If you own a start-up business, you’ve probably heard over and over again that you should get QuickBooks for your business. This can be a great idea for most businesses, but the dizzying array of choices can leave any business owner reeling.
First, consider why QuickBooks should be your first choice.
QuickBooks was the first nationally recognized accounting software program designed for business owners, rather than accountants. Starting in 1992, QuickBooks software has made computerized accounting accessible to every business owner.
QuickBooks uses real accounting methods, but allows users unfamiliar with accounting theory to record business transactions using everyday forms. Most regular business transactions can be entered into the computer by filling out traditional invoices, bills, checks, and deposits.
While the accounting profession in general turned up their nose at this revolution, business owners quickly embraced QuickBooks. QuickBooks listened and learned from its users, and, 15 years later, now has the most widely used accounting software. In fact, I have heard estimates that over 80% of U.S. businesses use registered copies of QuickBooks.
Right now, QuickBooks is really your best option in small business accounting software. Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting looks promising, but would not be my recommendation for a start-up business.
If you rarely turn on your computer, don’t feel bad or guilty about not buying QuickBooks. If you won’t use it, it really is just a waste of money. Find a good accountant who can put your information together on a monthly basis (this is called a write-up service by accountants), and move on to the things you do well.
If you just want to way to save time in certain areas of your business, such as creating checks or keeping track of accounts receivable, you can pair QuickBooks with a write-up service. This is a very good choice for many small or start-up businesses.
If you want access to real-time business information, and are ready to computerize 100%, then find a good QuickBooks accountant to help you set up and maintain your data file. QuickBooks makes business accounting much easier than traditional accounting packages, but it’s best to have a qualified accountant review your file quarterly, at a minimum.
If you want to hire a professional, you can use an outsourcing service to enter all of your accounting details in your file for you, allowing you to use the software as a management tool to monitor company profitability.
The options to use QuickBooks as a business tool are limited only by your imagination, but the deciding on a QuickBooks version can be somewhat like picking out an ice cream flavor-they are all good, but some may not be the right fit for you.
If your business is truly mobile, and you need to have access by multiple users in multiple locations, you can use the online version. The first 1-3 users cost around $20 per month. The earlier online versions were somewhat limited, but the 2007 version provides almost all the features of QuickBooks Pro. Processing time may be somewhat slower than using in-house software, if your internet connection is slow, but the monthly fee allows you to access the latest version without paying for upgrades. This is a great option for mobile businesses or service businesses that have users in multiple physical locations.
If you are just getting started with accounting software, and do not plan on using QuickBooks for payroll, you may want to consider the new Simple Start version. The retail cost is around $100, and this version can perform all the other basic accounting functions. You cannot have multiple users with Simple Start. This is the “no-frills” option, and good for many small or home businesses, and even gives you the option of adding credit card processing for an additional fee.
If you plan on using QuickBooks for payroll, you need to purchase QuickBooks Pro or higher. QuickBooks Pro is the best option for most small businesses, at a cost of about $200 retail per copy. You can add multiple users by purchasing additional copies, and can perform all but the most specialized accounting functions.
If you would like reports and charts of accounts pre- set by industry, QuickBooks offers a variety of Premier versions. The Premier version has a more advanced inventory assembly function, as well as functions for business plans and forecasts. The Premier version was offered on the QuickBooks website for about $340, discounted from the regular almost $400 retail price when I wrote this. If you are a contractor, manufacturer that wants to use QuickBooks for inventory, or a professional service provider that needs to set up multiple billing rates, you should invest the extra in the Premier version.
If you are a new QuickBooks user, the extra bells and whistles in the Premier version probably are not worth the extra cost, unless you would like a specialized pre-set chart of accounts. If you purchase the Accountant’s version, you can “toggle” to each of the other industry versions, allowing access to ALL the industry versions for the same cost. (Hint here: Buy the Accountant’s version if you purchase Premier).
Most start-up businesses will not need to look further than this, but QuickBooks does have an Enterprise version for larger businesses or groups that need more than five users. The cost ranges from $3,000 to $7,500, depending on the number of users. The beauty of this is that your company will have to get pretty dang large before you completely grow out of QuickBooks The changes in this version makes it very plausible that your company could potentially use QuickBooks forever, regardless of how big you grow. As more dedicated QuickBooks users grow out of the smaller versions, the capabilities of the Enterprise version continue to expand.
If you are a dedicated Mac user, QuickBooks 2007 finally has a new Mac version. It is very similar to QuickBooks Pro, but has the ability to share data between Mac and Windows, which is great, as most accountants use the Windows version. It retails for about $200.
QuickBooks payroll requires an additional fee, ranging from $69 to $254 per year. Alternatively, you can use their payroll tax deposit services for a monthly fee, like a traditional payroll service bureau.
If you plan on using QuickBooks for payroll, look at the payroll options first, as you can sometimes add software upgrades at a reduced price if you include them in with your annual payroll subscription. QuickBooks payroll usually only supports the latest releases, so plan on upgrading at least every other year if you want to continue to use the payroll tax tables.
Bottom line, use the online edition if you must have users in separate physical locations, or would like to be able to use the software from both work and home. Simple Start is your option if you do not have payroll and only need one user. Buy Premier if you like the extra bells and whistles, or have specialized needs. Everyone else, use QuickBooks Pro.
The great thing about QuickBooks is that your data file can transfer between types, except online. So, don’t worry if you want to use Simple Start. Keep growing your business, and you eventually will be big enough to need the Enterprise version, and hopefully profitable enough to be happy to pay for it!