Using QuickBooks to service a niche or specialty practice
Intuit QuickBooks © is the most widely recognized and accepted accounting and finance solution for small businesses, making it clear why so many accounting and bookkeeping professionals rely on QuickBooks to serve their small business clients. The features and functionality of the QuickBooks desktop editions have become cornerstones of small business bookkeeping.
While the QuickBooks financial products address a wide variety of general accounting needs, providing functionality required by most businesses, there are many ways to use QuickBooks and other Intuit partner extensions to orient your services to the needs of specific industries. In short, it’s easy to use QuickBooks to service a niche or specialty practice.
One thing that’s really important to remember when considering the QuickBooks desktop editions for businesses is that they are not tied to the PC desktop and local network any longer. With the inception of Intuit’s Authorized QuickBooks Hosting program, cloud computing for your core financial and business application isn’t out of the question. So, now that we know that QuickBooks desktop editions can also be considered a type of “cloud” solution (when delivered by a hosting provider), let’s talk about how to apply the product line to a variety of business needs.
The most obvious example of this is the Premier Industry offering of QuickBooks desktop editions. With the Premier Industry editions, additional functionality and reporting for specific industries is addressed directly within the application. Industry editions exist for non-profit, manufacturing, and contractors, among others. A lot of practitioners have met the additional needs of their business clients by using those industry-specific editions
With QuickBooks Premier Non Profit edition, for example, you can go beyond general accounting and provide information specific to not-for-profit organizations, such as:
- classes to report by location or program
- donation statements for donors and contributors and reports on their activity
- form 990 – Statement of functional expenses – for the IRS
- budgets and finances tracked and managed by program
One of the other things to remember when servicing a niche clientele is that sometimes less is more… meaning you want to give people the functionality and information they need, but not so much that it becomes confusing to them.
In retail, for example, it doesn’t make sense to have the store workers operate in the QuickBooks financial software because it doesn’t do what they need, and it has a lot more functionality and information than they require. In most cases, the financial system has information you don’t want the store operators to access. In this type of situation, it makes sense to look at what the user needs, and give them the solution which meets that need, while at the same time recognizing that the information from that system needs to integrate with the accounting solution at some point.
Using the QuickBooks point of sale solution is great for this. It allows an accounting professional to work with a retail business owner, providing the back-office and accounting support required, but the front-office uses the solution that gives them the functionality they need to accomplish their daily tasks. POS runs at the store or retail locations, and the data integrates back to the QuickBooks financial system for the accounting department to work with. I’ve worked with a lot of practitioners who specialize in some form of retail, and the thing they all have in common is that they handle the back-office work for their clients while the client operates the POS and sales functionality directly.
With the huge number of tools in the market which help automate and integrate data into QuickBooks financial, it often doesn’t matter what POS solution is being used, as the data can likely be exported from the POS and imported into QBFS. Using the QuickBooks POS solution certainly makes this process more straightforward, as the integration functionality is designed into the product.
Another way to use QuickBooks to service a niche customer base or market is to find the extensions which offer functionality the client needs, but which also limit access to the core financial application. For example, you may work with a business user who needs to manage customer information and produce invoices for work performed, but this user may not need access to the full QuickBooks product. In this case, it might make sense to use the QuickBooks Connect service to provide the information access and invoicing capability the client needs. QuickBooks Connect extends the information in the QuickBooks desktop financial product to the web, and provides users with the ability to manage customer information, manage invoices and payments, and other functions. The information syncs with the QuickBooks information using the Intuit Sync Manager service, so the data is always up to date.
There are lots of different solutions in the market which extend QuickBooks functionality or access to data, and which address unique needs of various types of businesses. It used to be a fairly complicated process, extending business applications to incorporate new functionality or to address changing business needs. While the landscape of software development has not settled on a single method, toolset or approach (and is likely never going to), Intuit attempts to address the problem by offering standardized API sets (application programming interface), sync tools and methods, and SDK (software development kits) to allow developers to create “standards-based” integrations and extensions for the product. Using Intuit or partner-developed extensions and applications, just about any type of business can be served – including addressing unique industry requirements or specific industry functionality – and still use QuickBooks as the foundation for accounting and financial reporting.