How CPA firms can evolve for continued success

How CPA firms can evolve for continued success

CPA firms are preparing to experience significant disruption over the next few years as a combination of factors will change the marketplace.

“The firm model is based on a 60-plus-year-old premise, and technology is taking us in completely different directions,” AICPA Vice President–Firm Services & Global Alliances Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, said during an interview last week.

Firms are using technology in innovative ways and taking advantage of opportunities to specialize in areas requiring specific expertise. Meanwhile, many small firms with aging owners are trying to figure out how they are going to transition their practices.

During a presentation Tuesday at the AICPA spring Council meeting in New Orleans, Koziel described the changes firms are experiencing and provided a road map for how they can remain relevant in the future.

The AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) has created a “Firm inMotion” toolkit that expands upon the CPA Horizons 2025 Report and provides the “how”—how firms can transition to being a high-performing firm of the future. The toolkit addresses firm structure and strategy, technology, clients and relationship building, and staff development. A fifth section of the toolkit that remains under development addresses globalization.

In developing the toolkit, a PCPS task force asked practitioners what they wanted firms to look like in the future. The task force developed a “transition continuum” and checklist for firms as they consider how they need to evolve to be successful in the future.

The tool is based on the premise that making the transition to a high-performing firm of the future doesn’t have to be an overwhelming ordeal. Many firms are already moving forward without realizing their progress, so understanding where you are in the process can help you move forward. One way to get started is to look closely at three primary areas of your firm and where each falls on the continuum.

Strategy: We have developed a strategy or plan to move our firm into the future.

Action: Our practice has put a transition plan into action.

Focus: We focus on carrying out the plan each day, not just when it’s convenient. We track metrics and reward success.

The transition continuum and checklist provide best practices that firms can follow in the areas of culture, clients, and talent. Under “culture,” the checklist addresses:

The checklist items under “talent” are:

“Clients” is the area with the most checklist items:

“In each of these areas, you challenge yourself,” Koziel said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a sole practitioner, small firm, medium firm, large firm. Every firm has a capability to do that.”

PCPS members can access the transition continuum and checklist on the AICPA website.

Ken Tysiac ( is a JofA editorial director.

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