updated September 2018 to remove outdated recommendations.
There are literally hundreds of high quality small business accounting platforms available today. The array of features is impressive and the cost is minimal when we consider the number of human labor hours saved in comparison with accounting tools of generations past. All of these services offer a free trial and a few remain free at entry levels. Most charge a monthly fee, typically starting at about $20, depending on your firms needs. All off these do an excellent job in reducing the amount of time it takes to produce the results that most firms want. That’s the point behind the title of this article: if you choose the best accounting system then you’ll actually need to spend less time using it.
We might say that all small business accounting systems do the same basic tasks. What makes an accounting system a standout, in my opinion, is how it reduces the time and effort requires to reach the specific results that your business requires for maximum performance. The choice should be made only after clarifying specifically what benefits you wish to obtain from an accounting system.
The short list of excellent small business accounting services in recent years includes QuickBooks, MYOB, Sage, Freshbooks, Vend, Xero, Jurnal, Cloudbooks, Peachtree, Kashoo, LessAccounting, Outright, Wave Accounting, FreeAgent, Yendo, FinancialForce, NetSuite, Intacct Financials, Zoho Books, EnterpriseIQ Accounting, Centerpoint Accounting, gxCommerce, PatriotProfit, and Bench Bookkeeping.
Of the many choices, a small handful of these systems have an overwhelming portion of market share (perhaps over 95% collective total market share). Most small businesses are well served by the four popular choices listed below:
- QuickBooks Online – Still the choice of more than 8 of 10 small businesses. More than half of these are still using the desktop version but will convert to the online version within a few years. Uses an “invite accountant” feature to allow collaboration. Increasingly, QuickBooks is used as an open source platform or launching point from which many other time saving financial and business management tools are accessed.
- Vend – This top retail accounting system offers a cloud-based system with the capability of operating offline. It can be run just as easily from an iPad as a desktop terminal. This meant that your retail business does not shut down due to computer problems and it is one of the only of its kind that offers this stress-reducing feature. It is free at entry level (one user, ten products).
- and 4. are outdated as of the revision of this article in 2018.
The key to getting the most value from these systems in 2016 is to recognize that they are not meant to work alone but are best used in collaboration with other tools. For this reason, I try to spend not of my time working “on” these systems developing more useful and time-saving tools rather than “in” these accounting systems doing traditional bookkeeping. The end result, if we are doing a good job in designing the accounting system, is that you’ll see less of your accounting system on screen and more of the tools that produce revenue. Some clients, for example, are generally unaware that QuickBooks is working in the background behind their other business software collecting data from their bank and other programs to produce and automatically file tax reports. Over the past year I’ve concentrated my ongoing professional education training in these four small business accounting tools in order to kelp other get the best results from these tools.
So which of these accounting systems would help your small business obtain the most savings and improved productivity? The choice often becomes most obvious after we list the specific requirements that your firm needs to achieve. Often this includes looking at what is working well and what is weak or has failed under the current bookkeeping system.
I can offer help with the evaluation and selection process as part of a single consultation but is best provided as part of an ongoing support arrangement for a small business. See more on the Services page.