How Does Your Firm Stack Up? | AccountingWEB

How Does Your Firm Stack Up?

I recently read a blog post on the secrets of high performing CPA firms which was very intriguing. There was some of the usual stuff one might expect but the comments about partner effectiveness and leadership really got me thinking. In essence, successful firms have a common vision, share it, set goals, and have a strategy to achieve them.

This information was music to my ears especially since the first book in my Building Business Value series of books will be on strategy, what it is, and how to craft it. Since I told you that I would be sharing the new book project with you in my blog posts, I couldn’t resist this opportunity.
What is strategy? I think it is about being different and engaging in activities that provide your clients with a distinctive blend of value compared to your competitors. That being said that, here is an array of questions to get you thinking about how your firm stacks up.
Give the following questions some thought and then evaluate your reactions:
·         How does your firm’s partner’s point of view compare against that of your competitors?
·         What issues absorb most of the partner’s attention?
·         Do your competitors view your firm as a risk-taker or a rule maker?
·         Are you better at providing traditional services or at creating fundamentally new business concepts?
·         What percentage of your firm’s effort focuses on catching up with competitors versus building unique service offerings?
·         To what extent is your firm’s agenda set by offering traditional services and competitor’s actions versus being set by your own unique vision of the future?
·         Am I just maintaining the present or am I an architect designing the future?
·         Among our staff, what is the balance between anxiety and hope?
These questions and your answers should get you thinking about the future. Now that you have some answers, or maybe more questions than answers, let’s consider some further self-evaluation.
 As if the first batch of questions wasn’t enough, here are some more thought provoking inquiries.
·         What clients are you serving today and who will you serve in the future?
·         How do you get clients today and how will you acquire them in the future?
·         Who competes with you today and who will be your competitors in the future?
·         What is the foundation of your competitive advantage today and what will it be tomorrow?
·         What is your revenue and fee structure today versus what will they be and where will they come from in the future?
·         What skills and expertise make you unique today versus what will make you unique in the future?
·         What market sectors do you service today compared to where will you participate in the future?
My hunch is that most CPA firms will face many challenges and changes as we move into the future. Here are a few thoughts about preparing for the future. The first step is deciding on a basket of services that will provide the best chance to win a competitive edge. Then it becomes a process of developing the skills, expertise, and competitive capabilities that will set the firm apart from competing firms. The idea is to insulate your firm as much as possible from the effects of competition.
This should provide a good basis for why vision, goals, and strategy are crucial. It also provides some clues on what will be in my new book and in some of my future blog posts.

This blog

Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM - Lynn's focus is on building business value for both family-owned businesses and other CPAs. I also specialize in lean accounting, process improvement, internal control, and assessment of audit risk. Other accomplishments include publishing two books, development of self study programs for Bisk Education, and an Adjunct Professorship at Villanova University. My wife Jessica and I live in southwestern Colorado and we look forward to contributing to the AccountingWEB community.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.