QuickBooks Online consultant Debbi Allison offers classes at SBDC

QuickBooks Online can be accessed anywhere, and once users learn  how to use the program, they can save time on their bookkeeping, while improving their accuracy. The Larimer Small Business Development Center offers quarterly classes on QBO with the next class in October.

By Shelley Widhalm

Business owners who want to do some or all of their bookkeeping find using QuickBooks Online does two things for them.

First, their accuracy of reporting business transactions increases and, second, they save time on their books by using Intuit’s accounting software package.

Business owners who hire a consultant or take a class get that knowledge more quickly and often become better informed on how their accounting works and are able to make better financial decisions.

“I always recommend additional training and coordination with a bookkeeper or consultant and their tax preparer, in addition to learning the basics of QBO,” said Debbi Allison, owner of Open Book Consulting in Loveland and a ProAdvisor for QBO. “By knowing the basics, choosing to maintain their own books and working with a professional, they can save themselves money while increasing their financial literacy.”

The Larimer Small Business Development Center in Fort Collins offers a fee-based QuickBooks Online, or QBO, course every quarter that covers how QBO works, some of the program add-ons and basic principles of accounting. The next class, offered in three four-hour sessions, will be in October.

“It’s an incredible amount of information for the price,” said Allison, who will be teaching the class. “It’s really a survey course of the basics of QuickBooks.”

Allison, a volunteer instructor for three years, likes to add what she calls bonus material beyond the class syllabus, such as an explanation of a business’s chart of accounts. She gears what she teaches to small business owners and those wanting to expand their skills and is sure to include time for their questions.

“I cover all of the subject matter, but I add in a lot of extra,” Allison said. “It’s up to the individual teacher how they want to cover it as long as they cover the core subject matter.”

Test Driving QBO

Allison uses two main tools to teach the class, the QBO client training manual, which students receive in PDF format, and TestDrive QuickBooks Online.

TestDrive can be accessed for free to sample QBO that is for purchase, but it is limited in function and does not save any entries. It also does not allow for additional users, payroll processing and computing of sales taxes—though those topics are covered in the manual.

“You can see what the modules look like on the surface, but you can’t access them,” Allison said.

Allison briefly covers how to add the users and the basics of payroll and sales taxes, recommending business owners take sales tax webinars and Colorado Department of Revenue classes, which are free resources. She explains that though business owners may not need to provide payroll or pay sales taxes if they have a service-based business, they should still learn about sales taxes for things like resells, back charges or products sold alongside their services.

The Three Sessions

In the first session of the class, Allison explains how to navigate QBO and do basic data entry, such as for expenses and receipts, and covers a great deal of the terminology.

“I want them to understand how to get around the program and the settings that are available,” Allison said.

As a bonus, Allison provides a tutorial on how to structure a chart of accounts, which includes the categories of an account, or ICE and ALE. The profit and loss statement consists of Income, Cost of Goods Sold and Expenses, or ICE, and the balance sheet comprises of ALE, Assets, Liabilities and Equity. She also covers W9s and why they are needed for subcontract labor.

In the second session, Allison covers data entry and basic transactions that include both sales transactions, such as invoices and payments, and expense transactions of expenses and bills. She also goes over bank feeds, explaining how to sync up QBO with bank and credit card accounts and to make sure the information correctly matches, helping with the planning of cash flow.

“It’s an awesome shortcut if used properly,” Allison said, adding that manually entering all of the transactions still remains important for accuracy and reporting.

If there is time, Allison will touch on bank reconciliation, or the comparing of information in QBO with bank statements, or she will include the discussion as part of the third session, she said.

The Last Session

In the third session, Allison details the reporting part of owning a business, such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and accounts payable and accounts receivable reports. She explains how to customize the different reports to a business’s needs. As a bonus, she delves into analysis of the profit and loss statements and balance sheets, looking at things such as gross profit margins, net profit margins and debt ratios.

“I like to enrich the material a little bit, so they walk away with an understanding of why the reports are important and what is the power behind the reports to help them make better business decisions,” Allison said. “Reports are one of the most powerful tools that are underutilized in QuickBooks, largely because people don’t know how to use them or don’t understand what they are for.”

Allison includes time in the sessions for an explanation of the various applications geared to business owners, which are offered at a cost or for free and integrate with QBO to help save time and money, she said. Receipt Bank, for example, involves emailing or taking a photo of a receipt to extract data into QBO that includes the transaction, vendor name and total amount, she said.

“It’s another awesome shortcut you can use to get a massive amount of data into QuickBooks. You also fulfill your document retention obligation,” Allison said of Receipt Bank.

Other examples of applications include T-sheets, a timesheet and job costing app, and Hubdoc, a fetching software that grabs documents from bills and bank and credit card accounts.

“We basically go over a simplified version of how apps work with QuickBooks, or how apps are integrated with QuickBooks,” Allison said.

Being Proactive

Allison recommends QuickBooks for businesses that have more than five transactions a month and finds it optimal to start the month a business bank account is opened.

“It’s being proactive, so you can have good financials from the beginning. Accurate financials can make a big difference in how you determine the growth of your business,” Allison said. “Empower yourself with knowledge of your finances, and this class is an amazing, low-cost way to do that.”

The next QuickBooks Online: 3 Part Series course offered through the SBDC will be 1-5 p.m. Oct. 16, 23 and 30 at the Digital Workshop Center, 234 Remington St., in Fort Collins.

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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