

Finally, Koziel noted that many firms’ processes need to change, particularly in how they work. More firms need to look to cloud and mobile computing, a flexible work environment, and social media because that is how the next generation of CPAs wants to work.

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