For those of you who are looking to pursue a career in public accounting, setting your sights on The Big 4, top 25, or top 100 is always an alluring choice. But the truth is, most practicing CPA’s work for small local and regional CPA firms. In some cases, some practicing CPAs actually work for firms with less than 10 people! So before you set your ambitions in stone on working for a large public accounting firm, here are some great reasons why you should consider working for small CPA firms.
For many people in the younger generation, the advantages of a small CPA firm can be very appealing.
Here are some advantages of working for a small firms as detailed by the Journal of Accountancy:
Despite their modest size, local practices have many real advantages that give them a competitive edge in recruiting, retention, client service and other vital business areas. PCPS is undertaking many new efforts to support its small firm members, and is rededicating itself to initiatives and publications that highlight the small firm advantage.
That advantage stems from a smaller practice’s flexibility, collegial atmosphere, opportunities to be hands on and its grassroots ingenuity. Senior members who are genuinely friendly and let employees know that having good staff is a big part of what makes them successful offer tremendous encouragement to firm members in good times and bad.
Ambitious staff members get more opportunities in small practices. At the same time, staff members who don’t want to advance to management level still can find challenging work. Many employees choose small firms because they don’t want to spend a lot of time on the road, but the biggest advantage is the involvement of management in the work process. Typically clients work with decision makers in the firm.
Women find it easier to advance at small firms, which is encouraging since they continue to enter the profession in high numbers. But work/life balance continues to be a priority for talented professionals of both sexes and at all levels.
From a partner’s point of view, it’s easier to feel like an owner in a small firm. At a larger firm, even partners feel like employees.
Small firms don’t have to change what they’re doing or try to be more like large firms. They simply have to recognize all the good they have going for them and reinforce it, both inside and outside the practice.
There's no surprise, then, at how vibrant the small CPA firm market has become.
From more intimate company culture to faster promotions, small firms are a great way to gain the knowledge and experience you need on a less overwhelming level. When you work at a small CPA firm, the clients have technical issues, but you’re often more involved with business and organizational issues. You’ll probably spend more time getting their software set up and figuring out how to record invoices than you will thinking about the latest FASB standards (like you would for a large multinational corporation).
However, it's important to keep in mind that just because a firm is smaller doesn’t mean you will work less.
Firms of all sizes and offices in any sized firm can be mismanaged. It’s up to you to ask the important questions that matter to you during the interview process. They're not just seeing if you're a good fit for the firm; you need to see if it's a good fit for you as well. So make sure you make an objective analysis about your wants, desires, and career hopes. At the end of the day you need to be vigilant about asking the questions that will get you comfortable with your decision!
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