Successful completion of the Practice Management distance learning subject is one of the prerequisites for obtaining a Public Practice Certificate to offer public accounting services in Australia or New Zealand.

The program is also suitable for members based outside Australia or New Zealand who are interested in learning about practice management. Additional non-examinable introductory information on the requirements to practise as an accountant in Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore is also available in the International Practice Management supplementary booklet.

Exam Structure

The Practice Management exam consists of 100 per cent multiple-choice questions.

Subject outline

Module 1: The business of public practice

Module 1 introduces the term “public practice” and its requirements. It discusses how public practice has changed in recent years and helps you examine if public practice is suitable for you (the whole program helps you address this question). Module 1 provides you with a checklist to assess your strengths and limitations, and gives a broad outline of the changing trends in business and public accounting. It looks closely at the requirements of public practice and the challenges it offers to practitioners.

Contents:

  • What is public practice?
  • How has public practice changed in recent years?
  • What does public practice involve?
  • Is public practice for me?
  • Managing yourself and others
  • What types of practice structure could I establish?

Module 2: Ethics

Module 2 studies a range of ethical and professional issues associated with public practice.

It emphasises the special responsibilities placed on public practitioners concerning their ethical and professional conduct. The module examines APES 110 Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants and also works through a number of ethical decision-making models.

Contents:

  • Ethical issues in accounting

Module 3: Quality control and risk management in your business

Module 3 discusses a range of professional issues associated with public practice.

The module examines the licensing and regulatory requirements applicable to accountants in public practice. It examines APES 320 Quality Control for Firms and addresses the issue of quality control in public practice, and other relevant standards and legislation.

Accountants are under increasing threat of litigation for professional negligence. In this context, having a risk management program and appropriate professional indemnity insurance is of immense significance. The module covers aspects related to risk management in a public practice and emphasises the importance of quality control in delivering quality services.

Contents:

  • Risk management and quality control in your practice 
  • Self-regulation discipline principles 
  • Liability and insurance 
  • Professional standards for specific practice areas 
  • Licensing requirements in Australia 
  • Providing credit advice or assistance 

Module 4: Planning an independent practice — The "big picture"

Module 4 further builds on your understanding of what is involved in setting up a public practice. It is important to develop a business strategy in order to create a thriving public practice. This requires you to have a "big picture" view of the practice’s present resources, and where you want your business to go. In this context the term strategic planning is explained and steps involved are highlighted in the module. It also discusses some of the long-term strategies you will need in order to build a strong, well-regarded practice in the coming years.

Contents:

  • Strategic planning
  • The strategic planning process
  • Evaluating and valuing a practice for purchase
  • Building and growing a practice – the long-term imperative

Module 5: Creating a business plan that fits the strategic plan

While Module 4 deals with your practice’s basic direction for the future and its purpose, Modules 5, 6 and 7 focus on elements of your practice which play a role in achieving your objectives such as your people, resources and finance. For each of these elements you need to have objectives and operational plans in place to achieve those goals.

Module 5 in particular looks at the detailed business planning for five major functions in your proposed practice:

  • the structure of your practice
  • the services offered
  • practice operating systems
  • marketing and 
  • technology strategy

In addition it covers the risk management issues pertaining to each of these aspects of your practice.

Contents:

  • The need for business planning
  • Building a risk management approach into your practice
  • The structure of your practice
  • Issues in structuring a practice
  • Your services strategy
  • Your practice operating systems
  • Developing a marketing strategy
  • A technology strategy

Module 6: A finance plan within your strategic plan

This module gives you the opportunity to estimate and summarise the financial implications of your decision to enter public practice. It also outlines some of the cash-flow implications for a new practitioner, as you decide whether to start your own practice, or buy into an existing one. As you work through Module 7, you will also be able to revisit the threshold question: Is public practice for me?

Contents:

  • Financial issues to consider
  • Some general financial considerations
  • Building a set of practice KPIs and benchmarks
  • The financial feasibility of your practice
  • An exit strategy
  • Risk management issues

Module 7: Creating a people plan that fits the strategic plan

Module 7 looks at a further element that will play a role in achieving your objectives—staffing. Along with the functions covered in Module 5, the people strategy is a component of your business plan. Module 7 looks in detail at a range of complex staffing issues and emphasises the importance of well-developed policies and procedures as a means of maintaining high-quality service.

Contents:

  • Considering the practice and its people
  • Considering generational diversity
  • Understanding practice culture
  • Delegating practice tasks
  • Ensuring effective communication
  • Ensuring an optimal staff mix
  • Recruiting staff
  • Inducting new employees
  • Retaining and developing people
  • Planning for non-chargeable time
  • Dismissing staff
  • Understanding the risk management issues
  • Developing quality control systems

Module 8: Building and growing a practice

The strategic plan should also take into account the issues relating to building and growing a practice. This module focuses on growth within an established practice.

Contents:

  • Assessing your growth requirements
  • Developing your growth strategy
  • Creating a practice culture
  • Identifying your target client
  • Building your brand
  • Implementing your plan