Latest AICPA MAP Survey forecasts brighter outlook

The AICPA’s most recent “National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey” suggests a brightening economic forecast for the profession.  The MAP Survey is conducted every two years by the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section and the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

For 2014, representatives from nearly 1,750 CPA firms were asked details about the financial results of their latest fiscal year.  Every CPA firm– from the smallest practices with less than $200,000 in revenue, to the largest with more than $10 million – saw growth in net client fees from 2012 to 2013, ranging from four to eight percent. While growth rates for fees have not rebounded to the pre-recession levels noted in the 2008 MAP Survey, there has been a steady - albeit uneven - improvement during the past four years.

Natasha V. Schamberger, CPA, and AICPA’s Senior Technical Manager for PCPS/Associate Director of Firm Services, sees the MAP Survey as a valuable resource for firms to “obtain comfort with their metrics or identify outliers that may need to be addressed.”

“It paves the way for clarity and deeper discussions on ways to improve a firm,” said Schamberger. “We often hear that firm owners feel like they are out there on their own.  However, by comparing their data with other practices in their region, a sense of comfort or discomfort in their numbers helps firm owners feel more in control of their practice and provides an understanding of what areas can be improved on.”

The latest MAP Survey is value added, in that it includes a dynamic reporting platform that offers various filtering options.   According to Schamberger, participants can “slice and dice data that is of the greatest interest to them and compare their data to firms of similar revenue range, by region/state, and even top performers.” The new platform also offers continuity by allowing firms to see their data points year to year.  
The numbers in the survey show that business owners are gaining confidence with regard to the likelihood of future growth. Schamberger points to results that show Net Remaining Per Owner outpacing Owner Compensation for most firm sizes. This, she said, suggests that firm owners are stockpiling cash instead of paying it out to themselves.  Firm owners may be investing in the future of their firm for a variety of reasons, but merger strategies, preparing for retiring Baby Boomers, and investments in technology are likely top motivators.

“Firm owners are starting to realize that what has made firms successful in the past may not necessarily be what is needed to advance in the future,” said Schamberger. “With that does come some uncertainty.  Many firms weathered the storm of the recent recession by holding back and now many firms are experiencing positive market opportunities.  These firms are realizing that investing in technology and in their people will help them remain relevant and sustainable into the future. These are optimistic steps.”

Schamberger suggests that AICPA members take a closer look at the MAP Survey by visiting

“Not only do the results track trends in the accounting profession, but it enhances our understanding of the challenges firm owners are facing,” said Schamberger.  “This knowledge helps us guide our member firms in their short-term and long-term planning.”

The AICPA website offers many work/life resources.

Recognizing the importance of a good work/life balance – the AICPA now offers resources on its website to help benefit member firms and employees.  Time is a scarce and valuable resource which makes work/life balance a crucial factor in employee job satisfaction, particularly among women and younger workers. Many employees struggle to cope with the growing stress and demands within and outside the workplace.  Employers in the accounting profession have become more aware of the work/life issues that face their professionals and many have developed innovative and creative arrangements to help employees maintain a balanced life. In fact, some CPAs cite flexibility as a key reason for joining the accounting profession in the first place.

Included among a wide range of resources is a “Flexibility Tool Kit” where employees will find tips in the guide useful when creating a proposal to request a flexible work schedule from their manager or employer. To learn more about work/life balance and flexible work arrangements, view an “Employee Retention Guide,” and hear stories from real CPAs about maintaining success both inside and outside of the office, visit “Start Here, Go Places”.