As an accountant, you should be familiar with a number of accounting programs to help support your small business clients. You also need a system to track your own accounts. Evaluate your software needs just as you would the needs of your clients.
Factors to consider
Company size: Accounting software is often designed with the size of the company in mind. Small companies generally have fewer employees, fewer transactions, and fewer vendors or clients than larger companies. The software used should suit the needs of the company at its current size while being scaled to allow for growth. Small companies also often use the cash method rather than the accrual method of accounting so this needs to be considered.
Reporting: All software systems should come with basic financial reporting such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash-flow. Better systems will allow you to create custom reports based on any combination of data in the system. This kind of managerial reporting will help you work with your clients to analyze their company’s strengths and weaknesses so you can advise them properly. These detailed reports could also help you determine your best clients and the services that give you the best ROI, so that you can focus on more profitable lines of business.
Integration: Help your clients evaluate what current software they have and choose a program that will integrate well with their existing systems. A thoroughly integrated accounting system will improve the accuracy of the data, making it easier for you to produce the financial reports and analysis your client needs to succeed.
Unique needs: Consider what makes a company unique, what would simplify your bookkeeping, and what reports would help you accurately forecast and strategize for future growth.
Security: Security is a serious issue, with hackers able to easily bypass weak firewalls and security systems. Many small businesses feel safer with a desktop software, feeling that if their books aren’t on the cloud, they won’t be as vulnerable. This is not always true. Web-based programs often have very sophisticated security systems, while desktop versions often do not invest in the most up-to-date measures. Be sure to evaluate the software’s security system and its security update policy.
Top software systems for small business
In the United States, QuickBooks is the clear leader in software for small businesses. Flexible, scalable, and reasonably priced, it is available in both desktop and web-based versions. You should be thoroughly versed in the use of QuickBooks for your clients. It’s also a terrific option for your own record keeping needs and is one of the most common used in public practice firms.
Xero is a leader in web-based accounting software. It provides significant flexibility in integration, online support, and the ability to track time and money by project, simplifying project accounting and reporting.
There are myriad other systems available. SageOne combines accounting and project management. Zoho is a simple tool for small businesses, particularly service businesses. Wave provides accounting and inexpensive payroll services.
Consider the industries of your most important clients and evaluate which software would work for them. Try to specialize by becoming well-versed in a few systems, and choose the one for yourself that will help you best track your records and analyze your results for future success.