Choosing the best accounting software for your business can be a challenge with all the choices available today. Some software is industry-specific and quite costly. Other software packages promise to have you up and running in minutes without any bookkeeping or accounting experience necessary. Your accountant is generally the best resource to help you choose the software that will suit you and your business needs.
I have worked with both expensive industry-specific and out of the box accounting software. Both types of software have something in common—you should get an accounting professional to do the initial set up to ensure proper reporting of your financial information. Your accountant should also be able to train you how to use your software correctly and be a resource should you have specific or unique questions regarding how to enter a transaction.
QuickBooks, Peachtree, and Microsoft Money are the most popular out of the box accounting packages for small businesses. They are easy to use and set up. The problem I encounter the most is a lack of understanding of basic accounting principles and this often results in extra time to correct my client books at year end. In the long run, a client will save more money if they will engage my services in the beginning for setup and training. I also like to review the books a few times during the course of the year to ensure there are no incorrect transactions being booked on an ongoing basis. This process makes for a far less painful year-end for both my client and me.
Industry-specific software is generally far more expensive and more complex. Most reputable companies include setup and consulting as part of the front-end cost. I have found that manufacturing, construction, and non-profit type businesses generally should use industry-specific software. The reporting and information capabilities are more suitable than the cookie cutter options of out of the box software. For example, QuickBooks offers manufacturing, contractor, and even non-profit editions; however, the setup may require add-on programs, customized reports and heavy accountant involvement to provide the necessary information for management use. A cost comparison may reveal that you would have been better off purchasing a more expensive program initially.
I have been a QuickBooks Advisor in the past and I am an advocate of this program. I like the ease of use for my clients. Training time tends to be minimal and it is user-friendly software. QuickBooks has a great Simple Start program that is free to use within certain restrictive parameters. This is a great way for a client to try out the program and get a feel for it. A very small business may even decide to stay with the Simple Start program because it suits their needs perfectly.
Get a professional opinion on what is the best software for your needs. Spend the extra money initially to get the software setup and training and you will see the dividend pay-out at year end when you give your accountant a good financial package that requires very little clean up before your tax return can be completed.