I love QuickBooks. It’s fast, powerful, and full featured. I even interviewed the guy who designed it.
But I also hate QuickBooks. In fact, it’s so complex that I hired an employee just to manage the books and run the reports.
That’s pretty sick, right? Its a $300 program that requires a $30,000 a year person to get the information into it — and back out again in a simple report. It doesn’t make much sense to me. After all, accounting software is not really about accounting … it’s about reporting. The management data is what we really want; the hassle of software is just what we tolerate to get to the information.
Most business owners would do better to have a simple “Financial Dashboard” that tells them what’s going well, and what’s not. The concept of a dashboard is great, but for too long our finanical data has been hostage to QuickBooks. (Or its first cousin, Peachtree Accounting, if you happen to be of that tribe.) Until recently, finance dashboards have been clunky, stand-alone alternatives that made more work for managers and bookkeepers.
Fortunately, things are changing rather quickly. I’m happy to report that all QB hostages can now find interesting alternatives for reporting — and for Quickbooks itself — by looking at the new finance dashboards quickly coming online.
- Strong and Simple: Whether or not you are already a hostage of an accounting software package, be sure to check out a new entrant called www.60mo.com. This online accounting dashboard does for business finances what Mint.com did for personal accounts — it integrates directly with bank accounts and automates both the download and the categorizations for the transactions. Downloading transactions from our business checking account (or credit card) into QuickBooks has always been a problem. 60mo promises to fix that. And, as the name implies, it gives a nice-looking view of your business, projecting income and expenses for the next 60 months (five years). A very small business can get by with the free service. The full-featured plans from 60mo cost $29 and $59 per month.
- Cheap and Cheerful: The newest kid on the block is www.Outright.com where a sawbuck (that’s $10) will get you a month’s subscription to this handy account scraper. Like Mint.com and 60mo (above) you simply plug in your bank account passwords and it auto-categorizes all your expenses and income. Easy to customize, plus simple (but powerful) reports. Perfect for online sellers, one-man offices, and mobile pros.
- Cheap and Complete: The guy who designed QuickBooks, Ridgely Evers, now runs a winery… and an online accounting package for people who hate QuickBooks. Called WorkingPoint, this is a very complete package hidden behind a very simple interface. For $9 to $19 per month (and a 30-day free test drive), you can untether yourself from both your desktop software and your accountant. WorkingPoint makes the bookkeeping part simple and the reporting powerful. The user-friendly dashboard is a welcome change from QuickBooks menu hell and a good place from which to view and manage all aspects of your business
- Custom and Comprehensive: If you’re wed to QuickBooks — and many medium-sized businesses should be — there are still ways to get the management information you need without hiring an army of accountants. Customized dashboards and simplified reporting are available from consultants like John Steffen, who uses Access and XL to creat highly customized management and accounting reports for business owners and financial executives alike.
These four are by no means the only solutions to QB jail. Accounting dashboards — or I should say, financial dashboards — are finally coming of age. Whether you build your own or buy a monthly subscription, the effort will transform the way you view your accounting information … and your business.
Dedicated to your profits,