We asked users how their using QuickBooks saved them money. There seemed to be one common theme: I can do my books in-house. Here’s what some of them said:

“Quickbooks saves me money because it is so easy (and support is good) that my wife was able to figure it out.  Now I don’t have the expense of an additional bookkeeper.”

“Quickbooks is so easy to use that I do not have to hire an accountant to keep my firm’s accounting and financial data.”

“QuickBooks saves my business money by allowing me to do a lot of things that I would have had to pay a CPA for.  I do all of our payroll and payroll taxes.  This also saves us money by not requiring a payroll service that so many businesses use.”

“As a tiny business, payroll is my one of my largest expenses.  QuickBooks allows me do my own payroll and taxes to cut out the expensive middle man.”

(Sometimes it’s not a bad idea, though, to farm out just the payroll part and do the rest of books in-house. Depends on your experience and training.)

“I do not have to pay for a accountant to do my business paperwork each month”

(Yep, and you can run the reports — and change the reports — anytime you want.)

“I can actually do and manage my own accounting without depending on an outside accountant. This might not sound sweet to accountants but it is what it is as QB is easy, friendly to use.”

(You can do the main data entry and reporting, and just use outside accountants for periodic reviews and adjustments as needed.)

“When used in conjunction with a quickbooks professional bookkeeper it means the high-end accountant cannot justify charging me for work that is already done.”

(Right. Divide the labor for most cost-effective results.)

“When I need to get data to my tax accountant to prepare my income taxes, for corporate, franchise and personal, all I need to do is hand over a copy of my Quickbooks file.  It saves me hours of filling out my accountants questionaires and it saves me fees for time charges my accountant would normally charge to get the answers to the information he needs.   When providing an estimate of what it will cost to do my taxes, my accountant always asks, ‘Will you have a Quickbooks file available?’   It is a big savings!”

“Quickbooks is so easy to run I am not only Joe the contractor, electrician and yes the plumber but I can be my own Secretary and Accountant too. Amazing software. QuickBooks is the perfect name.”

(Joe, you’re a talented guy!)

RELATED: What Do People Love Best About QuickBooks?

 Thank you, QuickBooks users, for sharing your thoughts with us.

 

Thinking about going out on your own and starting a new business? Be inspired by this Red Bull Stratos highlight video of Felix Baumgartner’s jump to the New Mexico desert floor from 128,000 feet up.

Love it. I think there is some inspiration, as well as lessons to be learned, for small business startups:

Reward and risk are related

The Austrian daredevil undertook serious personal risk to smash a 52 year standing world record for highest jump. He risked….his life.

When you start your own business, you undertake risk too. You risk significant elements of your life: your previous job and career path…and the stability and predictability that go with it. The opportunity cost can be high. You often risk your personal savings. Your family and closest friends will see less of you for awhile and that costs. You undertake these risks for the sake of obtaining a financial and/or lifestyle reward.

It takes a team

Red Bull, the drink company, sponsored the space jump, and had been working towards this event with Mr. Baumgartner for several years. Red Bull provided the funding, the technology, the planning, the logistics, the experts…it cost a lot. No way Mr. Baumgartner could have pulled this off on his own.

When you start your own business, even if you are going solo, you need a team to pull it off. Reason? Successful entrepreneurs can’t do it all. If you are good at marketing, chances are you’re not so great at keeping the books, and vice versa. (And by the way, a TON of new business fail because they don’t keep good books.)

In my opinion, a successful start up must have people wearing these hats or more:

* Accountant / bookkeeper
* Web designer
* Marketing pro
* Office manager / administrator
* Customer service rep
* Banking / finance
* Producers — people who provide the goods or services you sell

If you are starting up a new business, there’s a good chance you are a producer. How many of the other hats can you wear well? You can’t wear all of them, right?

Hire or contract out for the rest. Build a great team before you launch. Then you’ll get great results from the start. (This I did not do, see below.)

Overcome fear

In an extended video I watched of the space jump, Felix Baumgartner opens the capsule door, swings his legs out, and stands up on the little platform outside. Someone from earth says, “Felix, step out a little further.” Ha! It reminded me of going up on the high dive at the neighborhood pool when I was a kid…times a kazillion! Step out a little further, to the edge of space, right. Cold chills.

But Baumgartner did. He immediately inched out on the platform, saluted, and hopped over the edge, with the big curvy blue earth under him. After all his planning and preparation, he did not hesitate when the time came to execute the plan. There’s your lesson.

Over twenty years ago, I left behind the comfort and security of writing code for a major player in the accounting software world. It cost me. It took a couple of years to figure out the hats and this was almost a fatal error. Then the reward came. It was never guaranteed, of course.

RELATED:
Companions in Adventure
I Didn’t Get the Job at IBM. Cool.

The risk and reward were commensurate. As they always are.

Pine tree broken by high winds
One of many pine trees broken off by high winds
A windstorm came through central Colorado last month. The wind meter at the airport clocked gusts of up to 79MPH, breaking the all time record.

In my neighborhood, I counted 8 broken-off ponderosa pines as I drove down the main road the next day.

There was one tree with a five foot diameter trunk, broken completely off. That tree had to have been hundreds of years old.

They couldn’t bend enough. So they broke.

Most businesses these days feel the economic gales pushing against their trunks.

Bend, don’t break.

Do you need a cash infusion to give more flexibility until cash is self-sustaining through your operations?

Do you need to restructure or renegotiate some debt so the wind doesn’t push as hard?

Do you need to find a consulting CFO to review your books to see if there are costs or expenses that are disproportionately high for your kind of business?

Do you need to change your approach to customer terms and collections so that the cash comes in quicker?

Do you need to prune off departments/locations/branches that cause stress to the whole organization?

We’ve had to do that. We’ve gotten out of some business areas that were not at our core and that were not very profitable or strategic. That helped.

Bend, don’t break. And here’s to to the hope that the wind won’t blow as hard in 2012.

Most adventures are meant to be shared.

Think: The Three Musketeers. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Holmes and Watson.

It’s just more fun to have an adventure buddy.

In life, my family members are often my adventure buddies. This usually (but not always) works out well, and makes for great family memories. Here is my daughter and my pooch, pausing during our climbing adventure up the west face of Mount Yale, in central Colorado.

mt yale colorado

In business, it is good to have adventure buddies too. My first adventure buddy in business was Leif Haug, co-founder with me of AccountingUsers, Inc.

Leif was first my friend, then my boss, then, as we went into business together, my partner. We weathered lots of storms together in the software consulting market. It was fun learning how to make a business work during the infancy and maturation of the PC accounting software world. These days, Leif is working on new challenges elsewhere, so our relationship has come full circle — now he is just my friend again.

These days, I have new companions in business adventure. In particular, I’ve partnered up with some Quickbooks training professionals to offer a new series of online training seminars specifically designed for QuickBooks users. We’re just finishing up our first wave of classes. This is great fun, and it’s gratifying to work with people who share a bit of that sense of adventure.

Who are your companions in adventure?

I am a newbie, amateur, fresh-faced tomato grower.

I have three planters that I take out on my deck in the morning, and bring inside my house at night. (I live in the mountains of Colorado, so leaving them outside at night — even in July! — would mean death, dysfunction, or dormancy for them).

Since I’m a newbie at growing tomatoes, I of course googled how to help them grow.

Here’s some of what I learned: If you want to grow tomatoes, grow tomatoes. Not leaves.

Apparently, there’s a bit of an either/or there. If you have a lot of leaves, you’ll get fewer tomatoes. Fewer leaves, more tomatoes. (Obviously, you have to have some leaves!)

It’s a matter of resource allocation. The tomato plant will channel more resources — growth — into the fruit if there are fewer leaves on the plant.

Now, I like the leaves. I like healthy, bushy plants. Even tomato plants! I went to the nursery last weekend and saw some tremendously robust looking, leafy tomato plants. You could have used them as ornamentals if nothing else. They looked great! But I wondered if all that leafiness was gardener eye candy, and if the plants would have produced more tomatoes if the nursery had pruned them down some. Hmm.

So I made a decision: I wanted tomatoes more than anything else in my plants. So I cut back a lot of leaf-only branches. My tomato plants weren’t as nice looking then. A bit sparse. But they recovered and are producing more tomatoes now.

My yellow pear tomato plant had, at last count, 73 tomatoes on it.

In business, we make similar choices. We only have so many resources (especially in this economy). We have to make the resources pay off in concrete ways — to produce tomatoes, so to speak.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Steven R. Covey

What’s the main thing for your business? What are the tomatoes? What are leaves?

p.s. Anybody out there successfully growing tomatoes in planters, at altitude? I’d welcome your advice!

Most startups struggle at the beginning and mine was no exception.

My business partner and I started our software consulting company in 1986. By mid-1987, I had little left in savings. My wife and I did have a new baby on the way. And we had a new mortgage too…with a wonderful mid-80s fixed rate note at 13.5%! (What were we thinking?!)

I was more than a little discouraged at my consulting business’ prospects and my personal finance situation.

It seemed that it was time to bail out and get a job again. I sent my resume out to a few companies in Austin.

Here’s what I got back from IBM:

Not the response I wanted

That was September of 1987. No offers. Troubled Texas economy. In the absence of other options, I plugged away at my consulting business.

Fast forward a few months. My partner and I created an add-on program to a now-defunct accounting app called BPI Accounting. Our little program allowed users to archive and report general ledger information for a whole fiscal year, instead of just four months. (Primitive! This was for the first generation of PC-based accounting software.)

Somebody helped us reach out to the user base, and the next thing I knew, our mailbox was full of order forms and checks. Wowee!

Developing accounting software add-ons and troubleshooting accounting data files became our niche, and the second part of that equation still works for us 24 years later in the QuickBooks world.

In an alternate life, I’m sure that a career at IBM would have been very challenging and rewarding. But it was not to be; I got to be a long-term software entrepreneur instead.

“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” ~Jean de La Fontaine

I was talking to a software entrepreneur friend the other day. We were comparing notes on how our businesses were faring during the Great Recession.

My friend said that these days, his business is ‘hunkering down’ and just surviving. If the bills are getting paid and the doors are staying open, that is enough for now.

I’ve had recent conversations like that with other small business people I know in banking, transportation, hospitality, and manufacturing.

The thing he said that encouraged me, though, was this: Once the economy opens up again, there will a marked reduction in the number of competitors in his market. Not everyone will survive. But if you survive, there will come a day when suddenly increased demand coupled with reduced supply (of vendors in the market) will make for a very good business environment.

I think that scenario rings true.

So for many, it’s time to hunker down, survive, and be ready to aggressively expand when the opportunity (someday) comes.

What do you think? Is it time to hunker down, close up shop, or expand now?

At lunchtime, I had a bit of a dilemma: eat the grapefruit, which was what I really wanted to eat, or eat some strawberries, which are more expensive and which spoil faster.

I felt slightly guilty about letting the strawberries potentially spoil, so I grabbed them.

But then I heard in my mind the words of my old University of Texas economics professor: “Sunk costs are forever sunk!”

That simple sentence means that if you’ve paid for something, that decision is done, and it should not emotionally effect the decisions you make now. I paid for the strawberries, and that’s not going to change, whether I eat them or not.

What’s my goal? A pleasant meal. The meal would be nicer with grapefruit rather than with strawberries, given my current mood. So I should not let the cost of the strawberries drive my decision.

We encounter this in small business all the time.

“I spent a fortune to hire that guy — I can’t fire him now!”

“We spent a lot for that machine. I don’t care that it’s worse than what we did before, we can’t afford to just stop using it.”

“We’ve invested years in that product…we’ve got to make it profitable.”

No. No. No.

Sunk costs are forever sunk. What we chose to do in the past — what we spent in the past — doesn’t matter now. What we choose to do now should be what will advance our goals now.

Oh and by the way, I put the strawberries back in the fridge and ate the grapefruit.

With the 2010 version, QuickBooks added a new feature called the Company Snapshot. It gives you a consolidated screen of most-important information about your company’s finances.

quickbooks company snapshot

There are bar graphs, pie charts, and key lists of accounts. Most of them are related to income/expense trends, comparative figures for current/last year, and most important A/R and A/P accounts. Good stuff to get a handle on the financial big picture at one look.

Intuit gives you some up-sell options, but they don’t seem too intrusive.

These bar graphs show trends for income and expense, and you can view different time frames. This is a simple but very important metric for small business owners and managers to follow — are sales going up, or not? Are we making a profit, or not? A lot of businesses fail for lack of such basic financial information, and QuickBooks makes it easy to grasp the trends here very quickly.

Another bar graph I like is Top Customers by Sales. Look at it and ask yourself how much attention you are giving to those accounts. They are not ones to be neglected…rather, they are the ones most likely to continue giving you substantial orders or contracts. Again, QuickBooks 2010 makes it easy to see it.

There are 3rd party solutions that do even more with the dashboard concept for QuickBooks, but the built-in Company Snapshot is a good approach for a lot of small businesses.

You rely on QuickBooks to make lots of important things happen in your business. It’s mission critical.

Paying your bills, your employees, and tracking your cash are just as important to you as to Fortune 500 companies. Here’s the thing, though: the big guys rely on software that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your accounting software of choice? Costs maybe a couple hundred bucks.

The amazing thing is that your small business software can perform the basic (and some not so basic) accounting functions as well as the big guys’ software. Your P&L, balance sheet, and payment processes are probably just as effective as theirs.

And with the ever-increasing number of add-on programs and online solutions available with QuickBooks, your accounting power and options are only going up.

So be encouraged — you are part of the Fortune 4.5 Million (QuickBooks approx. install base). You can produce and *use* accounting information that will help your business succeed. And if that happens, you’ll have something over a lot of the big guys these days.

Do you ever feel at an accounting system disadvantage compared to large companies?