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10 posts from March 2011

Wish You Could Automatically E-Mail QuickBooks Reports?

Have the need to generate and automatically e-mail various QuickBooks reports to clients, management or the owners of your business?

You may be very interested in the ActiveBooks add-on for QuickBooks.

ActiveBooks Logo

SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE

ActiveBooks was created to help automate the tedious and time-consuming task of generating various QuickBooks reports.

You have the ability to choose from 70+ QuickBooks reports and e-mail them to recipients of your choice on a schedule you decide.

COMMON USES OF ACTIVEBOOKS:

ActiveBooks can be a great time-saver in these areas:

  • Collections and sales staff that are chasing the money
  • Company officers that want regular reports via e-mail
  • Remote employees/contractors that don't have access to your QuickBooks
  • Anyone who regularly needs QuickBooks information but who can't easily log in to get it

Watch a short demo on how ActiveBooks can send the Collections Report every morning at 7am. 

TAKE 10% OFF ACTIVEBOOKS!

As a special bonus for being a reader of my blog, I have arranged for you to get 10% off on ActiveBooks software.

I hope you find it to be a welcome addition to your QuickBooks toolkit.

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Alert: QuickBooks Online - Turbulence in the Cloud

Buyer Alert: If you are considering moving your business to QuickBooks Online, be aware that they have suffered two multi-day service outages in the last year and several multi-hour outages during that time as well.

If you are already one of the tens of thousands of businesses using QuickBooks Online, you already know all too well the feeling of being stranded with no access to your critical accounting records, credit card processing or payroll service.

Tornado WHAT WAS IT THIS TIME?

Was the recent outage because someone tripped over the power cord in the server room?

Or, maybe the processor in the solo 386 computer overheated and quit?

Actually, it really doesn't matter to the thousands of businesses that didn't have the ability to "work anytime, anywhere" as the QuickBooks web site touts.

Here is the official Intuit response to the recent QuickBooks Online service outages.


WHO DOES MAINTENANCE EARLY IN A WORK WEEK?

In reading the Intuit response, my first question is - what online services provider schedules software updates for the early part of a business week? Almost every other online service that I use schedules their updates on Friday nights, Saturdays or Sundays. IT guys - feel free to chime in here. Doesn't it just make sense to do them on a weekend?

The second issue is this as reported in the Intuit message - "Quite simply, this shouldn't happen and there's no excuse for this performance. We didn't meet our own high standards for dependability and customer service".

That apology may work with some customers, but...

It likely rings hollow for those same customers that experienced a similar outage of the QuickBooks Online service in the summer of 2010.

WHAT ABOUT MIRRORING/REDUNDANCY?

The latest figures I've seen indicate that well over 300,000 businesses are using QuickBooks Online. With that kind of user base, shouldn't there be a failover plan in place that would knock the downtime from days to hours?

Since we are not able to peek behind the curtain of the QuickBooks Online data center, we can only guess how it is set up. To observers like you and me, it sure seems to me like an effective failover plan and/or mirrored hot site is NOTin place for service issues such as these. Otherwise, how could the multi-day outage from the summer of 2010 be repeated yet again in 2011?

The statement from Intuit says "We're building resiliency and redundancy into our new products and data centers, so we can keep your services up and running in the event of a failure with minimal downtime."

Um, shouldn't that already have been in place from the severe 2010 outages? Here we are nine months later looking at the same thing.

ALTERNATIVES TO QUICKBOOKS ONLINE?

This is where things get tricky.

Any time a business relies on a "cloud/internet based"solution for any type of service, there are certainly risks involved. Are the risks of using QuickBooks Online more or less than those of using other services? As far as I know, there is no easy way to tell. There is no service that tracks and reports on uptime for online software vendors. The bad news for QuickBooks Online is that they already have two pretty good size black marks on their service record.

Even though no uptime reporting exists, doing your homework can still save you from some potential headaches and heartburn. Here are 7 key questions to ask your cloud software service provider before you sign on the dotted line.

If you have decided enough is enough with QuickBooks Online, you may want to evaluate the pros and cons of these other alternatives:

You'll find that there is no perfect answer in this situation, so weigh the alternatives carefully.

WERE YOU IMPACTED? HAVE SOME THOUGHTS?

I'd love to hear from businesses that have been right in the middle of one or both of the QuickBooks Online service outages.

Are you staying with QuickBooks Online? Are you leaving? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below - thanks in advance for sharing!

Intuit - if you're reading this post, my readers would love to hear from you as well.

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Can I Round Values on My QuickBooks Invoices?

Several readers have written in recently about how to round various values on the invoice form in QuickBooks such as:

  • Invoice total
  • % of work completed

As far as I know, there is NO capability within QuickBooks to do any rounding on your forms or templates. (i.e. invoices, sales receipts, etc.)

It is possible when customizing a form using the Layout Designer to modify other settings such as:

  • Font size
  • Font color
  • Border backgrounds
  • Border lines and related thicknesses

Is rounding a feature you would like to see in a future version of QuickBooks? Weigh in on your wish list for QuickBooks 2012 - maybe the programmers at Intuit will include the ideas you share.

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QuickBooks Profit and Loss Report: Can I Add a % of Income Column?

By default, the Profit and Loss report in QuickBooks (access via Reports > Company and Financial > Profit and Loss Standard) provides a great overview of your income and expenses for a certain period of time.

However, what if you want to do a bit more analysis and see how each line item on the report stacks up as a percentage of your income? This is a common way to analyze a financial statement as well as a method to start tracking trends in the performance of your business.

TURN ON THE % OF INCOME OPTION

After you create the Profit and Loss Standard report, you'll want to click the "Modify Report" button in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

While there, on the "Display" tab, look for the check box in the lower right hand section of the window that says "% of income". Put a check mark in this box and then click OK. You will see a report that looks like this - a new column has been added to the right:

P and L w_Percent of Income

HOW TO INTERPRET THIS INFORMATION

In the example above, everything in the % of income column is now keyed off the row in the report called "Total Income", or the value of $57,523.91.

A few specific examples:

  • The total job expenses for this period represent 37.3% of the total income of the business.
  • The total payroll expenses for this period represent 26.3% of the total income of the business.

ARE THESE RESULTS GOOD OR BAD?

Taken by themselves on just one report such as this, it is difficult to say if the percentages are too high, too low, or just right.

This is where you would want to measure these percentages over a period of time to see what the trends are.

In addition, you can take your financial results and compare them to those of others through the use of a site like BizStats.

KNOW YOU NEED THIS INSIGHT BUT DON'T HAVE THE TIME?

In many cases, I know you see the value of this type of information for your business. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse and identify potential problem areas.

However, I also know that you probably don't have the time to spend doing this type of analysis.

Good news! This is one of the services that I perform in my part-time/virtual CFO packages that I offer. I do the analysis and help explain it to you in easily understood terms and keep the mind-numbing accounting jargon to a minimum.

RELATED POST: Profit and Loss Report for Multiple Months in QuickBooks

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Attention Accountants/Bookkeepers: This Tool for QuickBooks Should Be In Your Toolkit

AuditMyBooks logo

  • Have you been looking for a way to detect problems that may be lurking inside a clients' QuickBooks data file?
  • Has the ownership of your client expressed some concern about the quality of the work being done by their bookkeeper?
  • Are there any reasons to believe that some shenanigans (i.e. theft or fraud) may be occurring at a client site?

If your answer is yes to one or more of the above, you owe it to your practice to take a closer look at AuditMyBooks, which is called "add-on software for QuickBooks".

BAD THINGS CAN (AND DO!) HAPPEN TO GOOD BUSINESSES

Don't want to believe that theft, fraud and other embezzlement schemes could happen to your clients? Take a closer look at these true stories of theft, fraud and other schemes have happened at various businesses and organization.

HOW AUDITMYBOOKS CAN HELP

AuditMyBooks was designed to automate and simplify the process of double-checking QuickBooks company files for problems.

It was created by a team of professionals with expertise in: QuickBooks, financial auditing, accounting systems and information security. They saw a need for a cost-effective and easy to use solution that helps small businesses (and of course, their accountants) identify suspect financial transactions and proactively reduce business risk.

HOW DOES AUDITMYBOOKS WORK?

AuditMyBooks is an "app", so it can be securely accessed from any computer with an internet connection.

  • You create an account at the Intuit App Center
  • Choose the AuditMyBooks app
  • Select the QuickBooks data file that you want to review and connect it to AuditMyBooks
  • Let the AuditMyBooks software run the scan and then report back to you what it found

There is a free trial of AuditMyBooks available so you can "try before you buy".

WHAT TYPE OF FEEDBACK DOES AUDITMYBOOKS PROVIDE?

Once the scan of the QuickBooks data file is complete, the AP Analyzer then provides a 17 point feedback system, that covers such critical findings within the accounts payable and check-writing areas as:

  • Rounded payment amounts
  • Duplicate checks
  • Duplicate bills
  • Above average bill payment amounts and frequency
  • Checks written to cash
  • Unapplied vendor credits and more

The findings can easily be exported to Excel from the AuditMyBooks report screen.

In addition, each of the "tests" that AuditMyBooks runs can be calibrated to your specific needs and requirements.

NO IT GEEK NEEDED OR ACCOUNTING DEGREE REQUIRED

The AuditMyBooks process is explained in clear terminology so that anyone can understand how it works and how to use it.

Setting it up to connect with a QuickBooks data file is not complicated - you simply browse to the folder where it resides and connect from there.

VERSIONS AND PRICING

AuditMyBooks has been designed to connect very nicely with businesses and accountants by offering two different versions:

  • Business Edition: Normally runs $199 per year, but as of this posting is running at a special price of $99 per year. Ideal for the business owner that wants to keep tabs on their accounting department.
  • Accountant Edition: The starter pack, which includes 1 demo subscription, 1 client subscription and free training runs $199. Each client file beyond that runs $49. 

THE AUDITMYBOOKS TEAM

I have been quite fortunate to work with them as part of their affiliate program. This has allowed me to watch the software grow into a very helpful tool that can be used across many businesses and industries that are using QuickBooks.

The best thing that could happen is that you use AuditMyBooks and find out your books (or those of your clients) are in good shape to put everyones' mind at ease.

Just think of the benefits to everyone of using AuditMyBooks and discovering problems before they burst into something really bad...I think they would call that "priceless"...

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Are Accountants Ready for the Cloud? The Answer is...

This is a guest post by Hunter Richards of Software Advice. The original article was posted here.

Technology enthusiasts have long praised the cost savings and simplicity of cloud computing. But accounting firms may still require convincing.

“I’m a firm believer in [the cloud] - I really am,” says Carolyn Duffy, who directs business advisory services for Hein & Associates. “But if I had some special legacy system, I would have to look at the integration issue.”

Concerns from accounting firms about integration—or software customization, cost or IT services quality—should grab software makers’ attention, given accounting firms’ history of influencing clients’ software-purchasing decisions.  The list of concerns may initially seem troubling for cloud adoption, but vendors are quickly releasing new services and products that ease these doubts.

Customization

“If you have a secret sauce in how you want to handle some orders or how you handle your pricing, then often times the cloud might not be the best way to do that,” says Doug Wiescinski, a partner at accounting firm Plante & Moran. 

Accountants often cite customization problems as a reason to avoid the cloud, but software vendors such as NetSuite and Intacct have already gotten the message and have built customization tools. As more of these hit the market, the process could be easier in the cloud than it’s ever been for on-premises systems. 

Data Integration

“Every additional outsourced app brings another set of steps to go through to create and delete accounts and a new ID and password for the employee to have to remember,” says John Neall, chief information officer of accounting firm UHY. “That may not seem like a lot. But when you multiply that by the number of apps that employees are required to run, it becomes very time consuming just to maintain operations.” 

Cloud applications have typically offered limited application programming interfaces (APIs), middleware and other integration tools that are widely available for on-premises systems. But a number of new middleware offerings, such as Informatica, SnapLogic and Dell’s Boomi, are beginning to fill the void with mature APIs and other products - so integration is also becoming more convenient.

Cost

“The pricing models [of the cloud] have been inconsistent,” says David McDonald, a senior managing consultant at BKD, another accounting firm. “Usually, once you get to the five-year range, your TCO is higher for the cloud versus on-premise. And you own nothing.”

Some accounting professionals warn that cloud systems can incur a higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than on-premises alternatives, despite its ability to save money with lower up-front costs. But the on-premises approach is often not an option for smaller firms without the up-front cash for professional IT resources. The nature of smaller, recurring payments actually empowers these businesses to use software when it’s otherwise impossible.

IT Staffing

“The added benefit of a team of [in-house] IT professionals that care about the business” can be much more valuable than services from “a vendor hosting thousands of other clients,” says UHY’s Neall. 

Accountants also recommend comparing outsourced IT services with the value of a dedicated in-house team. Businesses have a love-hate relationship with IT, so they may prefer to shift that function to the software vendor; this concern is unlikely to have a major deterrence effect.

Software selection is never easy, but moving to the cloud is looking better and better. If accounting firms’ current hesitations are any indication, then the doubts about cloud computing are more vulnerable than ever. 

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Two QuickBooks Tips to Work Smarter

Put these keyboard tips into practice, and you'll be working more efficiently in QuickBooks in no time:

  • CTRL + P: Don't waste time grabbing the mouse, moving all the way to the top of the screen to click the File and then the print options. The CTRL + P keyboard shortcut takes you directly to the Print window!
  • ESC key: Instead of navigating your mouse all the way to the top right hand corner of a screen and clicking the "X" to close it, just tap the ESC key in the upper left hand corner of your keyboard instead. Far faster!

Like these tips? Download any or all of my 8 free QuickBooks guides for even more insight into your favorite accounting software!

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The Difference Between a Customer and a Job in QuickBooks

What are the differences between a customer and a job in QuickBooks?

One of the key differences is how your customer list will appear within QuickBooks. In the example below, Babcock's Music Shop and Chris Baker are the customers. Indented beneath each customer name are the jobs that relate to them - for Babcock's Music Shop, there is a job underway called "Remodel" and for Chris Baker, there are two jobs - "Family Room" and "Garage Repair".

Customers and Jobs

This particular business has opted to create a separate job within the customer file to track information that relates specifically to that project instead of "lumping" everything into the main customer account.

For example, when they go to create an invoice, they do it using the name of the job instead of the name of the customer. That creates a separate tracking of revenues for the job.

Another difference is this - you can take advantage of the "Jobs" tab that exists to track information that is specific to that project, as shown below:

Job Tab Details

If you only use the main customer account, the jobs tab above still appears, but it can only hoold information relating to one job, not all the different ones your business may be performing for a customer.

ARE JOBS REQUIRED?

Keep in mind that the core QuickBooks software is designed to be used by all different types of businesses.

In many cases, this "job" feature of QuickBooks is never used and the business never misses a beat.

In others, the "job" feature is essential to help them track profit and loss by job, estimates vs. actuals by job and other key information the business owners want to see.

HOW TO ADD A JOB

If you need to add a job, it's easy to do. Click the customer where you want to add a job so they are highlighted in your customer list, Then, just head to the top of the customer list, click the New Customer and Job button and then click Add Job. Fill in the details and you are good to go!

Need help sorting all of this out for best use in YOUR business? Click the Contact Scott button below and let's talk about your specific situation to see if I can help...

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Discover the Business Plan Tool Inside QuickBooks

Did you know that the Premier and Enterprise editions of QuickBooks have the capability to create full business plans? (sorry Pro users - you'd need to upgrade your QuickBooks to get this functionality)

They do indeed! You just need to know how to access the built-in business plan tool.

ACCESS IS EASY

Click Company > Planning and Budgeting > Use Business Plan Tool to activate this module within QuickBooks.

You will then see a screen that looks like this:

Business Plan Tool

Once inside the business plan tool, you have the ability to:

  • Edit and update information about your company
  • Enter projected income information - you can even pull this information from your current QuickBooks file if you like
  • Enter projected expense details - you can also import this from QuickBooks if you like
  • Complete a short interview that provides additional background information
  • Compile, edit and finalize all the components of your completed business plan

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

In addition to the above, the QuickBooks Business Plan Tool also provides the ability to print a number of reports, including:

  • Income and expense projections for up to 5 years
  • Profit and Loss report
  • Balance sheet report
  • Cash planning report

If you prefer to see the pictures instead of the numbers, you also have the ability to generate a number of graphs, including:

  • Income and expense projections
  • Break-even
  • Income and expense by category and more

For many businesses seeking to put together a business plan, this may be all they need. For those that need more advanced/flexible tools, consider 60MO or Business Plan Pro.

Need help making sense out of all the numbers? Be sure to click the Contact Scott button below - I have over 25 years of experience in small business finance that can be put to work for you!

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QuickBooks and Wireless Networks - They Don't Play Nicely With Each Other

Many users of the traditional versions of QuickBooks (Pro, Premier, Enterprise) may be quite surprised to learn that using them on a wireless network is NOT recommended.

That's right! These versions of QuickBooks are NOT designed to work on wireless networks (nor most other types of networks as discussed below).

According to the Intuit support site discussing how QuickBooks works on various types of networks, here is a brief recap of what you need to know about whether QuickBooks will work or not:

  • Wired network (LAN) - good to go!
  • Wireless network (WiFi) - not recommended. Not designed to work here.
  • Windows Terminal Services network - only the Enterprise version of QuickBooks is designed to work in this environment. Pro and Premier users - not recommended.
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) - not recommended. Not designed to work here.
  • Wide Area Network (WAN) - not recommended. Not designed to work here.
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) - not recommended. Not designed to work here.

So, if you have been experiencing lots of lost connections, painfully slow performance and/or other headaches relating to your QuickBooks, it may not be QuickBooks fault this time!

Check in with your IT geeks to find out how your network has been configured. If it isn't in a wired format, you'll want to get their help to make it that way.

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