What’s the current state of the accounting profession? And how does my firm measure up compared to others?
Every year for the past 23 years, those are the questions that The Rosenberg Survey has been asking. Today the Survey is prepared by my colleague Charles Hylan of The Growth Partnership, its original creator. I acquired The Growth Partnership last year in part because of its sponsorship of the Survey, which Accounting Today calls “the industry’s barometer for CPA firm practice management.”
Recently I sat down with Charles to discuss the upcoming Rosenberg Survey, which started collecting data from CPA firms on January 15th.
Julio Gonzalez: Charles, could you tell us what’s the purpose of the Rosenberg Survey?
Charles Hylan: It’s a financial benchmarking survey within the national CPA industry, and it’s known for its accuracy, thoroughness, and high participation rate. We survey a robust pool of participants, and because we have a very high repeat rate, we get valid year-to-year comparisons. In addition, we provide statistics not seen in other surveys.
Julio Gonzalez: Why do you think this year’s Survey might be different from the others?
Charles Hylan: The pandemic, no question. When we released last year’s survey in September 2020, it was based on questions we’d drawn up before COVID hit. Then early last December, we released a flash survey composed of 20 questions to see how CPA firm(s) were handling the pandemic, and 179 firms responded. What we learned was an eye-opener.
Julio Gonzalez: What did you learn?
Charles Hylan: We in the accounting industry adapted quickly, and we coped well. More than two-thirds of firms met or exceeded the budget for revenue and net income growth in 2020. Very few firms had to either furlough or permanently lay off employees. Over 80% of the firms expected some or significant fee growth in 2021. Firms did an outstanding job pivoting to virtual work arrangements, and nearly 80% expected to expand their more virtual work policy.
Julio Gonzalez: But that was based on a flash survey. I imagine that the findings of this year’s Survey are going to be much more thorough and comprehensive.
Charles Hylan: We think it will be the definitive snapshot of how the accounting profession grappled with COVID—and won.
Julio Gonzalez: If I’m a CPA firm, how do I participate in the Rosenberg Survey and learn its findings?
Charles Hylan: It’s easy! Simply go to www.rosenbergsurvey.com to begin the process. The survey is open and will remain open until July 15.
Julio Gonzalez: What do I get for participating?
Charles Hylan: A customized benchmarking sheet for your firm, 40 pages of narrative analysis, and row-by-row data for each firm we interview—100 benchmarks in all. We include dozens of special analyses, such as the number of CPA firms using each of the six major partner compensation systems; breakout of profits for firms by population size of their markets; how the staff-to-partner ratio impacts profitability; with a correlation of partner charge hours to profitability.
Julio Gonzalez: How can the Survey help me in the competitive arena that the accounting profession has become?
Charles Hylan: You’ll be able to stay on top of what’s happening in our constantly changing industry. The Survey can help you to compare yourself to others, see what you’re doing well, and where you’re struggling, and recognize emerging best practices in the accounting profession.
Julio Gonzalez: Do you have any predictions about what new trends might be uncovered by the next Survey?
Charles Hylan: One trend that I think will be noticeable is the uptick in M&A activity. The succession challenge many firms are dealing with is forcing them to merge up.
Julio Gonzalez: No question of that. Well, Charles, thank you very much for getting us ready for the launch of this year’s Rosenberg Survey. We look forward to reading the results in September. Maybe by looking back on how we handled last year, we can all have a better chance of dealing with the year coming ahead.