QuickBooks can be more than just a basic bookkeeping program for you. It can help you address some of the biggest challenges and opportunities your business faces. Here are some of the most important questions QuickBooks can help you answer:

1. Am I making money, or losing money? Assuming that you enter information into QuickBooks correctly, QuickBooks will generate reports for you that will very simply answer this question.

Run Profit and Loss reports (found in Reports / Company and Financial ) to see whether you are making more money than you are spending. (Hopefully your company is doing better on this than the U.S. government!)

The Profit and Loss Prev Year Comparison report is especially helpful. With it you can tell if you are making or losing money in greater amounts than last year. Why is that important? Well, it can help you decide if your business is going in the right direction, or if you need to make important changes.

I’ve read that most new businesses fail because they don’t know if they are making money or not. If you are using QuickBooks, you shouldn’t be in the dark about whether you’re profitable.

2. Do I have enough cash? Are my business operations generating enough cash to fund the business? Run the Statement of Cash Flows report to see. You can run the report for different date ranges to try to determine what the trend is.

3. Who owes me money? Of course, that’s what the Customer Center is about in QuickBooks. But if you want to get an instant look at the highlights, go to Company Snapshot, and look at the “Customers Who Owe Money” pane. (If that pane is not enabled in your Company Snapshot screen, you can click Add Content and select that screen to put it into your snapshot). By instantly seeing which customers are in arrears, you can get on the phone and work on collections.

4. Which parts of my business are profitable, and which are not? If you use classes in your QuickBooks data, you can track profitability in different ways. For example, you can track profitability by location, by department, by division, by market…

The Profit & Loss by Class report then becomes very interesting. That report will show a separate column for each of your classes — your business areas. You can then see and evaluate the profitability of each. Is one of your business areas unprofitable? What will you do about it? Is one of your business areas especially profitable? What can you do to maximize that?

If you want more help in deciphering these issues, make an appointment with your CPA and come to the meeting armed with these reports. He or she will be glad to help you understand your company’s financial big picture.

sunset photoSunsets are wonderful, beautiful things, unless you’re talking about a software sunset — a planned discontinuance of support for an older version of your software. That can be frustrating in certain situations. Here’s a story of a QuickBooks user who found a way around that.

But first, a bit of background. As of now, QuickBooks Windows and Mac versions for 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 are fully supported by Intuit. Prior versions are not. The 2008 version was “sunsetted” by Intuit in May of 2011. This is in accordance with their policy of supporting the current and prior two versions of QuickBooks (which in my opinion makes perfectly good sense, but that’s another subject).

From a user’s point of view, the sunset policy matters only if your software requires ongoing support by Intuit. But support means lots of different things in QuickBooks these days — not just payroll subscriptions, but online banking, credit card processing, online backups and, of course, telephone support.

If you don’t need any of that? You can keep using your old version just fine.

But what if you need to install and register your old version of QuickBooks on a new computer, and you don’t have your original install codes written down anywhere?
Intuit support won’t give them to you, because you are using an unsupported version.

In another blog post that describes how to move your QuickBooks installation from one computer to another, a user described how he was stymied. He had been using a 2007 version of QuickBooks and didn’t have his registration codes. So he couldn’t install the software on his new computer.

But…he figured it out! Since he still had access to his old computer, he found that he could pull his license number and product number from his existing installation and use that on his new computer. He gives the step by step instructions in his blog comment.

If you don’t have your original install CD, you’re still in business, because you can download old versions from Intuit’s website (at least as of today) from here.

It’s always possible, of course, that there will be a hitch in that registration process and the software will force you to call Intuit, in which case you’re out of luck. Likewise, you’re messed up if you don’t have your install codes written down AND you cannot access your original QuickBooks installation (if your hard drive totally failed, for example). But otherwise, you have a good chance of getting your old software up and running on new equipment.

That was one user’s experience, anyway.

My town has an ice cream place with a dot board in it. You know, a map of the world, and the customers get a stick-em colored dot and put it on the map if their part of the world isn’t already represented. By the end of the summer, their world map has dots all over it (it’s a popular ice cream shop!)

Ever wondered about QuickBooks’ global reach? It really is used by people all over the world. Here is sort of a ‘dot board’ of where visitors to our independent QuickBooks Forums are from:

map of the world and quickbooks users
Visitors to the QuickBooks Forums, Mapped

I think it’s interesting that in the US, users are more concentrated in the eastern half than the western half. Lots of visitors too from Australia, which is awesome.

Of course, there are more QuickBooks users in the world than those who visit our forums, but this probably gives you an idea of concentrations. If you are trying to reach out to these users, we can help.

What do you think about the distribution of QuickBooks users around the globe?

I heard an interview on XM Radio this week with Chris Martin and his cohorts in Coldplay.

Chris was talking about the challenge of creating really great music. He told the interviewer that his songwriting was influenced by the Beatles, Bob Marley, Nirvana. Their music, he said, was quite simple to play on the guitar — a 12 year old could play it — and yet was so well crafted.

Martin said, “Songs like that are easy to play, and impossible to write.”

That brought to mind something I heard once at a songwriting workshop: “Well-written songs are easy to learn and hard to forget.” Right on.

Now, to QuickBooks.

Good software should be, I think, like good songs. Easy to learn. Easy to play. Hard to forget. And almost impossible to create.

“Impossible to create” is a bit of an exaggeration, obviously. But it is hard to create a system that is intuitive to use, has a low learning curve, and sticks with you from one use to the next. That was Steve Jobs’ genius with the Mac, right?

I dabble in Pro Tools record studio software and also in PhotoShop. I find both of them hard to learn and easy to forget. CTRL/SHIFT/+ to toggle up the mixing console view??? What the heck.

I personally have found Microsoft Office products to be easy to learn and hard to forget. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been using them since way back in the last century. But there is a consistency and predictability to the user interface and controls that makes them pretty easy.

QuickBooks? Well, I think it’s in the middle there somewhere. It’s somewhat easy to learn if you have a bookkeeping/accounting background, and it is not chock-full of obscure ways to doing things. (Do you agree? Please comment below.)

Easy-to-use apps don’t come easy. The easier it is for the user, the harder it is for the designers and coders. The easiest thing for a development team is to just turn a bunch of programmers loose on the specs to make something happen asap. Judging from the end results, I don’t think Intuit usually does that.

Still, I’d like to see a version of QuickBooks appear sometime that is, I don’t know, a “classic” version, with far fewer features and options…just straight up general accounting for G/L, A/R, A/P, simplified Job Costing, and after the fact payroll. A system where you could put in a batch of cash-oriented transactions on one screen in one step, that would update the G/L, checking accounts, and customer/vendor/employee subaccounts all at one time.

Easy to learn; impossible to create? Maybe. Like a great Beatles song.

Here’s what one QuickBooks user said about their recent data corruption experience:

“After our Quickbooks file became corrupted and we lost our backups, we were in a panic.

I found QuickbooksUsers.com via a web search and contacted them regarding repair. With expedited service our file was repaired within 24 hours (on a Saturday!) and we were back up and running on the next business day.

Fantastic and friendly service that I would use again without hesitation, even though I hope I never need to!” ~ Dillan W., Texas

Thanks, Dillan! Glad we were able to help.

Upgrading your version of QuickBooks is supposed to be easy: You install the new software, open your QuickBooks company file, and voila! Your data converts to the the new version, and you carry on.

But sometimes you hit a bump. You open your data file with the new version and you get an error. Sometimes it says you have to rebuild your file first — but it fails the rebuild. Or sometimes it just freezes up and never completes the upgrade process.

That’s a tough place to be. Sometimes your QuickBooks data file appears to be healthy in your day-to-day use of it, but there is a data integrity issue under the surface that isn’t revealed until you try to upgrade it.

If you find yourself in that spot, you have a couple of options.

1. You can just keep using the version of QuickBooks you were using before. This is obviously not a great option, because there was a reason that you are trying to upgrade — you want some of the new version’s features, or you’re trying to maintain payroll support, etc. So not upgrading has some disadvantage for you. But this is the cheapest alternative. If you were not having problems in the previous version, you can probably keep using that version for awhile (or maybe even indefinitely) without encountering data errors. You’ll have to restore a backup of your company to use under your prior version; the semi-converted copy of your file won’t be usable by either version.

2. You can get your data repaired and converted. This can be done overnight or over a weekend, so there shouldn’t be too much downtime for you. There have only been a couple of instances over the years where we couldn’t correct the data problem and convert the file.

Most upgrades have tweaks to the underlying database structure, which is why the file has to be upgraded in the first place. Does the new version have new features in it? Then there are new places for data in the file to support those features. The underlying structure has to be modified to account for the changes. Sometimes the version of Sybase (the underlying database QuickBooks uses) changes, and so the database has to be updated.

Hopefully, in your case, everything will update just fine. But if you are reading this blog post to its end, there’s a pretty good chance everything is not fine in your situation. Give us a call for options.