Success has its rewards, but also its perils. As your business grows, you start to outstrip the infrastructure that you’ve come to rely on to manage and run your operations. One area where this becomes painfully evident: your accounting software.
Entry-level accounting packages such as Intuit’s QuickBooks and Sage’s Peachtree are surprisingly robust, supporting a handful of concurrent users and thousands of records (be they transactions, customers or inventory items). But the databases underlying these systems can scale only so far.
Eventually, a successful business will need to graduate to a mid-market solution. Such a system will typically handle more complex accounting needs, plus integrate inventory management, sales estimates and orders, purchasing, payroll services and more—all while delivering the multi-user support demanded by a larger business.
QuickBooks Enterprises Solututions icon-based home screen helps keep training needs to a minimum.
(Click for larger image).
Time to Switch?
That’s the position David Sloan, president of Li’l Guy Foods, was in. The Kansas City, Missouri-based manufacturer and distributor of Mexican food products was founded by Sloan’s grandfather in 1965, and has been on a growth tear. Sales for this year are forecast to reach $3.8 million, up from around $3 million last year.
“We do a lot of transactions, and we have a lot of inventory-related data,” says Sloan. He wanted the company’s next financial program to handle not just the general ledger, but also the complex inventory-management required by the company’s diverse product lines.
So after 10 years running Peachtree Premium Accounting desktop software, Sloan made the switch to Intuit’s QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. Specifically designed for businesses with 20 to 500 employees and revenues typically greater than $1 million, Enterprise Solutions can handle more than 100,000 records and supports up to 20 concurrent users (who can be spread across multiple locations). And starting at just $3,000, it’s a lot more affordable than other mid-market solutions that run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
If your business is large enough to have individuals in different departments who need access to accounting, customer, sales, purchasing, and inventory information, a solution like Enterprise Solutions is in order. And the program can limit access to certain modules only to the people who need it, so, for instance, your inventory manager won’t accidentally stumble upon the company’s payroll data.Wide-ranging, but Approachable
Enterprise Solutions ideally should be installed on its own dedicated server, but smaller outfits can start running it on an underutilized PC in the office and migrate to a dedicated server when the need arises. And since it looks and acts like the ever-popular QuickBooks, there’s a huge base of knowledge workers already familiar with the program and its user interface, which can save on training costs.
That ease-of-use was a big draw for Sloan. “If someone has a basic understanding of accounting principles, they can use it,” he says. “Anyone who knows QuickBooks can sit down and learn Enterprise Solutions in an hour.”
For inventory-based businesses like Sloan’s, Enterprise Solutions offers robust features. For example, the program will automatically convert units and measures on the fly. So, for example, if a warehouse manager enters how many palettes of an item have arrived, sales force personnel will see the inventory reported as the actual of number of units on hand.
You can set Enterprise Solutions to automatically convert among units.
(Click for larger image).
The integrated system also connects all stakeholders in the business chain in real time, so warehouse personnel and purchasing agents work from the same data as remote sales people and customer service reps, cutting down on the dreaded “I’ll have to get back to you on that” response.
Robust Inventory Management
Similarly, Enterprise Solutions supports the “available to promise” accounting parameter. This shows not only what is on hand, but also calculates what is coming in (based on entered purchase orders) and due to head out (based on sales orders), so a customer rep can know with confidence what they can promise to a customer.
For warehouse personnel, Enterprise Solutions has an intuitive sales-order fulfillment screen. Each order is flagged with a green, yellow or red icon; green indicates that all items in an order are on-hand, yellow indicates some items are not in stock, and red indicates no items are in stock. That way, the manager and warehouse employees work only on orders that can be fulfilled, rather than spending time pulling items only to discover the shipment would be incomplete. And the purchasing manger can see at a glance what needs to be ordered without guessing at amounts.
Leverage Third-Party Developers
But one of Enterprise Solutions’ greatest strengths is its extensibility. Since it shares the same software development kit (SDK) as the popular QuickBooks platform, there are literally hundreds of customized modules from third-party developers designed for a wide range of functions and industries.
Ultimately, that was the selling point for Li’l Guy Foods. “Our primary objective was to implement an electronic point-of-sale system,” says Sloan. With a POS system, the nine sales reps in the field could enter sales orders and print invoices right at the grocery store, restaurant or institution where they were making a sale, instead of sending in handwritten orders to a data-entry clerk at the end of the day. Sloan found the answer in Advantage Q-Route 2000, a QuickBooks add-on that also supports Enterprise Solutions.
The system has worked so well, Sloan is eyeing other add-ons, such as a manufacturing module to streamline that process. Now as the family business continues to grow, Enterprise Solutions can keep pace.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|