NJCPA Firm Operations Forum Helps CPA Advisories Get a Leg Up

by Kathleen Hoffelder, NJCPA Senior Content Editor – September 13, 2023
NJCPA Firm Operations Forum Helps CPA Advisories Get a Leg Up

Recognizing that CPA firms and advisories need to stay abreast of the latest marketing trends and human resources (HR) best practices to be successful, NJCPA hosted a Firm Operations Forum on Sept. 8.

Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, IOM, CEO and executive director at the NJCPA, was on hand to provide an update on the accounting industry, growth areas and the challenges and opportunities that exist. She noted that finding and retaining talent is the top issue facing the accounting profession today, followed by maintaining culture and managing a hybrid workforce, and the need for new competencies in the team.

Discussing the key influencers over the profession for accounting students, Johnson said, “Mentors, teachers and family still have an influence on students entering the profession.” Mentors particularly hold a higher influence for Black accounting students compared to Hispanic or white accounting students, she noted.

Though collectively there are differences in what may be holding students back from choosing accounting as a career, CPA licensure is still revered. Johnson pointed to a recent Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) report that showed 77% of those undecided or not planning on licensure still find value in the credential. At the top of the list for why accounting was not chosen as a major was a lack of interest or passion in the profession at 70%.

Expanding Professionalism

Accounting firms and advisories continue to expand their hiring of professionals in HR, marketing and technology in a move that Daniel Hood, editor in chief of Accounting Today, an NJCPA member benefit provider who spoke at the event, called, “the professionalization of professional services firms.”

Hood noted that firms are relying on bringing in more professionals other than CPAs and that IT is the “glue that holds all functions together.” The new roles in the most demand at these firms include the following:

  • Project managers
  • Pricing specialists
  • Client relationship managers
  • Client onboarders
  • Specialized recruiters
  • Trainers/mentors

Marketing Successes

Speaker Leon Grassi, chief marketing officer at Sax LLP, recommended several ways for attendees to direct their firms towards success. For example, he explained it’s important to be the best at some kind of business service or sector. “Take a stance on a specific area, subject matter, etc. and own it,” he explained. However, he cautioned “not to be all things to all people,” and many times delving into a new operation or business line will require one to “unthink what you know.” 

Innovating and incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) can bring new levels of efficiency to operations professionals Grassi explained, noting “The implications will be far-reaching.” He favors implementing an acceptable-use policy for staff on AI and finding the right AI software for the firm’s needs.

Grassi also recommends the benefits of having loyalty programs for clients, which rewards good relationships and provides opportunities to show the value companies continually bring to the table.

HR Trends

Rachel Anevski, MAOB, PHR, SHRM-CP, CEO and president of Matters of Management, another speaker at the event, explained how HR has taken on a higher level of importance as the hybrid work model continues. Key discussions continue to be around creating new work standards and “taking flex to the next level,” she said.

According to Anevski, “91% of HR professionals rely on hybrid to recruit and retain.” She added that “multilayered flex options can be tied to compensation strategy.” This can include four-day work weeks, unlimited PTO offerings, having a “work your way” flex schedule, wellness programs and even having divorce coaches available.


The NJCPA hosts an online community for firm operations staff. To be added to the community, contact Susan Dyer, NJCPA membership director, at sdyer@njcpa.org.