CPA2Biz Delivers Update to AICPA Council


CPA2Biz, the AICPA’s marketing and technology provider, experiences steady online growth, releases new site features and develops a set of core business solutions programs to meet the needs of small and midsize public practitioners and CPAs working in business and industry.

O ver the past year CPA2Biz, the exclusive marketing provider of the AICPA, has launched a pair of new initiatives enabling CPAs to build stronger relationships with their clients or employers. Now it’s looking ahead to several new Web site enhancements and CPA programs for the coming year.

This news was delivered at the AICPA Spring Council meeting by Erik Asgeirsson, CEO of CPA2Biz. The JofA recently caught up with Asgeirsson, as well as CPA2Biz COO Patrick Bonnaure and several AICPA members, to fill out the picture of the current status of CPA2Biz.

CPA2Biz develops and manages client-focused business solutions programs such as the Paychex Partner Program (for payroll) and the Chase CPA Advantage Program (for banking) to meet the needs of small and midsize public practitioners and CPAs in business and industry. Just 10 months after the November 2003 launch of these initiatives, more than 8,000 CPA firms from 47 states are participating in the Business Solutions Program and more than 1,500 new CPAs are signing up for it each month. With built-in benefits for CPAs and their clients, these programs bring large-firm resources to all firms.

“More than 8,000 clients have been successfully referred by enrolled CPAs,” says Asgeirsson, as of the April 2004 Spring Council meeting. Through the Paychex Partner Program, participating CPAs can offer their clients one month of free payroll processing and a six-month satisfaction guarantee. In addition, CPA2Biz and Paychex have put procedures in place to assure the CPA remains the client’s main contact at all times.

CPA2Biz also has teamed with Chase to roll out the CPA Advantage Program. This small business banking program offers CPAs a dedicated hot line, direct access to client financial information, a special small business account manager to work with and preferred pricing for the firm and its clients.

CPA2BIZ REACHES NEW MILESTONES
After two years of improving financial performance, CPA2Biz has attained a new milestone. In its most recent fiscal year, CPA2Biz had positive cash flow from operations as well as overall positive net cash flow. This is a result of the marketing and operational investments that have made CPA2Biz a valuable asset to the CPA community.

“CPA2Biz is meeting the needs of AICPA members,” according to Mark Zinman, name partner in a local CPA firm in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. His firm is active in CPA2Biz’s Business Solutions Programs. Under the programs, CPA2Biz leverages the voice of the profession to deliver a valuable and unique set of benefits to AICPA members.

“The more we utilize our buying power, the better it will be for all of us—CPAs, firms and especially, these days, clients,” Zinman says.

The CPA2Biz Web site now serves as a key resource for over 50% of the CPA profession. More than 200,000 CPAs and financial professionals regularly use CPA2Biz to search for the latest articles, tools and career resources and to access a selection of more than 1,000 professional products. More than 50,000 site searches are conducted on average each month on topics such as COSO, ethics, SAS no. 99 and CPE. CPA2Biz also recently released new Web site enhancements, including a new capability in the online store to show real-time data on the most popular products customers have purchased, allowing AICPA members to quickly see what professional tools their peers are relying on and what new editions have been released.

CPA2Biz also continues to provide the AICPA with sophisticated online and off-line marketing operations to drive AICPA sales in books, periodicals, online resources, conferences and webcasts. Most of the AICPA’s direct marketing to members is handled by CPA2Biz.

But at the heart of the CPA2Biz culture, officials say, is a dedication to be driven and directed by member needs, experience and input. Major new product strategies and site changes, for instance, are rolled out only after weeks or months of testing and refinement as “beta” projects with rank-and-file CPAs acting as advisers and testers. “This is a customer-driven process,” Asgeirsson says.

CPA Bill Bloom of New York sits on one of those advisory panels. “We’re not rubber stamps,” he says. “They run ideas for new products or services or partnerships past us. And we give them our opinions and reactions—and I mean our honest opinions and reactions.” Feedback from CPA2Biz’s customer advisory group informed the recent rollout of the small business banking program.

NEW FEATURES TO COME
In coming months CPA2Biz will be launching a new e-newsletter service and staging a series of online seminars with CPAs and their clients, covering business issues such as strategic planning and trends in financing. These services will be offered to CPAs participating in the business solutions programs and are designed to cement the relationship between the CPA firms and their clients.

For the AICPA, CPA2Biz will be launching tightly focused direct-marketing campaigns in specialty areas of practice, all the while maintaining the production and mass distribution of comprehensive product catalogs. “We want to give members what they need and only when they need it,” Asgeirsson says. “CPAs are too busy to sift through a lot of random information. It’s our job at CPA2Biz to put together well-organized collateral, the best services from the top providers so our customers are not overwhelmed.”

Bruce Meyer, a third-generation CPA in Melville, New York, says: “The companies CPA2Biz deals with are all good, quality companies. I can rely on that.”

In Tucson, Arizona, Donna Byers, CPA/PFS, tax manager at Clifton Gunderson, registers for live CPE webcasts through the CPA2Biz site. So far, she’s taken online classes in individual fiduciary relationships, the issues involved in net unrealized appreciation and ESOPs. “Excellent,” she says about the courses, “and not too expensive.”

A rigorous schedule of CPA2Biz major site enhancements and minor patch releases is overseen by Bonnaure. CPA2Biz is scheduled to introduce major new site features in fall 2004, some of which include an updated home page with easy access to all areas of the site, including the online store, news center, career center and more; a new “forgot password” system to make it painless for the user who has forgotten his or her user name or password; the facility to purchase and download Adobe PDFs online; and for AICPA conference goers, a series of new site enhancements to make meetings far easier to register for and attend. In the first phase, due this November, CPA2Biz plans to allow online registration for the add-on pre- and post-conference workshops that attract hundreds of registrants every year.

BUILDING ON SOLID GAINS
CPA Ivan Watson is one of the AICPA members who can attest to the changes of recent years. The Middlesex, New Jersey, sole practitioner uses CPA2Biz often to do last-minute research on the AICPA InfoBytes CPE service before a client meeting. “It helps me brush up on the latest developments,” he says. In addition, he remarked on improvements in the Web site’s navigation, structure and organization, and visual look and feel.

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