by Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
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QuickBooks and the Myth of Do-It-Yourself Accounting

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The “myth” of do-it-yourself accounting is a popular myth that is associated with QuickBooks and  one that is presented to you from various sources.

QuickBooks TipFor example, you walk into the local Staples, Office Max, or what have you, and go to the software section – there they patiently sit on the shelf, those popular accounting packages (QuickBooks, Peachtree, Microsoft), just waiting for you.

You look, you consider, you may even touch – can’t you hear them whispering to you?  They all seem to say, “You need me.  You don’t need a bookkeeper or accountant to use me.  Just think about how much time and money I’ll save you.  I’m so much easier to use than (competitor).”

You feel the lure of those seductive little marketing messages that they whisper to you, but be careful about falling for that “do-it-yourself” myth, because these seductive little messages don’t include some very important information that you need to know in order to make a sound business decision; such as:

  • Which version should you buy?  The actual software box or company website  may list several different versions of the program that are available for you to purchase, there may even be a comparison chart.  Will you understand what these differences are and more importantly, how these differences meet the needs of your business.
  • Will you be able to get it set up correctly?  This is a biggie!  The program you are about to purchase doesn’t have any built in mechanism to double-check your setup or your entries; this means you really don’t have any way of knowing if you are doing it correctly or not.  Even if you get “some” or “most” of the setup and data entry right – is this good enough?  Will it be “good enough” to get you the job costing that you need?  Will “close enough” be an acceptable defense if the IRS or any other State or Federal agency audits your books?
  • There is a lot of setup.  While the box or the website might boast about “easy setup through the use of an interview or wizard”, it doesn’t tell you that AFTER that initial setup interview that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  It also doesn’t tell you that often times that the wizard or interview is full of unfamiliar terminology that isn’t explained very well.
  • Technical Support.  Readily available bookkeeping/accounting packages such as these are usually packed with nifty little features and a very reasonable price – but something may be missing – such as technical support.  What kind of support is available and for how long?  What kind of training materials are available and are they specific to your industry?  These are things that you should take into consideration before making a purchase.
  • You still need an accountant.  Even though the software box or website doesn’t come right out and say that you “don’t need an accountant”, many business owners make the incorrect assumption that purchasing/using/owning the software will either  eliminate the need for having an accountant or greatly reduces the need to have an accountant.  This simply isn’t true.
  • You do need to know basic bookkeeping and accounting skills.  While you do not need to be a professional bookkeeper or accountant, you do need to know basic bookkeeping and accounting skills and understand basic bookkeeping and accounting terminology and functions.  Take some classes at the local college or adult education.

When you listen to these seductive marketing messages, it’s like taking your Chevy to the Ford dealership (or vice versa) to be repaired.  You will be ill-prepared because you will be inadequately trained to do the job at hand.  Wondering what this means?  Well, what if you made mistakes?  Something along the lines of:  incorrect reports, incorrect sales tax, incorrect payroll taxes, incorrect payroll, incorrect tax returns, and penalties and interest on those incorrect tax returns.  Perhaps just the thought of that makes you shudder and cringe, just from the embarrassment of going through all that.

What can you do to prevent problems like this?  Actually, it’s quite simple – find yourself a GOOD bookkeeper, accountant, business advisor who can help you get over that initial setup stumbling block, and perhaps, even take some classes.  Bottom line – – – – do your homework and be prepared!

6 Responses to QuickBooks and the Myth of Do-It-Yourself Accounting

  • When QB appeared on the market (I guess ~1999 – that’s when I started using QB) many practicing accountants felt they would lose business due to the fact that SMBs can do their own bookkeeping with QB. Today we all know this never happened; instead of taking business away from them, QB opened up a new lucrative opportunity: correcting QB mistakes. They make good easy money out of this. They buy the accountant’s version of QB, load the client’s file, put a junior at $15/hr and charge back $60/hr.

    Intuit revolutionized the industry… in a bad way. It is clearly implied on their site that you don’t need to know something about accounting to do your books;
    all you need is a copy of QB. Imagine a company promoting on their site that you don’t need to be a doctor to cure health issues, all you need is to buy their first aid kit. So, the majority of SMBs jumped right in, bought their QB, put their receptionist or an office assistant on it and voila, the books are done. That’s what I came to call a few years later RAS (Receptionist based Accounting System). Many moons ago I used to do the accounting for my clients with QB. Many of them would bring their pile of dung and would say “It is all entered, all you need to do is the YE adjustments”. The horrors I used to find in there were just amazing; from the TB that does not balance to the Payroll amounts that don’t add up and so on. I used to spend so much time correcting their mistakes that I found myself working for less that $5/hr – less than a receptionist wage. One morning I put a stop to this nonsense. I still do accounting for SMBs, but stopped using QB (or any other accounting package for that matter). I build my own. This way I don’t have to pay any royalties to anybody or peddle someone else’s garbageware, and can add new features for my clients as they request them.
    I often find myself in a dilemma. I prospective client calls me needing accounting and software/system assistance. A quick look at their current situation reveals that 1)they use QB 2)their business processes are so messed up and entangled that it would take too many days to streamline their processes. All I can do is weasel out of the situation. BTW, from my observation, 1 and 2 always go together.
    As I said earlier, Intuit revolutionized the industry in a bad way. Thank you Intuit!!

  • Great article Nancy! Well said.

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About Your Host:

Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert


I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.


QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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