Associations in the News: March 13

Business Executives Stepping up Hiring and Spending to Foster Growth in Coming Year

Business executives are taking a more favorable view on hiring and business expansion in the coming year, in part due to increased optimism about the U.S. economy, according to the first quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Businesses are anticipating modest growth in recruitment, staff training and targeted capital spending in the next 12 months in anticipation of improving economic conditions, the survey found. On hiring, a majority of respondents (56%) continue to say their companies have the right number of employees. But 15% said they planned to hire immediately, up from 13% last quarter, while the percentage of survey takers who said their companies had too many employees shrank from 10 to 8.

There is a growing expectation the talent search will be competitive: Among the top 10 challenges identified within the survey, “availability of skilled personnel” rose from the No. 6 spot a quarter ago to No. 4.

“We’re seeing signs that businesses are thinking more concretely about resources they’ll need in place, from expanded staffing to investments in technology and other capital projects, to handle future growth,” says Arleen Thomas, AICPA’s senior vice president of management accounting and global markets. “Business expansion expectations, while still tempered, are the highest they’ve been in three years.”

The CPA Outlook Index – a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the AICPA survey – rose a single point in the first quarter to 70, a post-recession high. The index is a composite of nine equally weighted survey measures set on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and greater numbers signifying positive sentiment.

The biggest gainer among index components was U.S. economic optimism, typically the most volatile category from quarter to quarter. Some 49% of survey takers now say they are optimistic or very optimistic about the economy, compared to 38% last quarter. The first quarter’s tally matches the post-recession high set in the second quarter last year.

Survey takers are feeling even better about prospects for their own company or organization, although the rate of increase quarter over quarter is narrower (59% said they are optimistic versus 57% last quarter).

Among other findings:

    • Almost 69% of survey takers said their companies will offer bonuses or incentives this year – predominantly cash – while another 12% are weighing options. As expected, bonuses became less prevalent during the recession, but appear to be on the rise again, the survey found.
    • Some 63% of business executives said they expect their companies to grow at least a little in the coming year, the highest percentage since the first quarter of 2011.
    • A majority of companies (75%) with hiring plans said they are seeking full-time workers. Only 2% said they were predominantly seeking part-time or temporary workers.
    • Among key performance indicators, anticipated revenue growth was flat compared to last quarter. Profit and head count expectations showed improvement.
    • Technology continued to build on its position as the most optimistic sector, followed by construction. Health care and health care providers were the least optimistic. The finance and insurance sectors, meanwhile, rebounded strongly in sentiment in the quarter.


Avalara and LEA Global Announce Strategic Alliance

Avalara Inc. announced the formation of a new strategic alliance with The Leading Edge Alliance (LEA).

This new alliance will enable Leading Edge member firms to access Avalara’s online Accountants Resource Center, giving them up-to-date sales and use tax (SUT) and value added tax (VAT) information, and related resources, to better meet firm clients’ needs. In addition, LEA member firms will be able to take advantage of Avalara partnering programs specifically designed to help market-leading accounting firms expand and differentiate their services.

“Correctly and efficiently automating sales and use tax is an attractive proposition for any firm,” says Karen Kehl-Rose, president at LEA. “Our new alliance with Avalara should be a tremendous benefit to our member firms and their clients. We are happy to provide our member firms with access to Avalara’s experience and partnering programs, which is just one more way that LEA can contribute to our member firms’ growth.”

Ray Bigley, vice president of business development for Avalara’s accountants program, points out that forming the strategic relationship with LEA Global is part of an ongoing effort to create greater awareness and closer working relationships with accounting firms across the U.S., and globally: “LEA Global is a major player in the international accounting association community, and we are very pleased to begin this exciting new partnership with them and their member firms,” says Bigley.