Why you need QuickBooks

quickbooksI run into a surprising number of companies that rely on spreadsheets or paper ledgers to keep track of their financials. If this is you, PLEASE consider spending the small investment of time and money to switch to QuickBooks!

Accounting is a well established field, and it doesn’t change all that much from year to year. QuickBooks has been around for nearly 20 years, which means it’s rock solid and can only get better. It’s easy to use and has all the normal accounting functions and reports available via a single mouseclick.

Custom spreadsheets can break from time to time; changes can be tough and require close scrutiny. Paper ledgers are even worse because they require hours of time with your 10-key calculator. Once the data is in QuickBooks, the software tallies everything for you automatically.

What else can it do?

  • Need to send invoices or statements? You can email them.
  • Need to accept credit card payments? That’s integrated too.
  • Need to write checks or deposit slips? Print them out. It’s faster and more accurate.
  • Tired of retyping the bills that stay the same from month to month? Memorize the transaction and set it to repeat on the schedule of your choice.
  • Don’t want to deal with entering credit card statements each month? Download them instead.

We’re barely scratching the surface of what QuickBooks can do, but the point is that it can dramatically transform your accounting processes. Invest the time to set it up right, with your accountant’s help. Get training, so you are comfortable using the system and know its capabilities. Then enjoy the new-found productivity, accuracy, and up-to-the-minute financial reports that tell you exactly how your business is performing.

Turbo-charge QuickBooks

Designed for QuickBooksMost small business owners use QuickBooks to handle their finances. It is a great tool, full-featured, flexible, and a real bargain at just a few hundred dollars. But every once in a while, you may find something it can’t do. What then?

Many people create complex spreadsheets and export data on a regular basis to get what they need. This is time-consuming and error-prone. You could also consider a new accounting package but more than likely you’ll just have different gaps. Custom development is tricky at best, even if you know how to program.

Designed for QuickBooks: Third-Party Applications

Fortunately, there’s a better answer. If you lack just a feature or two, consider checking out QuickBooks third-party applications. Because QuickBooks is so popular, they’ve built a huge and highly capable third-party developer community. Chances are that you aren’t the first person who wants that missing feature, and that means someone may have built it for you already!

QuickBooks has an entire website devoted to the needs of their developers, and they offer a set of tools called the Software Development Kit (SDK) that simplify and streamline the process of programming add-ons for QuickBooks users. When these developers create a solution that they expect will have broad appeal, they submit it to QuickBooks for testing and certification.

You’ll find these certified solutions at the QuickBooks Solutions Marketplace. Add-ons range the gamut in features and benefits. A quick sampling includes sales commission calculators, bar code scanners for inventory tracking, project management tools, and more. Some tools link QuickBooks with other software packages–contact managers or CRM solutions, shipping tools, industry-specific applications–while others integrate access with other devices, like smart phones and PDAs so that you can keep data current when you’re in the field or at a client.

Choosing a Solution

We currently use an industry-specific application called ConnectWise to track our clients and our work, and a key feature is that it integrates easily with QuickBooks for billing and A/R.

We are about to purchase an add-on program to track sales commissions so that we don’t have to do it manually each month, and we’re estimating that this will save us a few precious hours each time while improving the odds that the calculations are accurate.

When selecting a tool for your own business, watch demos and see if you can get a free trial. Find out what kind of support they offer if you have problems. And confirm that their software works with your version of QuickBooks–if you have the latest version or the online version, this could trip you up. These add-ons may not be quite as easy as using a built-in feature, but the best come awfully close, improving accuracy while saving you time and, ultimately, money.

Are you open-minded about open-source?

Linux Penguin Mascot TuxMost of us pay dearly to run the software that’s installed on our computers, usually some version of Windows along with Microsoft Office, accounting software like QuickBooks or Peachtree, and an antivirus program like Symantec or McAfee. Many products require annual renewals or maintenance contracts; others release upgrades regularly, making it a challenge to keep pace with the latest versions.

While keeping licenses paid up is expensive, it can be even worse if you don’t, with civil and criminal penalties (including jail time!) that far outweigh the price of the licenses themselves. Disgruntled employees are a common source of leads, earning tens of thousands—even hundreds of thousands—in rewards for reporting software piracy.

These factors are driving many businesses to explore the world of open source software, where licensing costs are nonexistent. Entire cities, like Houston, TX, are making the switch; likewise, the government of Brazil abandoned Microsoft completely in favor of open source software.

How can free software be any good?

Open-source software is distributed under a special (free) license that allows anyone access to study and change the source code. This allows the software to evolve naturally, based on the needs of users world-wide; also, as bugs arise, programmers contribute solutions. The pace of development can be remarkably fast. New updates are generally batched together into releases, with some sort of peer review or decision-making process to ensure that the software remains stable.

Many programmers philosophically believe all software should be free, while others believe that open-source development produces a higher quality product than commercial development. Either way, the result is a wide assortment of excellent software tools that we can all put to use.