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There are many reasons that contribute to the success or failure of a business.  Specifically, many small business owners overspend their valuable time and resources trying to become bookkeeping and accounting experts using QuickBooks.

If you are a small business owner and are keeping your own books, here are 5 of the best tips I’ve come across for becoming a successful small business bookkeeper using QuickBooks.  This article is from a QuickBooks Expert we regularly read and subscribe to, Scott Gregory. I am thankful that Scott allowed us to share his wisdom, and hope you find this helpful in charting your own course to success.

1. If you’re not a bookkeeper before you buy QuickBooks, you won’t be after either.

Please – do NOT fall victim to the siren song of do-it-yourself bookkeeping that the marketing folks at QuickBooks are singing.

Concepts such as “if you can write a check, you can use QuickBooks” and “QuickBooks is built for butchers, bakers and candlestick makers” (both themes have been used in their advertising) will lull you into a very false sense of security.

To succeed with QuickBooks, you (or someone on your team) absolutely needs to have a solid grasp of bookkeeping. Otherwise, you may quickly offer up a comment such as this one I recently saw on Twitter – “QuickBooks is making me want to poke my eyes out!”

Like any other tool, when used correctly, QuickBooks provides an incredibly robust accounting system for many small businesses. There is a tremendous amount of functionality bundled inside the software. However, when used incorrectly, bad things can happen to good businesses, and boy, can they happen quickly!

Get professional guidance to set up QuickBooks out of the box and to review your work on a monthly or quarterly basis. Trust me – I’ve watched many businesses disintegrate due to poor or non-existent accounting information. I want you to avoid becoming a fatality on the small business highway

2. Unless you are a payroll genius, outsource it! Contrary to what you might think, you can’t afford NOT to outsource your payroll.

OK, I get it. I hear people frequently say “gee, how hard is it to create paychecks for the employees?” That statement by itself as it relates to payroll is absolutely true. It isn’t too terribly hard to create the checks.

However, the payroll nightmares that haunt thousands of small businesses have NOTHING to do with the creation of the checks. The nightmares have EVERYTHING to do with the timely and correct filing of reports and the accurate and timely deposit of taxes due.

Let’s be honest – payroll is a completely NON-value added activity for ALL businesses. The minimum expectation going in is that it be 100{6c82cbbeab4aafd377cd90bd984eb42785371aed28b8b97837e7129c28ed1264} correct (the amount of the paychecks, the deposits and the tax filings). That’s an enormous amount of pressure for someone that very likely doesn’t have any background in payroll. Why even risk it?

Why not transfer that NON-value added activity to someone that lives and breathes payroll every day.

All you have to do is make sure to get the hours reported on time and that the funds are in the bank on time. They take care of everything else. This allows you or your staff to focus on value-added tasks, like marketing, customer service and collecting on overdue accounts!

3. Learn and experiment freely – in the sample company file, NOT in your “live” company file.

Taking time to learn about the various features, shortcuts and tools within QuickBooks is an excellent goal, and I strongly encourage you to do that. After all, less clicks = more vacation in my book!

However, my recommendation is that your learning be done in the sample data files that are provided with every edition of QuickBooks. That way, you can play around all day (or night) in these sample files and have absolutely ZERO worries about messing anything up in your “live” file.

Once you get the hang of things in the sample data file and understand their impact, you can easily transport that knowledge into your “live” file. Not sure how to locate the sample files? Just click on Help and do a search – you’ll be on your way.

4. Do NOT dive into online banking right away.

I know this concept seems completely counter-intuitive. Let me explain…

As soon as you create a new bank account in your QuickBooks chart of accounts, you are asked if you want to connect to your online banking. Resist the temptation at first.

Without the initial knowledge of how QuickBooks expects things to be done when it comes to recording bank and credit card transactions, you will be at a big disadvantage.

In fact, if you connect to online banking right away, there is a very good chance that you’ll just be downloading and entering a lot of garbage into your QuickBooks file – you’ll just be doing it faster as a result of the electronic connection.

Better approach – learn how things work manually first. It shouldn’t take you too long to get the hang of it, assuming you have the proper setup and knowledgeable training on the inner workings of QuickBooks. Once you start walking, you can then break into a run and connect to your online banking. You (and your tax accountant) will be very glad you followed this plan of action.

5. Download and install QuickBooks updates when notified.

If you use QuickBooks Desktop, this is for you. I know – the “QuickBooks has recently downloaded an update. Would you like to install it now?” messages can get annoying.

But what you might not know is this – these updates are how the creators of QuickBooks push bug fixes and other updates out to you.

It is essential that you take the time to install these updates when you are notified about them. If you are skittish about installing them because of worries about potential problems, check your favorite search engine for reports of any problems with these updates. If you find none, forge ahead with the installation.

Scott Gregory is the Author of his own blog on becoming a QuickBooks expert, Betterbottomline.com. He is a QuickBooks Specialist, CPA, and instructor in several local community venues.  Prior to forming Bottom Line Accounting Solutions, Scott served as the chief financial officer (CFO) for a $15 million manufacturing firm. In that position, he was in charge of the accounting, banking, IT, purchasing, inventory control and human resource departments.

Scott can be reached on his website, http://www.betterbottomline.com

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