Nancy SmythOk, I have to admit it, I am addicted to computers and software……….and I just love trying out new “stuff” because when you have the right software time-consuming tasks are automated—-almost magically.

So when my sister-in-law, Janis, suggested that I do a blog for our company I thought “ya, right, like I need one more thing to do!”  Then I thought about it, and it sounded like it  might be fun – so I decided I’d give it a whirl.  One thing I knew up front, was that I wanted the blog to be fun and perhaps a little “whimsical”, hence the background design of our blog.

My first experience with a computer and bookkeeping was in the mid-70’s when I worked in a hardware store.  When I first started this job we had one of those OLD cash registers (not even electric) and all the bookkeeping and monthly billing to the local contractors that had accounts was done by hand.  Then along came this huge NCR computerized cash register with a modem that we’d hook up at night to the telephone and it would automatically place orders for inventory we had sold, and it would automatically generate the monthly billing…..how cool was that?  Needless to say, I was hooked.

Once upon a time, a long time ago (from 1990 – 1999), I was “just a bookkeeper” with my own bookkeeping business called “The Mobile Office” – “mobile” because I traveled to my bookkeeping clients, to the tune of driving 500+ miles every week.  I dealt with a variety of different business types (printing company, interior designer, a boarding kennel, and contractors; just to name a few) all using Quicken and complex spreadsheets and then QuickBooks or doing their books manually and just being sick of that and looking for a faster, better, easier way to handle their finances.

My absolute favorite clients where my construction clients, both union and non-union, because they represented the greatest challenge from a bookkeeping perspective, especially if they were using QuickBooks.

Two of my biggest challenges between 1996 and 2000 were certified payroll and AIA billing.  I would enter job costed payroll in QuickBooks and create paychecks, then have to run 5 different reports and THEN enter all that data again into complex spreadsheets-what a pain!  The same thing with AIA billing; I’d create Estimates and Progress Invoices in QuickBooks with all the job costing detail; only to have to enter all that same information into complex spreadsheeets.  I grumbled (and swore up a storm) about the need for any easier way to do this and to use the data I had already entered in QuickBooks.

Looking back, I guess that is when I initially made the transition from bookkeeper to software developer without even realizing it.  If I’d only known then what I know now!

Between 1996 and 2000 anytime anyone said they wrote software, I was all over them wanting them to write “something” that would take my QuickBooks data and generate the reports and billings for me; without all that time-consuming duplicate data entry.

Needless to say, my proposal didn’t meet with a lot of enthusiasm….as a matter of fact some people were just downright rude!

I remember buying Peachtree and a certified payroll add-on for it in 1996; but the reports were generic and didn’t meet the requirements of the State of Connecticut and my clients weren’t getting paid because the format wasn’t correct.  I called the support number and talked with someone and asked if they would do a state specific report and offered to help them.  The answer was a firm NO.  Being undaunted, I asked if they would consider writing the same kind of program for QuickBooks (because my client hated Peachtree) and the man laughed—then ripped up one side and down the other about QuickBooks being such a piece of garbage and WHY on earth would I even suggest such a thing!  Well, so much for that idea!

Over the next four years I continued my search, being a little more selective about who I approached with this idea..I even had a few software programmers suggest that I commit myself to the local mental hospital with a nice padded room and lots of medication, so I wouldn’t hurt myself!  Now bear in mind, this was 1996 and their was no way to get data out of QuickBooks at the time…but did I know that OR did anyone bother to tell me that?  Nope!

In early 2000, I met Ben, who is now my husband; and it wasn’t your normal “traditional” meeting either, but rather an email introduction from Janis.  Ben is a software programmer, but needless to say, I didn’t immediately propose this plan to him right away!

By the middle of 2000, I was living in Montana with Ben and still doing certified payrolls for a client back in Connecticut every week remotely – doing them remotely was even more of a pain than just “doing them every week”.  Ben knew this, but I still didn’t have much to say about my idea – I figured, “why ruin a good thing”?

One day Ben asked me if I knew if there was anyway to get data out of QuickBooks; by this time there was, but it wasn’t an Intuit approved means of doing so, and we investigated a product called OfficeQ Pro by a company called DataBlox, Inc. from Washington.  In August of 2000 on a sialboat in the middle of Flathead Lake in Lakeside, MT Sunburst was born and Ben proposed.

It’s been an amazing journey every since!
Nancy Smyth


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