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M&A Means More Wrangling of Time and Budget for Firm Administrators

As firms find creative ways to deal with the economic downturn, including through mergers and acquisitions, the issues of CPE requirements and reporting become even more cumbersome.

September 19, 2011
Sponsored by CPE Link

Time and budget. It always seems to come down to those two words. There never seems to be enough of the first … and come to think of it, there’s never enough of the second either.

Compounding the issue is the changing face of the CPA firm business, as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) become an increasingly popular way of coping with the economic downturn.

In a recent article in Accounting Today, growth was charted for the Top 100 firms — most of which achieved any major growth through M&A activity. In California, [the Calif-based CPA firm] Gallina saw about a 31-percent growth via a merger in late 2010 and another in January of this year.

Also using M&A to boost their ranks were firms, such as Doren Mayhew, Blue & Co., Grant Thornton and Cherry Bekaert & Holland, Accounting Today reported.

On top of the M&A activity, hiring is expected to be on the upswing. According to accounting firm KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute, more than 40 percent of board members and business leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area intend to hire more people this year.

The KPMG report said 42 percent expect to boost hiring while 42 percent plan to keep the headcount they have. In addition, a heartening 72 percent expect profitability to increase at their firms.

And in the latest quarterly survey from nationwide staffing firm Robert Half, employers — particularly in the realms of finance, legal and marketing — said they expect to do more hiring in the months ahead.

At the same time, 59 percent of the executives queried in the Robert Half survey said it’s more difficult to find professionals who have exactly the right skillset. If a strong candidate is found in some areas, the executives said, supplemental training is usually necessary in other areas.

All those things are good for the financial health of firms, but they mean more employee CPE schedules to keep track of, more missed hours of work due to course fulfillments and more CPE hours to pay for. The burden on firm administrators can be overwhelming, and the question then becomes how to make the burden more manageable.

CPE Link is here to help. As the leading provider of online CPE, we understand the economic and competitive challenges firms face in providing cost-effective training. More than 200 firms already take advantage of our complimentary Firm CPE Center — an efficient and user-friendly tool that eliminates a firm’s burden of manually maintaining CPE records.

Included in the tool is a professional staff dashboard and a robust curriculum list of both live webcasts and online self-study, led by a stellar roster of instructors teaching on everything from the latest A&A and Tax Updates to Excel and QuickBooks training.

And new to the Firm CPE Center is Version 3.0, which puts even better tools at a firm’s fingertips. The Firm Center first puts control in the hands of administrators — and now Version 3.0 allows the administrator to delegate those rights to others to help manage staff CPE registrations. Also available are lots of other features, such as registrant “pick lists” that make group attendance verification a breeze.

Version 3.0 also adds increased flexibility to the Firm Advantage Pass, CPE Link’s popular corporate savings plan. Now the account administrator can choose to allocate Firm Advantage Pass hours to each staff member or select the “open access” option. This makes hours available to all staff members to use as needed and allows them to simply select courses desired and proceed directly through the check-out process quickly, with no credit card payment and no processing of reimbursement requests later on.

Through the Firm Advantage Pass firms can choose their favorite learning format: live webcast, self-study, or both. Credit hours never expire and firms receive 50-percent discount on regular course fees. Customized orders and national firm pricing are also offered.

More and more, firms are using quality online training as a way to keep CPE costs under control. Webcasts and professionally developed course materials are all available on demand, and the per-person savings from using CPE Link’s training resources compared to sending staff to an external public seminar can significantly maximize a limited training budget.

CPA Sharon M. Goche, who practices in Algona, Iowa, said she particularly appreciates being able to find two-hour courses from CPE Link catalog when “it isn’t feasible to travel to an eight-hour, all-day course.”

Goche said the CPE Link’s Firm Advantage Pass “gives our staff the ability to register from hours already purchased and it’s a huge cost savings compared to travel expenses to attend other outside courses.”