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A shift in the top 5 issues for CPA firms

November 7, 2013
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Guest Post By Elizabeth Fiore, CPAmerica International

As the economy has improved, it’s no surprise the top issues facing CPA firms have also shifted from 2011 to 2013, according to The PCPS CPA Firm 2013 Top Issues Diagnostic Report published by the AICPA.

“Putting the economic uncertainty of the past few years behind them, CPA firms clearly have an eye on the future — and on future growth,” including bringing in new clients and increasing focus on staffing, the report said.

A shift from keeping current clients toward a stronger emphasis on business development (gaining more work) and finding/retaining qualified staff has occurred.

In addition, succession challenges that were previously identified primarily among larger firms, have now surfaced as an issue facing all firms regardless of firm size.

These findings appear to be consistent within our CPAmerica International membership based on informal interviews and discussions with members.

The AICPA survey indicates 2013 issues for firms with 21 or more professionals are:

1. Owner/partner accountability and unity

2. Bringing in new clients

3. Retaining qualifed staff

4. Succession planning

5. Finding qualified staff

Finding and retaining qualified staff jumped into the top five this year. This can be seen as a larger shift in the profession which is in a constant race for top talent. Attracting and retaining great talent in the CPA firm is quickly becoming a concern among firms. Trade publications have highlighted staffing to be a major worry for firms.

Noticeably missing from the top five is client retention. This could be considered a byproduct of the improving economic conditions. Also missing from the top 10 was fee pressure/pricing.

A multi-owner firm has a distinct challenge to keep the partner-owner group marching in a unified direction as one firm as opposed to sole practitioners each doing their ‘own thing’ under one roof.

All firms are encouraged to review the 2013 Top Issues report and take note of the list of “Resources to Rev Up Your Firm’s Performance” offered as part of the survey summary. This section provides tools and guides to help firms tackle the most important challenges they face.

Resources downloadable from AICPA/PCPS website are identified, such as:  PCPS Succession Planning Resource Guides, Partner Accountability and Unity Guide and Action Plan, Leadership and Partner Retreat Guide, and much more.

CPAmerica membership affords member CPA firms additional examples of other members’ accountability plans, business growth plans, staff development plans, and succession plans.

Examples such as these enable a firm to jump start their own approaches to address top issues and provide insight by showing what other firms have successfully implemented to address top challenges.

Elizabeth Fiore is Marketing Manager for CPAmerica International. She manages all of the association’s external communication, including branding, social media, press releases, event marketing collateral and the website for CPAmerica and CPAConnect. A version of this article was originally posted on the CPAmerica blog.

About the Author


Raleigh, N.C.-based Sageworks, a leading provider of lending, credit risk, and portfolio risk software that enables banks and credit unions to efficiently grow and improve the borrower experience, was founded in 1998. Using its platform, Sageworks analyzed over 11.5 million loans, aggregated the corresponding loan data, and created the largest

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