Accounting and Invoicing Software

These days, it's hard to run a business without it

August 31, 2004

 

 

Additional Information
'I Was Hoping I Could Die Before I Had to Learn How to Run Computers'
Resources
  • Accounting with QuickBooks Pro for Home Builders and Remodelers, by Diane C. O. Gilson, BuilderBooks.com
  • Choosing 'Best Fit' Construction Management Software, by Leslie C. Shiner, Profit Press
  • Contractor's Guide to QuickBooks Pro 2004, by Karen Mitchell, Craig Savage, Jim Erwin, Craftsman Book Company
  • Implementing New Business Management Software, by Leslie C. Shiner, Profit Press
  • Quicken for Contractors, by Karen Mitchell, Jim Erwin, Craig Savage and Rex Underwood, Craftsman Book Co.

While the shoebox method of accounting - dump every receipt and invoice into a shoebox and hand to your accountant - remains in use, most accountants don't recommend it. Here, three industry accountants and consultants answer questions about what they do recommend.

Getting started

"The actual time to do it is about six months before you start thinking you should. Most wait until it's total chaos on a job, and they're losing money.

"At any rate, a company needs a business accounting package, not a personal finance package. If they don't have an accounting package, they're going to start falling apart faster than they know the moment they have any growth." - Leslie Shiner, The Shiner Group

"In general, small to medium-sized firms with limited expertise and limited funds to be spent on training will likely achieve greater results with less frustration by using less sophisticated, easier to use, but non-integrated software.

"Many of our clients do not employ full-time accountants and rely on bookkeepers for data entry and to produce the reports. Owners of firms need to assess what skills new employees are likely to have and how much time and money is reasonable to overcome the training curve of learning the software. It's easier to find employees at a reasonable pay rate for the more 'popular' software without having to invest deeply in training." - Michael W. Free, senior financial manager, SMA Consulting

"The great thing about QuickBooks is it doesn't have a very big price tag, and the learning curve is short. So if they're small and getting their feet wet and want room to grow, it can do a lot for you.

"Ever year, at every trade show, there will be a new product that's available. It's off-the-shelf; it's $1,200; it sounds like a great deal - but they're not going to be back in a year. I always warn people against the newest, latest products that say they can do everything."

- Karen Mitchell, Online Accounting

 

Peachtree, a common accounting program used by small businesses, handles all accounts payable and receivable, purchase orders and even some job costing.

Moving up

"As you start getting bigger, you're going to need construction features. A construction-specific package will integrate better with all aspects of your business and help you manage those aspects better.

"Even renting a demo of the full package, unless you make the effort to really learn it, it doesn't necessarily help you. Go to a training class. See what it takes. Ask your subcontractors." - Leslie Shiner

"The more a company gets into large-scale production work, a higher level of software sophistication may be desirable to keep track of committed costs, achieve a greater breakdown on job detail, assess the impact of schedule changes, etc.

"The main difference between a software such as QuickBooks and Master Builder or Timberline is that the latter two have integrated modules that include estimating, scheduling, etc., which are utilized by production and operations." - Michael W. Free

"QuickBooks handles 10,000 transactions a year. Everything over that, it just becomes a really slow database. If you're doing more than 100 invoices a month, it's too much for QuickBooks to handle.

"You need to move up to Master Builder or Timberline when you've got multiple people looking at reports: a production manager, owner, estimator, controller, scheduling, purchasing. When you have different departments, then you really need a bigger, more integrated system." - Karen Mitchell

 

Compare Accounting Software Programs

 

 
Program
Price
Compatible Software
Features Include
System Requirements
Contact Info
Goldenseal Complete
$495 (single user), $695 (dual users), $995 (10 users)
QuickBooks
Job costing, contracts, expense tracking, accounts payable/receivable, inventory and project management, payroll, draw scheduling, progress payment, time-and-materials billing
Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP or Macintosh OS 7, 8, 9, X
www.turtlesoft.com, 888/272-1008
Intuit Master Builder 2004
$1,895 1st user, $1,495 2nd user, ($699 support contract required)
Xactimate for Remodelers, WinEstimator, Quest Estimator, Cadsoft, imports or ACT!
Check reconciliation, accounts payable/receivable, time-and-materials, progress, unitary, loan draw & AIA billing, certified payroll & workers’ compreports, tax reports, direct deposit support,change order and equipment management, purchase orders, check writing, robust job costing
PC with Pentium 800 MHz, 128+ MB RAM and broadband Internet access recommended; Windows 98 SE, 2000 or XP Pro
masterbuilder.intuit.com, 800/726-6278
 
Peachtree Premium Accounting 2005
$499.99 ($999.99 for multi-user version)
ACT!, Microsoft Word and Excel
Accounts payable/receivable, bank reconciliation, financial statements, quotes, sales orders, purchase orders, job costing by phase and cost-levels, time and expense tracking with multiple billing rates, inventory tracking
PC with 300 MHz Pentium II; Windows XP SP1, 2000 SP3, Me, 98 SE or NT 4.0 with Service Pack 6a; 64MB RAM (128MB rec.)
www.peachtree.com, 877/495-9904
QuickBooks Premier Contractor Edition
$499.95
ACT!, Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel
Chart of accounts, expense and time tracking, payroll, direct deposit support, purchase orders, invoices, check writing, job costing, change orders, contractor-specific reports
PC with 350 MHz Pentium II, 96 MB RAM; Windows 98, Me, NT 4.0 (SP6a), 2000 or XP; Internet Explorer 6.0; minimum 28.8 Kb/s connection
www.quickbooks.com, 888/729-1996
Timberline Office (financial suite)
Starts at $4,200. Customized pricing varies by client, per modules added (such as estimating, procurement, property management, accounting training implementation)
ArchiCAD, Cadsoft, Microsoft Office, Primavera, WinFax Pro
procurement, budgets, estimates, generate purchase orders and invoices, track change orders, issue receipts, forecast cash flow, analyze profits
PC with 800 MHz processor; Windows 2000 or XP; 256 MB RAM
www.timberline.com, 800/628-6583
UDA Construction Office 2004 Remodeler, Design/Build, Light Commercial or Professional versions
Starting from $299.95, $399.95, $399.95 and $499.95, respectively
Imports to QuickBooks & Quicken, with UDA Quicken Accounts 2004 module.
Adds functionality to Microsoft Office, which is required for use. Cash flow reports, project estimate, budget tracking and summary reports, 1099 reports, job-type specific contracts, forms, schedules, document automation
PC with Pentium III 450 MHz or higher, Windows XP, 2000, NT, Me, 98. Content-based version available for Macintosh G3 400 MHz, OS 9.1, 9.2, X; 128 MB RAM

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