QuickBooks 2004 Lineup Tailor-Made for SMBs

by Patricia Fusco

An accounting program is an accounting program, is an accounting program. Unless you're talking to QuickBooks users, then it's the accounting program that keeps evolving to suit small and growing business needs.

For the past 20 years, Intuit has maintained its focus on small businesses. There are plenty of software makers that say they're customer centric, but few put as much time and effort into putting the customer first.

Intuit Chairman of the Executive Committee Scott Cook credits small businesses with driving the innovations behind the 2004 QuickBooks lineup.

"We've built our success on a customer-in, not technology-out approach," Cook said. "If we do it right, that's where our innovations come from, thousands of conversations with small business owners, accountants and financial professionals. We have listened and learned in order to build new solutions."

Innovations and advancements abound within Intuit's QuickBooks 2004 lineup. New business management and accounting solutions are included in the latest editions of QuickBooks Basic, Pro, Enterprise and Online solutions. Also new are industry-specific upgrades of QuickBooks for retail, professional services, manufacturing and wholesale operations. There are also upgrades for QuickBooks Point of Sale Solutions for Retailers and QuickBooks for Accountants.

These products, along with the release of QuickBooks Pro Edition 6.0 for Mac, offer a range of accounting and business management systems for organizations with 250 employees or fewer.

Dan Levin, Intuit senior vice president for the QuickBooks group, said the 2004 lineup of accounting and business management software is not about adding features for features' sake.

"With our new 2004 lineup of all our products and services we are focused on putting our customers' needs first, adding only those new features that translate into real benefits," Levin said. "The demand for one-size-fits all software is a thing of the past."

Customers Large and Small
QuickBooks financial software for 2004 comes in Premier, Pro and Basic editions. New features are designed to save time, help better manage cash flow, and reduce data errors. The new Cash Flow Projector function allows small businesses to predict cash flow weeks in advance through an "available to spend" report. Also new is the way QuickBooks allows users to change prices and offer discounts — selecting from as many as 100 different pricing levels. And QuickBooks Premier 2004 provides three new ways to manage loans, assets, and track vehicle mileage.

Reduced data re-entry is one of the key new features built in to the QuickBooks 2004 programs. For example, the Manufacturing and Wholesale Edition produces packing slips and shipping labels directly from invoices — without reentering the information. Also new is the ability to e-mail reports right from QuickBooks, reducing postage costs, as well as other costs associated with envelopes and labels. And speaking of printing, stuffing and mailing invoices, bills and such, Intuit's QuickBooks Billing Solutions will take care of all your billing for $14.95 a month, plus 99-centers per piece.

QuickBooks isn't just for small businesses anymore. As successful business endeavors grow, many entrepreneurs struggle to take their QuickBooks with them. This has forced Intuit to come up with an enterprise solution that allows QuickBooks users to migrate their data to more robust platforms as their business grows.

Jason Gordon, owner of Lone Star Donuts, manages five Krispy Kreme franchises in Texas. As his one little shop became seven, with the addition of two Krystal Hamburger outfits, Gordon was using QuickBooks to generate more than 80,000 invoices a year. He knew he needed a new business management system, but found the price tag associated with enterprise-class solutions hard to swallow. After taking a look at what the market offered, he opted for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions for its added data capacity, advanced reporting functions, and the ability to support 10 simultaneous users.

"I was definitely relieved that we would not have to transfer out data to another system," Gordon said. "There's really nothing that can be done with a $75,000 solution that we can't do with QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. So we spent $3,500 on the QuickBooks system and bought three new delivery trucks with the $75,000 we saved."

On the smaller end of the business scale, QuickBooks offers an online edition. Up to three users can source the books through a secure Web browser for just $19.95 a month, after a one-time setup fee is paid. QuickBooks Online does not get an "annual" upgrade because program tweaks are made once a week. Major upgrades are released on a quarterly basis.

When Barbara Fleury, co-owner of Orchard Parks Apartments in Springfield, Ill., made the move to Michigan, she feared she would have to get out of the property management business. With QuickBooks Online, Fleury found a system that would allow her to manage her business from anywhere, anytime.

"Because of QuickBooks Online I get to live where I want to live and still keep track of my business," Fleury said.

QuickBooks Online doesn't offer small businesses the inventory or point-of-sale support that desktop editions offer. For Fleury, the lack of an inventory management system and the ability to process sales transactions didn't matter. All that matters is that Intuit works with her so she can get the most out of QuickBooks Online.

"I've learned not to leave my PC when I post a question to QuickBooks Online support staff. I've dealt with online support from other companies and you can wait a day or two before anybody responds," Fleury said. "Not so with Intuit and with QuickBooks Online support. They're really there for me."

Taking Care of Business
For small manufacturers and wholesalers, Intuit offers QuickBooks Manufacturing and Wholesale 2004. This particular "flavor" of QuickBooks resolves complicated billing and inventory issues small manufacturers and wholesalers need to deal with everyday. Starting with job quotes and order management, QuickBooks 2004 for Manufacturers and Wholesalers streamlines inventory tracking, offers flexible pricing structures, and improved reporting features. More than 10 customized reports reveal critical details that manufacturers and wholesalers need to know, such as profitability, order management, and sales volume.

For retailers, there are a variety of 2004 QuickBooks Retail Editions Each editions can help small businesses simplify sales and inventory tracking procedures. But it's QuickBooks Point of Sale Solutions that has small retailers giddy with delight — or maybe it's just a sugar-high from all the candy.

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., KiKi's Candy Bar transports customers back to a simpler time when their biggest problem was choosing between bubble gum, licorice, or a chocolate bar. Christy Weinstein, who prefers Tart-N-Tiny's to technology, uses QuickBooks Point of Sale system to run the upscale candy store. With 16 employees, many of them high-school students, Weinstein needed a point-of-sale system that didn't require a lot of training to use.

"QuickBooks Point of Sale system is easy to use and didn't require a lot of training," Weinstein said. "The reporting features allow me to see what I have in stock, as well as what items are selling the fastest, so I can adjust my inventory accordingly."

QuickBooks Point of Sale Version 3.0 works with other QuickBooks Retail programs. QuickBooks Point of Sale handles key front-office business processes, including ringing up sales, payment processing, inventory control, and to a certain extent, the overall customer-business relationship. Weinstein said the integration between QuickBooks and the Point of Sale system saves her hours of data entry every day, giving her more time to grow her business.

The three levels of QuickBooks Point of Sales Solutions come with software, a bar code scanner, credit card reader, cash drawer, and receipt printer. Additional a la cart hardware and support options are available. QuickBooks Point of Sales software and solutions are available at select stores, including Office Depot, CompUSA, Fry's, Sam's Club, Staples and Office Max.

Managing Professional Services
For professional services that focus more on billable hours rather than inventoried goods and costs of materials, there are several editions of QuickBooks Professional Services 2004. New features include the ability to set up flexible billing rates on a per client basis and alerts for outstanding times and expenses while creating new invoices.

Advanced Chemical Safety is an international health, safety and environmental protection consultancy based in San Diego. The company works with industrial firms to help prevent accidents, injuries, illnesses and environmental contamination.

Dr. Neal Langerman, Advanced Chemical Safety founder, said his staff is experienced in the safe and effective handling of hazardous materials within the confines of environmental regulations. But when it comes running the business' financials, QuickBooks Pro is the tool he uses to track project costs and control expenses.

"QuickBooks allows me to see where and when large jobs may affect my quarterly taxes," Langerman said. "This allowed me to reduce the amount I paid at one time by $25 thousand dollars."

Advanced Chemical Safety also makes use of the "not to exceed" feature built into QuickBooks Professional Services. Langerman said the feature is critical to efficient project management.

"We need to know if we're on target with every single project so we can keep our clients up to date with our progress," Langerman said. "The closer we get to a 'do not exceed' limit, the more we need to manage our costs and our clients' expectations."

For accountants, QuickBooks Premier Accountant Edition 2004 and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions - Accountant Edition offer new and improved fixed asset and loan management functions, as well as adjusted trial balance and reconciliation-discrepancy reporting.

Steve Sabba, TaxPro Financial Network president, won't do business with a small business unless it uses QuickBooks.

"Some might find this strange," Saba said. "That I demand all my clients us QuickBooks. For me, it's all about productivity. I can handle more clients because I know that the quality of their data is good with QuickBooks."

Intuit gives professional accountants 15 percent off from retail pricing for clients that buy QuickBooks. Sabba said the discount is just something he passes along to his clients, not a way for cashing in on QuickBooks popularity.

"I'm not running a retail software outlet," Sabba said. "I'm an accountant that happens to believe QuickBooks offers one of the best business management systems out there."

Happy Returns
As you can see, one-size-fits all accounting software is a thing of the past — at least at Intuit. Scott Cook said that back in 1992 there were a lot of accounting programs available to small businesses. So what's made QuickBooks the financial management darling of the small business crowd?

"Accounting is one of the oldest software categories around. It's also the software category that suffers from being most frequently returned. This is because the software industry thought the software should be about accounting, not the business, Cook said. "QuickBooks isn't about credits, debits and journal entries. It's about writing checks, processing payroll, and keeping track of sales and inventory. QuickBooks provides small business owners with what they want to know, not try to teach them something they don't need to learn."

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This article was originally published on Thursday Nov 13th 2003
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