We can help our clients in so many ways in the areas of business advice and technology. Now that tax season is behind us for another year, it is the perfect time for us to help our small business clients figure out how to run better and more profitably. Our accounting and management advice and insight is truly valuable to clients, yet we often underestimate how valuable our technology advice can be to them. As you can see throughout the rest of this issue, accounting software, document management and workflow are key technologies that you need to be comfortable enough with to make recommendations.
First, let’s start with accounting software. One size does not fit all is my clear conclusion after following this industry for 30 years. You can recommend very simple systems like Sage Billing Boss or Freshbooks to complete simple invoicing, and then help the business graduate into more capable accounting like Peachtree by Sage, Accounting Relief or QuickBooks. Taking the time to understand your client’s needs can make a significant difference in what should be used in the business. For example, Freshbooks or Billing Boss can handle the routine invoicing of most service businesses, including recurring invoices, online payments and other advanced features. These products can support this activity from a mobile phone. Why would you want to complicate a business owner’s operations with unneeded accounting software if all they really need to do is pay bills, send invoices and collect money? Wouldn’t you rather have the services revenue and business relationship of a write-up client than wasting the client’s time keying transactions and wasting your time by resolving those transactions?
If the need is greater, perhaps a collaborative approach in accounting software is your best option. For a flat fee, you can have an unlimited number of clients on Accounting Relief and get the benefits of being able to work collaboratively with the client, process transactions that are downloaded or keyed into the system, and have immediate access to the needed data for the client’s financials or tax returns. Even stalwarts like Peachtree or QuickBooks can now be hosted to provide collaborative capabilities that allow both you and your client to work online on the same files or companies at the same time. Additional factors such as complexity of inventory or how NFP reporting is handled may lead you to recommend a product like Peachtree or MIP, or you may have specialized reporting for a vertical industry that you have developed in the Intuit Statement Writer in QuickBooks. If traditional in-house installation is needed, certainly one of these products can allow the business to grow into the $5M-$10M range. My key point and issue is that it helps your client and your image, and it reduces the amount of unnecessary work that you have to do if you make the right accounting software recommendation for the right reason. See the small business accounting review that focuses on SaaS-based products on pages 54-62 of this issue. You can also read The CPA Technology Advisor’s review of on-premise small business accounting products from the April/May 2010 issue at www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2738.