Bookkeeping Software is Deceptively Simple

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A common question from business owners is: what bookkeeping software should I use?

Quickbooks is the first choice of most small businesses. I’m not a huge fan of Quickbooks, but I’ve test-driven a lot of alternatives, and the fact is, Quickbooks desktop is the best on the market. (Quickbooks Online is another story, though it is improving.)

Here’s the problem with Quickbooks, or any other software solution for bookkeeping: it’s deceptively simple.

The marketing for these software solutions always shows smiling business owners, happily sitting in front of a computer, managing their bookkeeping.

And it’s true — a business owner with only rudimentary computer skills can get into the program and start entering transactions and … it’s all so easy!

The problem is, the simplicity is deceptive. It’s easy to enter transactions, but it’s also easy to enter things the wrong way, thus creating trainwrecks that people such as I have to fix.

Should You Keep Your Own Books?

I tell business owners the following, in answer to the question of “should I keep my own books?”: yes, you should, if you know what you’re doing and you have time to do it.

And don’t underestimate the “time” part. One of the mistakes I see business owners make is thinking that DIY is the way to go all the time because it saves money.

That does make sense in the early days of a business, but at some point you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that your time has value. Once a business reaches a certain point in the growth cycle, you’ll be sacrificing time you don’t have. Yes, you’re keeping money in your bank account, but you’re losing precious time.

The other thing I tell people on this is: when you’re keeping the books yourself, know your limitations and when to stop and ask for help.

Because again, Quickbooks will accept whatever you put into it, and it’s not going to tell you if you’re doing something wrong.