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What is best accounting software to use for very small businesses

I have recently started working with a number of very small clients and am struggling with deciding on what accounting software to recommend they use. QuikBooks is the usual default often used but these are very small business with limited transactions and QuikBooks - either desktop or online seems to be an overkill. The plan is for the client to do day to day work and none of them have accounting backgrounds or much desire to do so. Are there any alternatives to QuikBooks that make sense from both an operational point of view - ease of use, ease of setup and financial point of view - cost. Is there anything else I can consider. We have thought about letting them do this in excel which works for the very, very small clients but gets cumbersome as they move forward. Too much duplicate work and not enough automatic reports. Thank you.


Kay Flanery
Title: Senior Solutions Consultant
Company: JCS Accounting Business Solutions
(Senior Solutions Consultant, JCS Accounting Business Solutions ) |

I just wrote a speech about this. This is exactly the service I offer. The question is NOT what is the best software. The question is what do they need? Before I could even suggest any software there are a number of questions I would ask, both about the business & the individuals involved. A system that would work for your or me, might not fit the client's business or unique work style.

In answer to 1 specific question: NO! Do NOT start with Excel. It would be better to start them in an accounting software to get the process in place BEFORE they get busy.

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

As @Kay Flanery has pointed out, it's Not the software but the client's needs, NOT just the present but the future.

What's overkill to you may not be overkill for others. You also need to consider if there may be any possibility of expansion in the near future so the software needs to be adaptable and upgradable.

Besides marketing/branding, QB is relatively successful because it was designed for the NON-accountants to use. People do NOT have to use the Invoice sections but just enter the transactions in the cash register section. If they use online banking, that's basically the same as using the cash register section, which is basically what Quicken is, excluding all the frilly stuff that it also contains.

There are many online accounting software online but you'll need to do your own research for your clients. Many of the online software may also be limited as Each software has their advantages and disadvantages. Also, the client will have to get used to their financial information online and having to work online.

Using spreadsheets is Never, ever recommended unless that's All the client "wants" to do. The problem is updated the information and sorting it every time you need "USEFUL" information. IF any people want to use a spreadsheet, just steer them towards Quicken, which, at least, sorts out the information and presents it in some financial report.

No, I'm Not paid to steer anyone towards Intuit products but would be rich now if I was!

Always remember, no matter what software is used, the client MUST take personal responsibility for their actions and LEARN how to use the software.

Garbage in, garbage out!

At least Quicken is basically an electronic version of a check register which most people who still uses checks (should) "know" how to use.

Mark Perlin
Title: Business Consultant
Company: Self Employed
(Business Consultant , Self Employed) |

Kay and Anonymous,

Thank you for you feedback. It was helpful and appreciated.

Rudy Fischer, CPA, CMA
Title: Partner
Company: RK Fischer & Associates
(Partner, RK Fischer & Associates) |

You indicate very small business. This first of all begs the question; Is this a hobby or a true business? If it is a true business, then Google "on line accounting software" and you will get lots of search results. I like the SaaS model because you can get support remotely and look at the books from any-where. The convenience factor is incredibly high if you have internet access.

You can get solutions from a little as $10/month, and if that is too much, then I would suggest they look deeper into their business model to determine if the business they are running is truly viable.

Stephen Morrison
Title: VP Finance/Administration
Company: In-Between
(VP Finance/Administration, In-Between) |

To answer your question correctly you must understand the business model. Is it a retail type of business with many small transactions and are they cash, credit or debit cards. Is it a service business where time and expertise is the revenue driver and an invoice is created. You would now need a program to generate and invoice. How do they pay bills and are there a few key vendors that can be paid electronically or are purchases made with a credit card? If you understand the transaction flow of your clients a small accounting software program that can download transaction directly from the bank into the program may be your best option. I try with my clients to get to a NEDD state. Never Enter Data, Download. Most small businesses handle transactions like a check book anyway and with some training can be most efficient and get the standard reports from the accounting software.

Esteban Rincon Restrepo
Title: Corporate Finance Manager
Company: Longport
(Corporate Finance Manager, Longport) |

1- I agree with Kay Flanery. Do NOT start with Excel. It is very flexible, and you can do almost anything you want... and that is the exact problem. You don´t have control.
2- Try online software, there are lots of accounting and ERP Softwares that can be accesible on-line. It is way much better to have acces to your information anywhere, rather than depending on a specific machine. What happens if the accountants computer crashes????
3- Before implementing, is absolutely necessary for the company to have defined procedures, or at least some control points that you can implement in the software. Anyway, your client will always have to pay for a little level of customization. Make it as MINIMUM as possible, but "one-size-fits-all" software in which the final user doesn´t feel confortable... will lead them back to Excel. And you DO NOT want Excel.

James Scott
Title: Consulting CFO
Company: Early Growth Financial Services
LinkedIn Profile
(Consulting CFO, Early Growth Financial Services) |

Xero is good for a start up. But QB is the best choice if the business is going to grow and pretty easy to use. Plan for the future, QB can take you well into the millions in growth. Whatever you use, you will want to be able to migrate all of your legacy transactions, so try to keep that in mind.


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