Business-like, isn't he?



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    Digital services to help build business fiscal wellness

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver June 15-21, 2004; issue 764; High Tech Office column

    One thing every business needs to know is where the money is: what's come in, what's gone out, and what's outstanding. Proper bookkeeping should be an everyday habit like brushing one's teeth. But for many of us, it's more like going to the dentist: something to be put off as long as possible.

    Ledgersonline can't help with your oral hygiene, but this local Internet service thinks it can help local businesses keep track of their finances. Subscribers get a small, easy-to-use scanner that's set up to enable users to quickly scan paper invoices and receipts, which get automatically converted to PDF documents, and sent online to Ledgersonline for processing.

     The company has worked hard to make the scanning, saving, archiving, organizing and uploading of documents simple and straightforward.

    Ledgersonline takes the digitized slips of paper and generates cheques, reports and financial statements, informing the client via e-mail that there's something ready to be viewed or printed.

     Their Virtual Accountant plan goes beyond keeping simple ledgers to include bank reconciliations, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, inventory and more. And financial data is always available online (

    With products like Quicken and Quickbooks, Intuit has done lots to make it possible for individuals and small businesses to keep their financial data under control. Sensing a market that wants more than just a bare software package, they've been bundling their products in a variety of ways to help small business people get up and running more easily.

    Quicken Business Tool Kit, as the name suggests, is built around their Quicken XG personal and financial manager. Aimed at small businesses, this package can be installed on up to four computers, and includes tools to track the time spent on individual projects or with each client. Free start-up support allows users to talk to an Intuit consultant on getting the product installed and customized.

    The $150 Business Tool Kit also includes (on CD-ROM) a copy of local author Frances McGuckin's business bestseller Business for Beginners, helping aspiring small business-people learn about legal and tax requirements, build entrepreneurial skills, develop a business plan and survive a home office. If you don't need a copy of Quicken and can't imagine reading McGuckin's book onscreen, a real paper copy is included in Global Star Software's Business Suite software package. This two-CD set also bundles various programs aimed at small businesses, including sets of legal and business forms, business plan software, a set of financial tools, including mortgage and bond calculations, and a business card maker, along with McAfee VirusScan. About $70.

    New or home-based small businesses needing more power may want to take a look at Intuit's Quickbooks EasyStart package, ($150 before $50 rebate or $10 per month). Intuit has taken steps to hide the complexity of its accounting package, promising an entry-level bookkeeping solution that can be set up to manage a business in five "effortless steps."

    It's aimed at new, small start-up businesses, often home-based, with one or two employees, especially services with no inventory tracking, and is slimmed down to provide the essentials: estimates and invoices, customer and vendor tracking, simple one-click reports, GST and PST tracking and payments.

    For small business owners interested in the Linux alternative as a way to save money on software purchases while saving time battling computer crashes, viruses and worms, John Lanthrop's Linux in Small Businesses (Apress Books, $50) offers a practical user's guide, walking the reader through a variety of real-world scenarios.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan