The last two years of economic turmoil certainly took their toll on accounting firms. As reported in Accounting Today, the Top 100 firms saw revenues decline two percent in 2010, on the heels of a three percent decline the year before. Staff and partner levels dropped two percent in 2009 and another one percent in 2010.
In spite of these facts, the industry has been moving forward on several fronts, and continuing education is key to all of them. That’s why firms continue to spend on education even when times are tough.
The Top Reasons Firms Pay for CPE
In this volatile environment, a shortage of qualified CPAs and significant turnover rates (12.8%) make retention of the most able staff a key concern. As a result, firms continue to include pay for CPE in their competitive compensation packages as a way to attract and retain top talent. Even 42 percent of the smallest firms paid for CPE in 2010, according to a national survey conducted by the AICPA and the Texas Society of CPA.
Firms look to education as a way to boost business development. By investing in the “knowledge capital” within their firm, they are preparing themselves to be well positioned for better times. By keeping staff trained, they can deliver new high-profit services (like business valuation, forensics and fraud work or estate planning).
Firms also know that education can help increase staff productivity. CPE Link often hosts groups of five to 10 staff attending a live webcast training together. They take a topic like Excel Speed Tips or Introduction to Excel Macros. Everyone walks away knowing how to do their jobs just a little bit better and a little faster. Firms can also build a quality in-house training program instantly by utilizing existing subject matter course content and on-demand resources from CPE Link.
Today’s leaner firms are learning to use technology to make them more efficient and productive. Since managing CPE can be a time-consuming headache for firms, many are looking for more efficient and affordable platforms as alternatives to the big Learning Management Systems.
CPE link offers a free product that is the perfect fit for small- to mid-sized firms. “We are so pleased that our complimentary Firm CPE Center received honorable mention in Accounting Today’s Top New Products for 2011, says CPE Link’s Director of Corporate Training Solutions, Christine Fraser. “This is just the tool firms are looking for! The Firm CPE Center provides one place to house all CPE data and to view, manage and report on all CPE activity by individual or by office. This improves efficiency and makes it easier for staff to meet their CPE requirements.” As a long-time user of the Firm CPE Center, Beth Bloomfield of Encino, Calif.-based CPA firm, Fishman, Block + Diamond, LLP, says, “I love how flexible and convenient the system is to register, fill out course evaluations and print certificates all online.”
Will the business climate for CPA firms warm soon? Some experts see promising signs. But whenever the turnaround comes, firms will emerge to find a more global, technological and specialized environment, in which continuing education will be more vital than ever.
For more information, visit CPE Link.