2019: Three New Trends to Watch

After profitable years, here's where to invest.

By Carl George
The Rosenberg Survey: National Study of CPA Firm Statistics

For the most part, it was a very successful year. Profitability improved enough that allowed partners and employees to share in the increases, and ample allocations were made for investments, primarily in personnel benefits and technology. Growth in net fees ranged generally from 5-9 percent, so many firms are experiencing top- and bottom-line growth.

MORE FROM THE MAP SURVEY: 2019: Why Small Firms Shun Mergers | 2019: Using M&A to Launch Consulting | 2019 Trends: Client Service Changes | Staff Policies Improve, But Not Mentoring
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There are three trends developing that will benefit firms for many years to come:

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Leadership Taking Different Forms

Businessmen carving numbers into stone wall and tending fire, asking "Didn't we used to be on the cutting egde?" while looking across gully at caveman working on computer"An effective MP 15-20 years ago does not necessarily spell success today."

By Carl George
Rosenberg MAP Survey

Looking back to 2016 and onward, I see some very positive trends with the dynamic CPA firms, as they position to continue their firm legacies.

MORE FROM THE MAP SURVEY: Staffing and Succession Still Rocking Firms | Tech Advances Will Lead to Dichotomy | Be a Consultant or Be Left Behind | Survey: Many Firms in Transition
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First, our next wave of leadership in the profession is incredibly impressive. I have complete faith in our current and future Gen X and millennial leaders. They are assuming their positions with the energy and drive that is essential to achieve new levels of firm success. Most importantly, they want to drive change when change is needed.
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Many Firms Have Already Lost the Battle with Succession

Older businessman sitting at desk smiling as wall clock indicates 5 minutes to retirementDoomed by outdated retirement formulas.

By Carl George
The Rosenberg MAP Survey

Firms are continuing to struggle with succession of the partner group exiting the profession.

MORE FROM THE SURVEY: Recruiting and Retention Are Challenges | Technology Will Solve Labor Shortages | Cybersecurity Grows in Importance | Don’t Just Win Work, Figure Out Why | Mergers Keep Racing Forward  | MAP Survey Top 10 Findings
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While I would hope these issues are being resolved, I really wonder if it’s not too late for many.
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Strategic Plans Undermined by Out-of-Control Partners

2016-ROUNDTABLE-OUTLOOK-FOR-ROSENBERG-MAP-COMMENTARY-VF-240x219Too many firms are waiting to make plans.

They say "past results are no indication of future performance." Maybe. Maybe not. But if anyone should know, it's our panel of experts, their comments are drawn from the new edition of The Rosenberg MAP Survey. In this installment, the former CEO of Clifton Gunderson says too many firms are falling short of their own goals because of mis-managed partner teams. He doesn't exactly blame it on greed. But we can. – Rick Telberg, CPA Trendlines CEO

By Carl George
Carl George Advisory

Lessons from 2015:

Succession remains an issue as the Baby Boomers are leaving the profession. I see many firms that have waited too long for succession planning, and, of course, the owners have aged. I call it the “clip the coupon for one more year syndrome”! The problem arises when that one year becomes three years, five years and longer.

More on the  2016 Outlook & Forecast: Growth, Succession Plans Critical for Firms | CPA Firm Growth Rates Hit a Wall  |  The Five Treacherous Factors Hobbling Today’s CPA Firm  |  Sam Allred: Change Agents Needed  |  Allan Koltin on Talent Wars Go from White Gloves to Boxing Gloves  |  Get the full report: The Rosenberg Map Survey

Without the next tier of leadership and ownership, some firms become very vulnerable, and they have to look at alternatives like merging up. Firms in this position oftentimes see the firm value declining as “buyer” firms may view them as high-risk firms.

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Carl George: Have You Been Taking Care of Business? [VIDEO]

Or have you just been riding the wave?


Today's winning firms are the ones who have prepared for times like these.

"The accounting business is good if you are ready for it," Carl George, the legendary chief executive of Clifton Gunderson, commenting at the 10th annual Winning Is Everything conference.

"If you're not ready, if you haven't taken care of business, if you've kind of ridden the wave for the last ten years and really haven't taken care of business, provided for succession, gotten the proper governance in place, the you might have some trouble, no question about that."