It seems like with all the features that QuickBooks includes, there are still gaps in functionality for some industries and specific businesses. As a QuickBooks Consultant, how do we address these issues? Sometimes it is by using a work around in QuickBooks alone, but what about when that is not enough? That is when an integrated application can come to save the day. By having more tools in our tool box, we are more likely to be able to solve real client needs and add more value than they expect.
In this on-going series of blog articles, I hope to share some insight on a variety of topics from what do you need to know about integration; when is connecting another product to QuickBooks appropriate, who can you have help you, and how can you manage a successful implementation. If you have specific questions, trial, or tribulations I would love to hear about them. When appropriate I will share some real life examples, feedback from consultants and developers, and more to help you find your way through the maze of QuickBooks add-ons.
This all ties in with Doug’s blog article from last week “Connecting the Pieces in the Chunkified World of Business Processes.” The businesses we work with are definitely looking to improve efficiency, reduce cost, and quite frankly, get information faster that provides the framework to better manage their business. That is where you can add value while creating interesting projects that go well beyond the traditional bookkeeping, accounting or consulting engagements of the past. I, for one, love the challenge each new client brings.
Why You Care
First, let’s address the issue of why you should care. Whether you know it or not, you are probably already using integrated applications with your clients. Even if you have not used any third party add-ons, many of the most popular are from Intuit directly including credit card processing, payroll processing, and more. You can also find integrated applications by visiting http://marketplace.intuit.com/ and https://appcenter.intuit.com/ to see the wide variety of applications that are available. There are niche applications from Association Management or Meter Billing to more widely used applications that address inventory, time and billing or reporting needs. There are also tools to help you import and export QuickBooks data. At times the choices seem endless. But that further solidifies why the clients desperately need your experience and perspective to navigate through making the choices, implementing the various components to have a complete system, etc.
Integrated applications have provided not only a revenue stream for me from an implementation perspective, but it has strengthened by relationship with my client by being able to offer solutions to their most pressing problems. By solidifying their perception that I am their trusted business advisor, they come to me first on a wide variety of issues: Some of which I can help them with, others I cannot so I provide a referral to someone who can. In either case, they know I am the “go to” person when they encounter big or small business challenges.
Let me stress that this does not mean that I can solve every problem they present. It does mean that I have resources to address their concerns. Often it is by partnering with another Professional who has the depth of knowledge about a solution that I do not possess. The client still sees me as the one looking out for their best interest by knowing I am bringing another person to the team with the appropriate expertise for the task at hand.
How to Get Started
So, you have heard Doug Sleeter speak of “chunkify” and “LegoMastery,” and the concept of putting together the building blocks of a system sounds intriguing, but where do start? The best suggestion I can make is to pick something and try it yourself. Find where QuickBooks is lacking for you and find a solution to meet that need. Do you want to provide online access for your employees to their paychecks, do you need a more robust time and billing solution, what about CRM (customer relationship management) are you as organized as you would like when it comes to servicing your clients, do you need improved reporting, do you need a tool to import transactions from another database; the possibilities are endless.
I do not “sell” my clients solutions I think they need, but rather “share” with them my own experiences (hopefully good, but sometimes bad) to help them know I understand their problem and I have worked through it myself. This will give you the ability to see how the product works, but also important, how is the customer service when you are getting up and running the first time, how is the tech support when you run into issues in the future, etc. All of these experiences give me the confidence to recommend a solution, or at least provide pros and cons when having a discussion with a client. I find that it is just as important to know when a product is not a good fit as to know when it is.
Here are a few specific examples of what I use on a regular basis: one from Intuit and one from a third party developer to get you thinking about what you could use in your business:
- The first that comes to mind is ViewMyPaycheck and it is FREE if you are using one of the Intuit Payroll subscriptions. My employees love the charts that show where their money is going, and I love that they can reprint their own W-2 without asking me.
- Another product I could not live without is Legrand CRM. We have been using it for years and it integrates not only with QuickBooks but also with Outlook so we are able to keep everything in one place from my schedule to the history of all correspondence with a client or prospect, website integration for Contact Us and Ask the Expert forms, and more.
- There are other solutions also such as Method CRM or Results CRM.
It is really just a matter of figuring out which features are most important to you, which interface seems easiest to you, and trying it out. There is no substitute for the “due diligence” phase before a new solution is implemented.
Where Do You Go From Here
Once you have started to flex your integration muscles, you will begin to see opportunities that you never even realized existed. Now rather than having my pat answer of, “That is a limitation of QuickBooks,” I now dig deeper. How significant is the pain for the client (i.e. what investment are they willing to make to improve the situation) or is it an annoyance that they can live with rather than changing procedures or investing an integrated application. What is the benefit they will experience if they address the issue? For example, if the data is already in an electronic format, what could the data entry person be doing if the data was imported rather than having the time spent on data entry? How much more quickly would the information be available for management decisions? How much more accurate would the information be? What would the change do to their morale and job satisfaction?
As you can see, this really does take you from teaching them how to enter information consistently to helping to build an infrastructure which can have dramatic results. Just as an aside, this also helps improve my job satisfaction since the projects require more creativity, are typically more profitable, and I can see a definite result for the client.