2003 MAP "Top Five Issues" Survey Provides Insight into Accounting Profession

For the sixth consecutive year, “finding and retaining qualified staff” is the top pressing issue for CPA firms, according to this year’s “Top Five MAP Issues” survey, conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Other issues that make the study’s list are “succession planning/developing future owners,” “marketing/practice growth,” “seasonality/workload compression,” and “fee pressure/pricing of services.” While it is not included in the top five, more than half of all respondents expressed concern about “the effect on smaller firms caused by the new [regulatory] standards.” More Survey Results Below...


A note from AccountingWEB... Last week, AccountingWEB ran an article which has engendered some confusion among readers regarding the AICPA’s MAP Top 5 Issues Survey. To clarify, the MAP Top 5 Issues Survey has been conducted by the MAP Committee of the AICPA for the past six years. It gauges practitioners’ opinions regarding the most pressing practice management issues they face. The results of this survey are available for free at http://www.pcps.org/member/2003_map_top5.asp.

This survey is separate from the PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey. This is the second year that PCPS, the AICPA Alliance for CPA firms, has partnered with the Texas Society of CPAs to offer this benchmarking tool that comprises data from thousands of firms regarding their businesses. The national report will be available in late October and is free to all PCPS-member firms; non-member firms interested in obtaining access to national results can visit http://map.pcps.org to either join PCPS and be able to access results at no additional charge or to purchase a report. For more information on the 2003 survey, visit www.pcps.org and click on the “PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey” logo on the left side of the screen.


Released last week by the Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Committee of the AICPA, the survey polled CPA firms across the country ranging in size from one professional (sole practitioner) to 21 or more professionals, asking them to rank the most important practice management challenges facing firms today. More than 1,000 CPA respondents completed the survey, double the number that participated last year.

Firms of all sizes gave a high importance rating to “finding and retaining qualified staff.” However, large firms registered a particularly high level of concern, with 91% giving the issue a top importance ranking (four or five on a scale of five). This unease over staffing is rooted in a scarcity of accounting graduates. However, this trend has recently reversed, in part due to the AICPA’s five-year, $25 million student marketing campaign designed to increase the number of students majoring in accounting and, ultimately, becoming CPAs.

“Clearly staffing is an issue that is impacting the entire profession. Here at the AICPA, we are committed not only to providing resources to help firms overcome this hurdle, but also to exploring how to help firms of different sizes,” noted Jim Metzler, AICPA Vice President, Small Firm Interests. Details of the top concerns by firm size are listed below.

The AICPA, PCPS and MAP groups continue to conduct research and develop programs to address staffing shortages. In late 2000, PCPS sponsored a survey of leading non-partner CPA professionals, the “Top Talent” survey. This assessment was followed in 2002 by the AICPA’s Recruitment and Retention Survey of CPA firm partners, which identified the obstacles CPA firms face in attracting, hiring and retaining quality staff by evaluating trends and assessing current policies. Results from these surveys can be viewed at www.pcps.org.

This marks the second year that the MAP Top 5 Survey was conducted by IntelliSurvey, a privately held California corporation that conducts Internet-based surveys, and facilitated by the AICPA’s Firm Practice Management team. The survey produces results that the MAP Committee uses to help guide the development of new programs, workshops, forums and initiatives.

The MAP Committee worked together with PCPS, the AICPA Alliance for CPA Firms, with almost 6,000 local and regional CPA firm members within the AICPA. The AICPA is the national professional association of CPAs with more than 330,000 members in business and industry, public practice, government and education. The AICPA is the first national professional membership organization to be ISO 9001 certified in recognition of its quality management and assurance practices.

Here is the compete list of significant CPA concerns:

2003 Top Five MAP Issues for Firms with 21+ CPAs

  • Succession planning/identifying and developing future owners
  • Finding and retaining qualified staff
  • Marketing/practice growth
  • Seasonality/workload compression
  • Establishing accountability for compensation for partners

2003 Top Five MAP Issues for Firms with 11-20 CPAs

  • Succession planning/identifying and developing future owners
  • Finding and retaining qualified staff
  • Marketing/practice growth
  • Seasonality/workload compression
  • Fee pressure/pricing of services

2003 Top Five MAP Issues for Firms with 6-10 CPAs

  • Finding and retaining qualified staff
  • Succession planning/identifying and developing future owners
  • Marketing/practice growth
  • Seasonality/workload compression
  • The effect on smaller firms caused by the new standards

2003 Top Five MAP Issues for Firms with 2-5 CPAs

  • Finding and retaining qualified staff
  • Marketing/practice growth
  • Fee pressure/pricing of services
  • Succession planning/identifying and developing future owners
  • Seasonality/workload compression

2003 Top Five MAP Issues for Sole Practitioners

  • Changes and complexity of the tax laws
  • Keeping up with technology
  • Keeping up with the standards
  • The effect on smaller firms caused by the new standards
  • (tie) Seasonality/workload compression
  • (tie) Fee pressure/pricing of services

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