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.
For 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!