September 5, 2019

Voices Heard: Small Firm Forum

September 5, 2019

Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA


An Ignite Blog By: Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA

VP – Small Firm Interests – Public Accounting, AICPA



You’ve got your finger on the red button.

It’s the red button to the broadcast your voice across the loudspeakers at a ballpark that is filled with your friends and colleagues in the accounting profession.

So what do you say as you press that red button?

Would you sing out your rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”?

Or, would you take this unique opportunity to share what’s on your mind. Your small firm challenges, exciting opportunities, or maybe even a call for collaboration?

Sometimes in order to be heard you have shout it from the loudspeakers, especially if the issues you are encountering or a cause is particularly meaningful to you. Because one thing is certain, if you are encountering these issues, it’s almost guaranteed someone else is too.

Although members of the Kansas Society of CPAs didn’t find themselves in a stadium with loudspeakers, they were given the special opportunity to shout their ideas, recent firm ‘wins’, challenges and frustrations from a megaphone at the Small Firm Forum hosted by AICPA and KSCPA, held at Kansas State University on Thursday, August 29.

Small Firm Forum

Pictured above (left to right):  Allen Joy, John Albrecht, Erin Dunlap, Michelle Crow, Arne Reinert, Sheila Coomes, Cheryl Goheen, Amber Goering, Pam Gudenkauf, Carl Peterson, Bonnie Sanderson, Jim Malone, and Daniel Busenbark

I enjoyed facilitating a vibrant discussion with this great group of Kansas small firm CPAs. As the Vice President of Small Firm Interests – Public Accounting at the AICPA, I hear feedback from national, state and local accounting professionals at town halls and forums just like this one, and the survey results are in.


The AICPA’s Private Company Practice Section recently published findings from its 2019 CPA Firm Top Issues Survey. Concerns that are top-of-mind include finding qualified staff, keeping up with tax law changes and managing privacy and security risks. The key issues identified in the survey are very much in-line with the top challenges and opportunities voiced at the Kansas forum.


The conversation on challenges centered around:

  • Planning for succession and transition
  • Finding qualified staff and the recruiting challenges of attracting talent to small towns in rural areas
  • Keeping up with technology and keeping track of changes, while continually striving to stay relevant
  • Managing seasonality workload compression 

The conversation on opportunities centered around:

  • Experiencing the rewarding nature of consulting and advisory services
  • Exploring value pricing
  • Staying relevant by building trust and relationships


As I metaphorically ‘sit in the stadiums’ and hear practitioners from across the country participate in meaningful discussions (I’ll be facilitating around 300 roundtable discussions), it’s always a great reminder of how powerful these small firm forums and roundtables can be.

Some of the greatest benefits of being engaged in events such as these are:

  • Knowing that your voice is heard. Your direct input shapes what we are doing and where we are going. I take your valuable feedback to state society leadership and the AICPA. It’s all worthwhile for me when I hear ‘Wow. I really appreciate you listening to my concerns.’ or ‘It’s been a great experience being able to share my thoughts.’
  • Find comfort in knowing you are not alone by hearing what trends other accounting professionals are facing and the new opportunities that are opening up for them.
  • Learn about best practices. Sharing best practices on how different organizations are overcoming hurdles and tackling evolving business needs and can change how you see things and make dealing with some issues a little less daunting.
  • Good ole fashioned networking. Would you believe that one of the most unexpecting things I’m hearing from individuals at these forums is a need for more networking? So we’re figuring out new ways to connect practitioners, through face-to-face and virtual meetings.
  • You have a better idea of what the future holds. One of the AICPA’s strategic priorities for 2019 is future-proofing the CPA. Direct feedback from forums and roundtables support this priority, give us context on importance, and ultimately allow AICPA and state society leadership to put themselves in the shoes of accounting professionals. It gives us input on what firms are concerned about for the future and also helps members gain clarity on what their firm may experience in the future. For example, Client Accounting Services (CAS) is growing two-times faster than the typical CPA firm accounting, auditing and tax compliance services. Are you ready to push into CAS?



There’s ALWAYS going to be the unknown of ‘what is going to happen over the next five years’, but that’s the exciting part. With the advances in technology, we’re able to focus on particular niches in accounting, which should shine the light on opportunities to provide workload compression relief during busy season and revitalize work-life balance.


As a small firm or sole practitioner, how do you ensure that you are future-ready and that your voice and ideas are being heard? Here are some winning resources for success that were discussed at the Small Firm Forum:

  1. Listen to this podcast on getting started value pricing, featuring Bernie Ackerman:
  2. Let KSCPA know your interest in participating in recurring small firm meetings. Indicate your interest in meeting regularly with a group of small firm or sole practitioners by emailing
  3. Consider attending the AICPA Engage Conference. 
  4. Recruit your future business athletes at the KSCPA events.


Can you relate to any of the issues listed above for small firm or sole practitioners?

What best practices has your organization implemented lately to conquer emerging issues?

The Ignite blog is an official publication of the Kansas Society of CPAs. Copyright 2019.