The Best Small Business Financial AppsEvery small business owner wants to be on a road that's paved with black ink. Here's our top-10 list of small business financial applications and services to help you navigate the ride and stay the course.
1. Intuit QuickBooks Pro Desktop 2015A granddaddy among PC applications, Intuit QuickBooks Pro is still an essential for entrepreneurs even 25 years after its debut. This accounting package is tailored for small businesses and offers a wealth of features that you would expect, 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.
Over the years, Intuit has added conveniences such as document management features that let you store and share your business documents, and e-signature support that lets you apply your John Hancock to the checks you create. Busy entrepreneurs will also appreciate the customizable dashboards that let you choose the at-a-glance views that are most important to your business.
New features in the 2015 version include the capability to see your top customers, current profit and loss statement and other crucial data at a glance on the program's home page. There are also even more reports, and the company has made reports easier to customize, read, interpret, and send. With the addition of QuickBooks Plus Hosting Service, the program supports shared folders, so your accountant can access your QuickBooks file without the need to email it back and forth.
But what makes QuickBooks truly one-of-a-kind is the integration it offers with thousands—yes, thousands— of other business applications and custom add-ins. QuickBooks Pro Desktop 2015 carries a one-time license cost of $199.95. Or you can opt for QuickBooks Pro Plus Desktop 2015, which costs $199.95 per year and adds tech support, data backups and upgrades.
2. IntacctFor businesses that may have outgrown QuickBooks, or perhaps have an eye on going public one day, Intacct 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 Intacct SaaS platform (software as a service) enables both GAAP and operational reporting and analysis without the need for additional tools, and the hosted-cloud model provides anytime, anywhere access to all your financial data from any Internet-connected device.
The system includes modules for core financials: general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management, order management, purchasing, collaboration, and reporting and dashboards. Additional modules can be added to handle inventory management, revenue management, time and expense management, project accounting, check delivery and more. Intacct also supports integration with the popular Salesforce.com CRM platform, and you can even have custom applications—tailored for your unique business—built to run on the Intacct platform.
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 $425 per month, and is available from many partner CPAs for a small fee per month when bundled with their services.
3. FreshBooksEven 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 and track your 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. In fact, the company claims that using FreshBooks can cut payment time by an average of 14 days.
Moreover, your FreshBooks account lets you accept credit-card payments with no additional setup and no need to sign up for a separate account with a payment processor. The mobile app also lets you enter billable hours on the fly, then seamlessly turn convert those hours into invoices. The app features expense tracking, too, so you can see what you've spent on what and add it to an invoice when appropriate. Detailed reports let you quickly see your P&L snapshot, overdue invoices and other pertinent data.
You can start with a free 30-day trial, then sign up for the plan that suits your needs ranging from $9.95 per month to $39.95 per month.
4. Intuit QuickBooks PayrollOne 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 QuickBooks Payroll 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. The company offers three service tiers—Basic, Enhanced and Full Service—to match your business' needs. Basic Payroll ($25 per month, plus $2 per employee per month) supports the creation of checks by simply entering employees' hours, and lets you pay by check or direct deposit.
Enhanced Payroll ($39 per month plus $2 per employee per month) add payroll tax forms and the ability to electronically file W-2 forms at year's end. And with the Enhanced Service $99 per month plus $2 per month per employee), Intuit will setup your payroll in the system, file and pay your payroll taxes for you, provide all required year-end forms and even guarantee their work against non-compliance penalties.
5. MintSole 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. Intuit's Mint 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 handle irregular or one-time expenses, which is especially helpful for those non-recurring business purchases. The app shows bills due—and it alerts you before one becomes past-due—and lets you pay them electronically. It will even keep tabs on your credit score, and offer tips how you can improve it. You can even set up email and SMS alerts to automatically update you whenever there's an important change in your finances.
6. Quosal SellIn many businesses, a polished, professional quote is the key to landing new business. But creating proposals can be tedious and time-consuming for you and your staff, and tracking where a potential deal stands once the quote goes out is usually a manual process. Quosal Sell aims to streamline the process of preparing and managing sales documents, from inception to resolution.
The solution is available as either a software application that you load on a PC or as a SaaS offering you access via a Web browser. Both feature a slick, user-friendly interface that lets you create proposals (a number of professional-looking templates are included), track their status, source products and see their prices and more. Sell can integrate with your CRM system to produce opportunities, tasks and activities, notes, document attachments, audit, detailed and summarized quotes and other critical data. Plus, it offers a full sales-manager console for insights into each sales rep's success and your business' current flow of quotes and proposals.
Sell costs $299 for a single license or $1,099 for a three-user license pack.
7. Microsoft Dynamics GPIf you think of Microsoft only for your productivity app and server-software needs, think again. The software giant offers a range of financial applications tailored to small businesses. Microsoft Dynamics GP is a comprehensive solution for managing and integrating a range of business functions: financial management and accounting, inventory and operations management, sales and service management, business intelligence and reporting, and human resources and payroll.
The platform offers a range of customizable analytics, plus reporting and budgeting options. With Microsoft Dynamics GP you can investigate your financial data, run "what-if" forecasts for your budgets, spot trends and receive alerts when something looks wrong or action is required. Naturally, it integrates with other Microsoft products such as Microsoft Office and SQL Server. The solution is available through by local Microsoft partner resellers, who design, price, and deploy the right system for your business.
8. Sage 50 AccountingQuickBooks may now be the most popular accounting software for small businesses, but it certainly isn't the only game in town. Sage 50 Accounting (the spiritual successor to Peachtree, one of the first desktop accounting packages) delivers features such as invoicing (by email or snail mail), cash-flow monitoring, online bill paying, job management and inventory management. Along the way, automatic accounting checks ensure the integrity of your data.
The customizable interface lets you create shortcuts to you most common tasks, access key screens with a click, and easily access your most important business information. Also handy are the various "Centers"—Business Status Center, Customer Management Center, Vendor Management Center, Inventory Management Center—that put all information related to those aspects of your business in one place. And imagine that: The company even makes it easy to import QuickBooks data so newcomers can make the switch. Sage offers three tiers (Pro, Premium, Quantum) to match any small-business accounting scenario, with pricing starting at $299 per year.
9. SAP Concur ExpenseExpense reports are a necessary evil, but the process doesn't have to be a living hell. SAP subsidiary Concur Technologies offers Concur Expense, an on-demand Web service, to automate the workflow. Expense-report automation not only makes things easier on you (saving valuable time, and hence money), it increases compliance with your expense policies and reduces the reimbursement time for your employees.
The Concur Expense mobile app lets employees take a picture of a paper receipt to add the amount to a report, and incorporate e-receipts popular with airline, hotel and ground-transportation companies. You can set up an automated approval workflow, and analyze expense data. Available Financial Connectors integrate Concur travel and expense data with data from ERP, CRM, human resources and accounting systems. Setup fees and monthly pricing varies according to the size of your organization.
10. Xactly Incent ExpressSales compensation can sometimes be a black art, but Xactly Incent Express makes it easier. This Web-based tool lets a business manager rapidly create sales compensation plans, calculate commissions, and even export payments to payroll from a single application that's integrated with an existing database (such as Salesforce or another CRM package). Built-in "gamification" features such as leaderboards, badges, and prizes help incentivize sales reps.
Importantly, Xactly Incent Express provides guidance to the executive creating the plan as well as a cost analysis that shows the total cost of a proposed plan in advance, so there are no surprises after you roll out the plan to employees. Designed for businesses with up to 75 sales reps, the program offers pre-built plans and examples to help clients get started. Managers can tailor plans on custom criteria, such as deal amount, product margin, product mix and discount percent.
Automated reporting and real-time dashboards let you more accurately gauge business performance. Xactly Incent Express costs $29.95 per subscriber per month, and there's a one-time setup fee of $499 for businesses tracking 50 payees or fewer.
Running a business means crunching the numbers, tracking the cash flow, paying employees, and staying on the IRS's good side. This month's top-10 list features tools to help you do just that.