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Upcoming Partner Shortage and Other CPA Firm Issues

September 2007

Two recent articles I have read highlighted the upcoming partner shortage.

On webcpa.com, it is noted that 7 to 9 percent of all partners in multi partner firms will be retiring within the next three years. This statistic will be even more acute in single partner firms where in close to 60% of the instances, the single partner/founder is over 60.

In CPA Practice Management Forum, Sam Allred notes that “more partners will retire from the accounting profession in the next decade than have retired in the past three decades combined".

These are some stark reminders of what many of us already know.  Compounding this is the fact that it remains very hard to attract and retain quality staff. 

Ironically, in both of these articles, a significant part of the content related to how good the market is for CPA services. This is quite true. Revenues, bill rates and profits are up for most practicing CPAs. At the same time, I hear from many CPAs. that they are not happy with their quality of life i.e. working harder, making more money and enjoying it less.

What is the message here?  It is not at all to be the doomsayer by saying this is bad and that is bad.  My message is really a call to action.

*If you have talent internally, there is no shortage of assistance with “best practices” to help you nurture and develop it.

*If you have staffing problems, I would be willing to bet that you are not investing the time, effort and money to attack the problem.  This is not a criticism as much as a reality issue. You are probably already working more hours than you want.

* If you have succession issues, there are also a number of alternatives to consider. I have found that there is a great deal of fear and procrastination when it comes to this topic. The real downside here is that as more and more CPAs retire, the opportunities for firms seeking to merge or sell will become more limited and selective with a likely effect on practice valuations.

I am a CPA, have been part of the CPA profession since 1973 and am happy to offer my support and help in any way possible.

Robert Fligel

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