QuickBooks Online provides business owners with easy-to-learn accounting toolbox

QuickBooks Online adds efficiencies and multiple options to the traditional accounting ledger to help users keep their books and prepare and maintain their financial statements.

By Shelley Widhalm

QuickBooks Online takes a few hours to learn, but once business owners understand the basics of program, they have access to an accounting toolbox from billing to tax reporting.

“In my opinion, QuickBooks Online is one of the easiest accounting programs for the average person to learn,” said Debbi Allison, owner of Open Book Consulting in Loveland and an advanced certified QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor. “QuickBooks Online really has versatility and the functionality to fit most businesses, and that’s the real reason why I’ve chosen to specialize in it.”

Allison teaches her clients how to use QuickBooks Online, an accounting software package offered by Intuit, or inputs and reconciles business data on their behalf to prepare and maintain their financial statements. As a consultant, she understands the principles of bookkeeping and accounting and works with her clients to evaluate those statements to help companies make smart business decisions and more efficiently run their businesses.

“A lot of people go into business because they are passionate about something, but they’re not always passionate about the business of doing business,” Allison said. “I’m empowering the client to understand their numbers and then use those numbers to empower their business.”

Allison works with two of the four versions of QuickBooks Online, including the Essentials, or more basic, program and the Plus version that provides access to more reports and additional functions, such as budgeting, inventory under 10,000 items and job costing. She works exclusively with the online version, which allows her to work remotely alongside her client.

“You can use it anywhere you can open an internet window,” Allison said. “For people that are mobile, it’s very user-friendly.”

The Main QuickBooks Functions

QuickBooks Online, designed for the average user to handle both bookkeeping and accounting tasks, has surface functions that are easy to learn. The functions cover things like income and expenses, invoicing and payments, managing bills, managing contractors and tracking time. The income and expenses function, for example, can be used to import transactions from bank accounts, credit cards and payment services like PayPal or Square.

“That’s the key is setting up everything correctly to get the result you want and having the numbers to make smart decisions for your business,” Allison said.

Allison finds that clients who have a background in accounting, home budgeting or computers have an easier time learning and setting up a QuickBooks account. They need to be able to apply basic accounting principles and create a chart of accounts for bookkeeping and tax purposes. The chart of accounts is a listing of a business’s profit-and-loss statements, or ICE, referring to income, costs of goods sold and expenses, and the balance sheet, or ALE for assets, liability and equity.

“I want financial literacy for people, so they understand what those numbers mean … and how to use the numbers to diagnose a problem in the business or increase productivity in the business,” Allison said.

QuickBooks Online has several benefits including ease of use and pricing, Allison said.

“Compared with other programs, the cost for what you get, QuickBooks is the best bang for the buck,” Allison said.

The drawbacks Allison has found occur when users find that the program doesn’t work the way they want it to, possibly because of GAAP, or the generally accepted accounting principles in accounting that limit what the program can do to avoid any fraudulent activity.

Additional QuickBooks Functions

The program has “depth in the back of the program,” where users can opt to expand its functionality, Allison said.

“The depth all of the functionality of an accounting program is there without the clutter on the interface,” Allison said. “You can choose what you turn on and how much you want to see.”

The most common add-ons to expand the functions, which require additional payment, include payroll, zenefits that helps with human resource management, and receipt bank, which uploads receipts that will need to be categorized in the chart of accounts.

QuickBooks also has an app, accessible by smartphone with the web interface but more limited in use. The app can access the profit-and-loss statements and balance sheet and be used to enter a few business transactions, such as expenses, payments and invoices.

“The app is really good if you’re out on the road and need the basics. You can get a lot from the app and do a lot with the app, but the web interface is a lot easier to use,” Allison said.

Teaching QuickBooks

Allison teaches QuickBooks online through one-on-one consultations, on average covering the basics in six two-hour sessions. She also provides follow-up advice.

“I try to explain things from the client’s perspective, what motivates them to learn QuickBooks,” Allison said. “How can I make the day-to-day and weekly processes for QuickBooks easy for them? How can I give them the highest functionality of the program with the least amount of clutter?”

Allison teaches a fee-based QuickBooks Online course through the Larimer Small Business Development Center in Fort Collins, Colo., on a quarterly basis. The next classes will be 8 a.m.-noon May 2, 9 and 16 and 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Aug. 7, 14 and 21.

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colo. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master of arts degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or swidhalm@shellsinkservices.com.

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