Are Your Numbers Truly Stellar?

Michael PlattIf you’ve ever been sailing, it’s an exhilarating feeling to have the wind at your back, slicing freely through the water, proud of your boat and your crew, challenging the elements and feeling accomplished with your progress. But the truly competitive among us look out at the other boats, wondering why some are moving faster. What is it about their sail, the structure of their boat, their rudder technique, or the synchronicity of their crew that allows them to move faster through the same waters powered by the same wind?

Sitting at lunch at a recent CPA conference, three MPs leaned over to me and shared their perspectives from recent partner meetings where they focused on benchmarking their firm. “Our progress this year has been great,” said one MP of a $14 million firm. “But when we sat down as a group and looked at what other firms our size have done, our numbers weren’t quite as strong as we thought,” leading to some very focused discussions on key metrics and how to improve. In seeing these “other boats” slicing through the water faster powered by the same winds, these MPs captured a theme repeated in several articles in this issue – success “because of us” versus “success despite us.”

As IPA prepares to distribute the 2008 Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms, we urge each of you to participate. Your efforts help all in the profession – your firm especially – in defining what’s being done right and where you can improve. Your participation will help define for you the subtle differences between those sailboats that are slicing through the water because of a strong wind, and those that are doing it smoother, faster and with more skill.