Strategic Planning and Goal Setting for Results

The Complete Partners’ Workbook for Unifying Vision, Strategy, Goals, and Implementation

By Marc Rosenberg CPA

This monograph is the essential guide to strategic planning and partner goal-setting for CPA firms. It’s patterned after Marc’s proprietary approach to consulting with CPA firms on strategic planning and goal setting, as he has developed it over the last 20 years. The author’s approach has two major goals: Think BIG and keep it simple, and, GET RESULTS.

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Marc Rosenberg, CPA, has helped hundreds of CPA firms create powerful strategic plans and set actionable goals that move firms forward. This monograph guides you through all of the issues, steps and techniques of effective strategic planning. The goal of the monograph is to help CPA firms plan for and achieve growth and success.


  • The three main phases of strategic planning
  • Overall management philosophy of a CPA firm
  • Steps to creating the strategic plan
  • Why mission statements are a waste of time
  • The vision statement
  • Stimulating productive brainstorming sessions
  • Best practices for goal setting programs
  • Core values
  • Sample partner goals
  • Keys to implementing & pitfalls of strategic planning
  • Partner accountability


All organizations, including CPA firms, benefit from strategic planning. If there is one takeaway from this monograph, it is this: When organizations create a vision, reduce it to goals, put both in writing, assign responsibilities and establish a means of accountability for achieving the goals, they are more likely to realize their vision than if they didn’t engage in any strategic planning.

My experience in consulting with CPA firms for over 20 years is that very few firms under $15 million in annual fees engage in proper strategic planning. Sure, many of these firms dedicate a partner retreat to it. Some firms prepare a mission statement and put it on their web site. But for the most part, strategic planning does not drive how CPA firms operate.

Why is this? There are three main explanations:

  1. Firms aren’t convinced they are better off with strategic planning than without it. For strategic planning to work, the key people must feel, in their hearts, that a fastidious devotion to a master plan will really pay off.
  2. Not enough time. CPA firms are managed in an inherently dysfunctional manner. Partners are asked to be in charge of sales, marketing, production, training, internal accounting and firm management. It’s no wonder that the partners are stretched thin. They have very little time for anything other than taking care of their clients. Strategic planning rarely sees the light of day.
    As I discuss later in this monograph, the most important and most time-consuming part of strategic planning is monitoring progress and coaching others to achieve their goals. Without the time for these critically important activities, the plan is doomed to fail.
  3. Affluence. When the average partner at a mid-size CPA firm earns $350,000, who can argue that they are doing anything wrong? Partners reason, either consciously or subconsciously, that if they can earn $350,000 without strategic planning, why bother with strategic planning?

In my experience, only 20-40% of all CPA firms make it to the second generation. The main reason for this is a lack of succession planning, a critical part of a firm’s strategic plan. This statistic alone would suggest that CPA firms are better off with than without a strategic plan.

– Marc Rosenberg, CPA


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Crash Course in Strategic Planning

Definition of Strategic Planning

Benefits of Strategic Planning

The Three Main Phases of Strategic Planning


Goal Setting


Chapter 3: Management Philosophy of a CPA Firm

CPA Firm Management Flow Chart

Chapter 4: 35,000 Foot View of the Strategic Planning Process

Creating Your Strategic Plan – Include Only These Steps

Chapter 5: The Annual Strategic Planning Cycle of a CPA Firm

Chapter 6: Why Mission Statements are a Waste of Time

Chapter 7: The Vision Statement and Brainstorming

Vision Statement

Brainstorming Session Steps

Sources for Stimulating The Brainstorming Process

Item #1: Practices That Move CPA Firms From Good to Great

Item #2: Strategic Issues CPA Firms Are Facing Today

Item #3: Vision Statement Examples From Three Firms

Chapter 8: Drilling Down on the Firm’s Highest Priority Goals

Creating Action Steps

Chapter 9: Core Values

Ways That Firms Define Core Values

Examples of Core Values

Why The Creation of Core Values Is Optional For Many Firms

Chapter 10: How to Operate a Goal Setting Program

The Purpose of Goal Setting

The Very Best Practices

Step By Step Goal Setting Procedures

Individual Partner Performance Plan

Sample Goals For Partners

6 Sources For Partner Goals

Chapter 11: Keys to Implementing a Strategic Plan

More on Partner Accountability

Means of Achieving Partner Accountability

Chapter 12: Conclusion



CPA Trendlines commentator Marc Rosenberg is a nationally known consultant, author, speaker on CPA firm management, strategy and partner issues.

President of his own Chicago-based consulting firm, The Rosenberg Associates, he is founder of the most authoritative annual survey of mid-sized CPA firm performance statistics in the country, The Rosenberg Surveyalso available here from the CPA Trendlines Store. He has consulted with more than 700 firms throughout his 20+ year consulting career.

Accounting Today magazine annually acknowledges Marc Rosenberg as one of the 100 most influential people in the CPA profession and INSIDE Public Accounting has repeatedly recognized him as one of the ten most recommended CPA firm consultants in the country.

Click here to see him on CPA Trendlines.

Strategic Planning and Goal Setting for Results