As an avid user and advocate of QuickBooks Pro (version 2002), I leaped at the opportunity when asked by Anita, to put QuickBooks Premier Edition 2008 through the paces. For the record, I’m no IT guy and I’m no accountant. My review comes squarely from the point of view of an over-worked entrepreneur seeking to minimize the time and tasks associated with responsible accounting record keeping (what I call “red work”), thus freeing up time to sell and market the business. That said, let’s get to it.
Review of QuickBooks Premier 2008
QuickBooks by Intuit has evolved from being a responsible accounting package, to becoming a partner in your business, providing solutions beyond accounting to help you run your business better. All the accounting basics are there, such as saving time on everyday tasks like: paying bills, tracking expenses, printing checks, creating estimates and invoices. You can create 100+ customizable reports by industry type, assemble business plans and sales and expense forecasts, track inventory costs, and set billing rates by employee and service type.
QuickBooks really shines in these ways:
- Industry-specific general ledger and planning: QuickBooks offers industry-specific general ledgers and planning tools. When installing QuickBooks Premier Edition 2008, you are prompted to select one of seven (7) specific industries: Accounting Professionals, Contractors, Manufacturers, Wholesales & Distributors, Nonprofits, Professional Service Firms, and Retailers. This feature saves time when you set up your books and improves accuracy, because many common controls and entry features are already tailored for your industry.
- Enhanced Reporting and Dashboard: When you log in, instead of being met with a complex accounting-like screen, you see a simpler icon-based dashboard (see image below) that lets you choose activities you want to perform, such as create estimates, create invoices, enter payments received, and so on. QuickBooks Premier also organizes data according to: Customer, Vendor, Employee, Report(s). This allows you to quickly view all information and transactions about a particular customer, for instance, or a vendor, on one screen.
- Ability to perform sales, marketing and contact management functions: QuickBooks Premier 2008 enables users to communicate with customers, vendors and employees without ever leaving the general ledger. For instance, when reviewing invoices you can toggle on three separate links to access: map directions, driving instructions, and email. If you needed to follow up with the customer about an invoice, you could send an email right there without leaving QuickBooks. The exact same features are available for sales reps calling on customer leads wherein you can access Google maps/directions. You can also capture billable hours from your Outlook calendar.
QuickBooks also offers optional add-on products and services. For additional fees, the QuickBooks user can take advantage of: Payroll Services, Credit Card processing, and if you carry inventory, Merchant Services for Web Stores, as well as Billing Solutions.
Let’s look at Payroll to see an example of how QuickBooks helps you manage your business better. Payroll bites the business owner in ways that the business owner rarely considers. Payroll tax compliance is subtle and not an area you ever want to mess with. Many small business owners that must make a payroll elect to manage the process internally. It is not unusual, since current law works on the “honor” system and provides the business owner several days to “settle up” with the Fed, State and Local authorities on tax liabilities. Therein lies the rub … a lot of companies pay their employees, but fail to make the necessary friction (payroll tax) liability payments.
Inasmuch as the Fed calls the shots, failing to stay current with required payroll tax withholdings impacts the small business owner in a financial manner (penalties and interest) akin to using a loan shark as your everyday banker. Utilizing QuickBooks Payroll services eliminates the temptation to delay paying your company’s payroll tax liability by “impounding” required tax funds at the same time as payroll deposits. QuickBooks then forwards the tax proceeds to the appropriate tax authority(s), files all required quarterly and year end reports and calculates all W-2s.
Working with Your Accountant
No matter how many skillful improvements QuickBooks develops with each new edition, all small business owners need to have an accountant look at their books — at least once each year. Users of QuickBooks Premier 2008 can now have their accountant’s copy automatically created, security-encrypted and uploaded to a secure server. The accountant can review and revise historical company accounting records while the user continues to perform day-to-day booking tasks. A key feature to the process is the “Always-on Audit Trail.” This feature makes it easier for both the accountant and business owner to track and compare previous operating periods and understand what has changed. In addition, this feature quickly surfaces errors and fraudulent transactions.
QuickBooks Premier 2008 has done a fine job of enhancing the ease and efficiency of working on your books and running your business. I would go so far as to say that the software can pay for itself just from helping you to collect on your receivables faster. For all you business owners reading this who carry receivables, you know what I’m talking about.
QuickBooks Premier ain’t cheap – but then quality never comes cheap. At the current list price of $449.95 for one user, I am sure some of you will consider the lower-priced QuickBooks Pro, or Simple Start (there is even an online tool that helps you choose which QuickBooks version is right for you). But when your business is big enough or growing fast enough and you think you’re ready for “the whole enchilada” — QuickBooks Premier will automatically import your accounting data, thus eliminating double entry and all the risks associated with that process.
I have been exposed to and used some four to five different GL packages at all levels of business size. In my estimation, Intuit offers a very good product and QuickBooks Premier 2008 deserves your serious consideration.
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About the Author: Neal O’Sullivan is a strategic business consultant who has started and run several businesses and helps other businesses set up their financial operations and operate more effectively.