14 years ago, on a sailboat in the middle of Flathead Lake in Montana, Ben proposed and we formed Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc. (Of course I had no choice but to say yes to the marriage proposal because I was scared to death he’d throw me overboard! LOL)
One of the first things that we did, before we got too carried away, was to call the Office of the President at Intuit, where we explained what we wanted to do and asked how we could market our software as an “add-on” without getting into trouble. This led to a couple of very lengthy calls with Scott Cook and several Intuit attorneys, before they told us that as long as we stressed that we were “an independent company, neither endorsed or affiliated in any way with Intuit” that it was ok with them.
At the time QuickBooks add-ons were a rare thing (the QuickBooks SDK came out the middle of 2001) and faced with the knowledge that most new businesses close up shop within 2 – 5 years – we forged ahead naively believing that “if we built it, they will come”. (The IT in this case was add-on software for QuickBooks and the THEY were QuickBooks users.) And boy have they come – over 10,000 contractors (in all 50 states) have purchased our software in the last 14 years!
Our first Certified Payroll Solution sale was in March 2001 to a company in Connecticut called Commercial Storefront Services, they are still an active customer today.
Things have changed a lot since then; we’ve seen:
- Windows operating systems have come and gone – we started with Windows NT, 98, and 2000 machines
- QuickBooks versions have changed every year – we started with QuickBooks Pro 99 and even though the desktop version of QuickBooks still exists everyone is now pushing QuickBooks online.
- Certified Payroll Reporting requirements have become more complicated – 15 states had their own specific reporting form and there were no electronic reporting requirements; now there are 32 states with one or more “state specific requirements” and 17 states require certified payroll data to be electronically submitted via the web.
- We’ve gone from no “approved” method of writing QuickBooks add-ons to the introduction of the QuickBooks SDK (Software Development Kit) to IPP (Intuit Partner Platform) and software as a service
But one thing remains the same – Sunburst is still Ben and myself; when you call, you get us. Yes, sometimes we sound tired and cranky.
Yes, we’ve come a long way baby! But one thing is for sure – being the little guy, stuck between the ever changing developments of computer technology, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Intuit QuickBooks hasn’t always been easy or fun; but there certainly have been challenges!
- We’ve re-written our software 3 times – first we used a product called OfficeQ Pro, then we re-wrote everything with the SDK, and then we re-wrote a lot of the software when Windows Vista came out and there was a major change in how software was installed.
- In late 2001, we became a Premier Developer in the Intuit Developer Network and release our AIA Billing program (Construction Application for Payment Solution).
- In 2006, we became one of the first thirteen developers to achieve Gold Developer Status in the Intuit Developer Network.
- Microsoft has put out updates that have broken our software.
- Intuit has released QuickBooks updates that have broken our software.
- In the early days, when a customer would call Intuit Support with a QuickBooks problem, and it was discovered that the customer was using a QuickBooks add-on, whatever the problem was; it was blamed on the 3rd party application! Thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often any more.
Over the last few years, the big push has been to re-write our software using the tools offered by IPP (the Intuit Partner Platform) and to integrate with QuickBooks Online – and we simply cannot do it. The functionality that our software requires simply doesn’t exist in either the IPP tools or in QuickBooks Online – yet. We’re still waiting and refuse to write “dumbed-down” versions of our software.
Is QuickBooks desktop dead? No one knows for sure – there is a lot of speculation out there. Joannie Mann, seems to address this situation in a recent article she wrote about “QuickBooks Online may be a great place to start, but where do you go from there – The SMB SaaS Migration“, where she says:
It (QuickBooks Online) may be a great solution for now, but what’s the next step up from there? Is it QuickBooks Enterprise on the desktop? Kind of a weird message, don’t you think? Let’s have customers adopt an anytime, anywhere subscription solution model, and then migrate them back to the desktop where the management and maintenance of the solution is higher due to number of users, and where there is no mobility, multi-location or remote access capability as there was with online.
Will Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc. still be around in another 14 years? I honestly don’t know – it depends on Microsoft and Intuit and what their plans for the future are. And believe me when I say, we aren’t privy to that information.
For now, all I can say is – we’ve beat the odds so far, even though we’ve done a lot of things wrong – so Happy 14th Birthday Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.!!!