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6 things small A/E firms should consider about QuickBooks (and why I love small firms)!

I have a 25 year history in the A/E industry that started at a small software company in Fort Collins, Colorado. They shall remain nameless but we offered an accounting/project management system for small architectural/engineering firms. Over the course of the first 18 years of my career I got to know how these firms manage their businesses intimately. That firm was acquired by another company that mainly had a focus on the larger AE firms and my love for the small business had to take a back seat. My career took a different turn or two over the last year but recently landed me back with a firm that is similar to where I started and I love it!

Praesto AE was developed by an Engineer, for engineering firms (of course, working just as well for architects too!). The system is a unique product because it doesn’t try to also be an accounting system – the founder of our program recognized that most small firms would be using QuickBooks for accounting and it would work fine for the financial side but that these firms need the same time/billing and project management features that are afforded to larger firms with some of the “big” (and more expensive) packages that are out there. So, rather than replace an accounting package – we push your data over to QuickBooks for you.

A/E firm Principals have asked me many times about the size that a firm would need to be before they would move away from QuickBooks and look at some of these fully integrated packages. There are many parts to the answer:
  1. Do you employ an “accountant”?  Is your firm large enough to have a full-time person doing your books?  Or do you have a person that answers the phones, maybe does some marketing and does the books?    Can you afford to pay more for what we might consider a full blown accountant vs. a bookkeeper?
  2. Do you want to easily be able to replace your front office staff if the need arises?  It is generally easy and normally costs less to find someone that knows QuickBooks.
  3. Is your outside accounting firm willing to work with you if you are using a system they might not be familiar with?
  4. Consider what you don’t like about QuickBooks for your A/E firm.  Generally the parts that don’t work so well for you have to do with the fact that you need the front end component to be project based.  (The piece that Praesto AE covers for you.)
  5. What information do you need at your fingertips? If it is project information that you need daily then having a system like Praesto will give you what you need.  Your bookkeeper can provide your financial reports for you as needed but I’ve had many Principals tell me that as long as they can see the over/unders on schedules and budgets that they can keep a pulse on the business on a daily basis.
  6. What is your comfort level with having your accounting system on the workstations of all employees that might only need time/expense entry?   Granted you can block access with security settings…but all the same it’s about a comfort level.
So if you are a small A/E firm and you want the advantage of using QuickBooks, one of the most widely used accounting systems available, but you know that you need industry specific business/project management, take a look a And, remember, we know (and love) small firms!