Every small business owner wants to be on a road that’s paved with black ink. Here, in no particular order, is our top-ten small business financial applications and services list to help you navigate the ride and stay the course.
1. Intuit QuickBooks Pro 2010
A granddaddy among PC applications, Intuit QuickBooks is still an essential for entrepreneurs even 20 years after its debut. This accounting package is tailored for small businesses and offers a wealth of features, including the capability to track income sales and expenses; pay bills; print checks; manage payroll and payroll taxes; create professional-looking invoices and forms; and even accept credit and debit card payments.
New features in the 2010 version (priced at $159.95) include a customizable Company Snapshot view that lets you choose the at-a-glance reports that are most important to your business (including seven new reports) and document management features that let you store and share your business documents in QuickBooks.
You can even upload your signature and apply it to the checks you create in QuickBooks. But what makes QuickBooks truly one-of-a-kind is the integration it offers with thousands of other business applications and custom add-ins.
2. Intacct Winter 2010
For businesses that may have outgrown QuickBooks, Intacct Corp. offers a cloud-based solution that brings the power of mid-market accounting and financial management applications to businesses that otherwise couldn’t afford it. The company’s latest version, Intacct Winter 2010, enables both GAAP and operational reporting and analysis without the need for additional tools.
The core system includes modules for accounting, purchasing, order management, financial reporting and business intelligence. The company also offers optional modules that deliver multi-currency support, multi-entity support, sales-tax management, inventory management, contract and revenue management, and integration with the popular Salesforce.com CRM platform. Intacct's SaaS (software as a service) model provides anytime, anywhere access to all your financial data whether you use a PC, a Mac or a smartphone—all you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection.
Intacct provides CEO- and CFO-level dashboards, so you can monitor the health of your business at a glance.
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And the company’s world-class datacenter (with backups on three continents, just to be safe) offers disaster-proof security for your crucial financial data. Intacct starts at $400 per month, and is available from many CPAs for as little as $60 per month when bundled with their services.
Even if you decide not to handle your business’ accounting chores in-house, you still need a way to create invoices and get them to customers in a timely manner. FreshBooks lets you tackle billing chores and track you and your employees’ time so it can be billed to clients.
The online service can handle recurring invoices (say, billing monthly retainers), and you can choose to have it automatically follow up with customers and clients when a bill is past due. This combination of ease-of-use and automation not only saves you time, it means you’re less likely to put off your billing duties. Invoices go out sooner, and you have a better chance of getting paid faster.
FreshBooks is the simple way to create and track invoices and payments.
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In fact, the company claims that using FreshBooks can cut payment time by an average of 14 days. A free version of the service lets you manage up to three clients, and for $19 a month you can manage up to 25 clients.
4. Intuit Online Payroll Plus
One of the more daunting tasks for small business owners is payroll. You can’t just write your employees each a check and be done with it (well, you could, if you didn’t mind an unfriendly visit from the IRS). There are state and federal taxes and regulations to track, deductions to calculate, and more minutiae than you can imagine. But paying hundreds of dollars per month to a traditional payroll service provider hurts.
Intuit Online Payroll (formerly PayCycle) takes the pain and guesswork out of payroll. An online wizard walks you through the setup process, and the automated system alerts you when tasks need to get done, calculates payroll taxes, warns you when they are due, and passes all the information to QuickBooks (or another accounting package) so that your books stay in sync. Plans start as low as $40 per month.
Sole proprietors and independent contractors might not have the payroll headaches of larger small businesses, but they still need to track their finances and know where the money is going. Mint Software’s online — and free — personal financial management service can help.
The user-friendly budgeting tools let you see how much you’re spending and on what, so you can set goals and balance your budget. Mint lets you budget monthly as well as irregular or one-time expenses, which is especially helpful for those non-recurring business purchases. You can even set up e-mail and SMS alerts to be automatically updated whenever there’s an important change in your finances.