Intuit Builds a Quicker QuickBooks

By Lauren Simonds | Posted September 28, 2004

For many small business owners, managing their company finances doesn't involve booting up a computer; it means pulling out a paper ledger and a pencil with a good eraser. In fact, Intuit recently sponsored an internal study and found that more than nine million small businesses manage their most common business tasks with paper, pencil and the occasional Excel spreadsheet.

That realization spurred the company to develop a financial program specifically for this audience: QuickBooks: Simple Start Edition. "During our research," says Gary Sulentic, senior brand manager for QuickBooks, "the response we got from these business owners is that the standard version of QuickBooks offers too much functionality and they found it too hard to use. The price was also an issue."

Keep It Simple
In designing QuickBooks: Simple Start, the company decided to focus on the three most essential business tasks — tracking the money that comes in, tracking the money that goes out and maintaining vital business records such as tax receipts, customer data and vendor information.

"We wanted the product to be drop-dead simple," says Sulentic. "It helps business owners perform the most important tasks and provides an immediate payoff — organized information that keeps things from falling through the cracks — especially at tax time."

When compared to the standard QuickBooks, the setup is significantly trimmed down and simplified. Getting started involves answering basic questions on three set-up screens:

  1. Company name
  2. How the company is organized (e.g., sole proprietor, LCC )
  3. How do you bill customers?

The setup process for the standard QuickBooks, in contrast, involves an interview process with 100 screens.

The Structure
Once you're finished with the three set-up screens, you're ready to start using the product. The structure is designed to be friendly and straightforward. For example, the Homepage is divided into three areas, left-to-right: Money In, Your Business and Money Out.

In the Money In section, you can create estimates and invoices, and track received payments, sales receipts and deposits. Under Your Business, you'll find icons for Bank Account and Profit and Loss. You write checks, record expenses and issue refunds in the Money Out section. You'll also see two other icons — Customers straddles the line between Money In and Your Business while Vendors sits between Your Business and Money Out.

The language is straightforward, too. Instead of wading through terms like "aging reports" you'll get a clearer description: Invoices that haven't been paid.

The program also lets you generate reports — especially handy when it's time to talk to your accountant about taxes. To generate a report, simply click on Sales Summary, Expense Summary or Customer Summary. You'll also see that the home page looks a lot like a Web page with the links to the various reports listed on the left-hand side navigation area of the home page.

"The simplified structure helps people feel confident," says Sulentic. "Business owners don't have to spend a lot of time learning how to use this program — they can just start using it and organizing their business more efficiently."

Pricing and Availability
QuickBooks: SimpleStart will be available starting October 4 at a variety of retail outlets including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Sam's Club, Costco, Staples and Target Stores.

During the initial setup, you have a choice to use QuickBooks: Simple Start on your desktop (i.e., from the CD) or the online edition. The online edition lets you access your records from any Web browser and include access for more than one person (in case you have a colleague or an accountant you want to give access rights to).


QuickBooks: Simple Start homepage
QuickBooks: Simple Start's home page is laid out in an easy to understand manner.

The program costs $99.95 for the Desktop Edition that includes a one-year subscription to the Online Edition. After one year, the online subscription costs $.9.95 per month.

If your company grows, you can upgrade to other QuickBook editions. Typically you'll need a more powerful version if you have employees and need to manage payroll or inventory, or if you need a formal accounts payable approval process.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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