SCORE Small Business Blog

Finance: Are You Buried In a Bookkeeping Mess?

It's so easy to slip into an accounting mess. Seek help now!

It's so easy to get into an accounting mess. Get help now so you can sleep better!

I hope by now you’ve discovered that keeping your bookkeeping in a shoebox is not the answer. Neither is Excel, Word or Quicken. If you own a business and have assets, QuickBooks or something similar such as Peachtree Accounting is the way to go.

But don’t let the commercials fool you into thinking you can do it all yourself.

I speak with too many small business owners who have gotten themselves into a mess trying to do it all. Although it’s pretty simple to maintain your books (I use QuickBooks), it’s critical that you hire an accountant (who knows your software) to set it up right in the first place…and show you how to do the everyday work. 

Did you learn your lesson the hard way? Have you dug yourself out of a hole and have lessons to share? Let’s get this conversation started.

-Peggy Duncan

I’m a productivity and technology speaker, trainer, author, and consultant. I own The Digital Breakthroughs Institute in Atlanta GA.
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Discussion (9) Comment

  1. NeilVisitor

    My Wife runs a small business, and it wasn’t until she finally bought double entry book keeping software and hired a book keeper that she finally got everything under control. While it is possible for a small business owner to process (post) some of the daily transactions of a business, I feel it is a very wise decision to hire a professional to set up the software in a way you can get the information you need to run your business. This quicken vs quickbooks article explains some of the differences between the two.

  2. Thank you Ray. It could be simpler for the business owner (or someone who works for them) to know and use QuickBooks for the day to day…as I mentioned. I wouldn’t call my accountant when I need to write checks, create an invoice, make a cash sale, reconcile a bank statement (if it’s straightforward). I or my assistant can do that, and it’s all set up in QB ready to go. Anything beyond that is handled by the accountant.

    I talk to too many people who are creating invoices in Excel (or something similar), keeping copies, and getting the accountant to put it in QB later.

    I can’t comment on the problems people have with QB…it works great for us. But that’s a good thought to check out other packages that are simple enough.

    The key, I think, is getting it set up right in the first place and then being taught how to do the day to day work.

  3. Ray StewartVisitor

    I would rather business owners not have to deal with their own bookkeeping at all. A far better use of their time is to concentrate on growing their business, working on their marketing, speaking to their customers, spending a bit more precious time with their families. This is why I offer an outsourced bureau service using only fully qualified bookkeepers.

    Why should an entrepreneur have to learn a bookkeeping package as well as all the other pressures on their time? If they try, it will only end in frustration and mistakes – like poor Carl above, doing everything 3 times! Carl – stop it right now!! At least trust Quickbooks to add up for you.

    I have long experience with Quickbooks here in the UK but over the last 10 years or so it has changed dramatically and not for the better. I have seen more data corruptions, more tearful users when multi-currency was withdrawn, more payroll mistakes, more computer performance issues, and more general “why the h##k won’t this software do such a simple thing” comments than I can shake a stick at. I still get more support calls about Quickbooks handling of multi-currency than questions for any other package. I used to be a paid up member of the Quickbooks accountants club but dropped it when it became too expensive each year but I still get approaches from users asking how to do this and that as there are so few advisors in our area now. Not a good sign for Intuit.

    I used to recommend Quickbooks then, but now there are better and easier to use packages out there if people still want to go their own bookkeeping way such as VT Transaction Plus, and on-line offerings such as liquid accounts and imbercal.


  4. Hi Cheri, excellent feedback. I hope our readers will check into this. The main point of all this is to get help. This is accounting and it’s easy to mess it up!

  5. Cheri HaganeyVisitor

    I have another company Business Support Creations – – I’m a Quickbooks ProAdvisor and the NorCal RSP for Intuit. I’d like to make a suggestion regarding QBooks and accountants. I’m a forensic accountant – not a CPA — it’s my personal opinion that a business owner needs someone other than an accountant to set up their QB file correctly. Accountants will be given the reports generated from your QB file. I believe that they make sure they show as certified in QBooks because it makes good business sense – but, by nature – they usually don’t like the application because it does not allow for manual accounting period closings; but, instead rolls over net income or loss to retained earnings automatically. I would strongly recommend that business owners go to the Intuit ProAdvisors website and find a local advisor. Further – make sure you find out their experience with reconstruction if you have ANY issues regarding historical transactions AND make sure they assess things like – do you have a dedicated bkkper in=house? Do you plan on doing your books after hours yourself and how much bkkping knowledge do you have? Also, make sure the advisor has intimate knowledge and experience with balance sheet accounting. They should be customizing your books according to what your specific needs are, not what they think they should be. Regards, Cheri

  6. Hi Tania, help me understand why you’re using both when QBooks can do it all. Aren’t you creating double work for yourself?

    The key, as you said, is to learn QuickBooks. If you Google “Quickbooks training nameofyourcity” I hope you can find classes. I live in Atlanta and there are plenty. Your suggestions on the makeup of the class are excellent and I hope you can find what you need.

    If you can’t find something in your area, it’s worth it to take a trip for a multi-day class. Or hire a consultant for a few hours to help you set everything up (that’s what I did when I started my business…I hired a CPA who used QBooks and knew how to train to come to my home office).

    One last thing: an Atlanta non-profit,, offers very low-cost training on QuickBooks for women business owners.

  7. Carl, why so many steps to write a check? Are you saying you check your math in Excel and Lotus in addition to QuickBooks? Are you sure this is a good use of your time? I don’t think you need to do this triple work…have you ever found mistakes in the QuickBooks math?

  8. taniaVisitor

    I am not a fan of QuickBooks. I use QB for some things and then Quicken for most things. I’ve taken the two-day crash course in QB and have worked with the book. I really think that SCORE or Intuit or the Small Business Development Centers should create a multi-week course in QuickBooks and end this course with 2-3 classes about implementing a POS system. If there were something equivalent to a semester-long course in QB, I would be all over it. Somewhere in there should be a discussion about how to interview accountants and how to work with an accountant.

  9. CarlVisitor

    I use quickbooks to and i also use excel and lotus123
    to make sure i do it right before i send out my check . I have
    been doing my own books since i started my business
    and have others check my work to and have not
    hade any problems


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