by Carly Lombardo
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Accpac’s Simply Accounting software is number one in Canada in the market for accounting software sold by retail stores. Although it is a long way from market leader QuickBooks in the United States, the company claims it has taken the steps to make big gains.
Last year, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company made a major push to entice small business users by offering the software for free through Web download. And once the Simply Free campaign was under its belt, the company had time to relaunch its consulting channel.
Although the Simply Accounting Certified Consultant program started in 1997, it was not until the last year that Accpac started adding significant numbers of U.S. consultants. “We needed to take big steps such as accumulating 50,000 new small business customers, before we were able to show potential and current consultants how reliable the product is,” says Scott Zandbergen, product marketing manager.
Zandbergen says those steps worked because the program now has 1,300 U.S. certified consultants. “The number of consultants doubled from the previous year, and we’re on the right track to double that number by next year,” says Zandbergen.
Both Simply Accounting and Simply Accounting Pro are aimed toward businesses that sell product and services, and automate everything from making purchases to making sales. In addition, the software supports online banking, electronic payments, and maintains an unlimited number of currencies. Also included are a bill of materials feature and the ability to create and customize reports using Microsoft Word, Excel, and Seagate Crystal Reports.
Simply Accounting retails at $39 and Simply Accounting Pro for $89.
Accpac is targeting the CPA community for the Simply line, especially the smaller firm with one to ten employees that focuses on providing accounting software to small businesses using QuickBooks. Bookkeepers and computer resellers are also an important part of the certified consultant program.
“A Simply Accounting Certified Consultant benefits from business-building opportunities, a consulting referral network, and a company that focuses on serving the consultant,” adds Zandbergen.
Those who enroll receive both versions of the software so they can support their clients regardless of the version. They also gain access to a private online discussion forum where they can discuss solutions, exchange ideas, and address client concerns with other consultants.
Consultants get free product updates, payroll tax tables, a dedicated account manager, regular communications from Accpac about Simply Accounting and technology tips to help their practice, and customer referrals through the Simply Accounting page on Accpac’s Web site.
Consultants also receive a multimedia training CD, which features a mix of audio, video, and interactive teaching techniques. The on-screen instructor includes a Personable Guide that hosts the course and presents the material. The Guide’s narration explains what the consultant is seeing during each stage of the training session. The multimedia training provides users with common accounting scenarios that help illustrate Simply Accounting in action, subjects most relevant to how the consultant actually does business, and demonstrates how Simply Accounting is used.
Furthermore, consultants get the Accpac EFT Direct for Simply Accounting. EFT Direct for Simply Accounting is a fast way to move funds electronically to suppliers and employees, and receive payments from customers.
Using EFT Direct allows users to originate electronic deposits or payments via any major bank’s Electronic Funds Transfer service, saving time and money so users can focus on running their business. EFT Direct works with Simply Accounting’s payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable functions.
Interested consultants must complete an online application and pay $99 to join the program. A renewal cost of $99 will maintain the consultant’s status, and provide the consultant with program updates, upgrades, and referrals.
Offering an Alternative
“Being a Simply Accounting Certified Consultant helps accountants differentiate themselves and their services from the masses by supporting a program other than QuickBooks,” adds Zandbergen.
David Goldstein, owner of Goldstein & Associates, provides computer consulting to clients in the area of database applications, installation, training and support for small-to-medium business accounting systems. Goldstein says, “I decided to become a Certified Consultant in Simply Accounting so that I would be in a position to learn more about the program. At the same time, as I recommended the program, I also started to support Simply Accounting users, and wanted the resources available to Certified Consultants.”
In the past five years, Goldstein’s Los Angeles, Calif.-based firm has worked with 20 Simply Accounting clients. “I’m also very conversant with QuickBooks Pro, but much prefer Simply Accounting.”
Most of Goldstein’s clients end up running Simply Accounting, and only need to call him when they run into a problem or want to try something new. However, he services a few of his clients on a regular basis, assisting them with payroll tax reports monthly, quarterly, and annually. Goldstein charges from $75 to $110 an hour for his services.
Goldstein provides this example: “A CPA called me and asked me to consult with him at one of his clients, an interior design firm that had been doing its accounting manually, and submitting information to the CPA monthly to develop financials, and do payroll tax returns.”
The CPA knew that setting this business up in Simply Accounting or QuickBooks would cut down on his income. But to better serve the client, he suggested using one of these software programs. Goldstein continues, “I met with them, felt I could help them, and used their existing financial reports to develop a Simply Accounting program to serve their needs. I instructed their bookkeeper, who was computer illiterate, to a point where she was able to handle all of the functions of the program. Originally, I visited there every month, then every three months to work on reports.”
Goldstein finds Simply much easier to use for a non-accountant in a small business. He also says the visual interface helps in such tasks and creating and paying invoices. “Maybe most importantly, SA keeps a true audit trail. QuickBooks Pro allows you to edit and even turn off the audit trail, which I find hard to believe,” he says.
Henry Czubkowski, president of HPC Business Consultants, uses Simply Accounting in-house, and recommended and helped implement it in more than 50 small-to-medium businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
“I would never recommend a product I hadn’t used. We use it for everything—invoicing, shipping, and receiving,” says Czubkowski.
The Stanhope, N.J.-based company started in 1989 and focuses mainly on assisting churches in need of setting up a more efficient way of recordkeeping and office management. With a background in church accounting and computers, HPC was hired by the New Jersey District Council of Assemblies of God to upgrade their record- keeping systems, computer hardware, software and financial department. In turn, the council has introduced and trained over 30 churches in Simply Accounting. “Simply Accounting is a cost-effective, low-end accounting system that has a uniform reporting feature in Crystal Reports, and this is important when dealing with not-for-profit organizations,” says Czubkowski.
Czubkowski also sees being a pioneer in Simply Accounting as an advantage. “The program has been around for a long time, but it’s just getting the recognition it deserves. We are getting an influx of people looking for new software. People are tired of other software and its limitations,” he says.
Another benefit to being a Certified Consultant is the additional income. For basic set-up and training, Czubkowski’s fees start at $150. He adds, “Another great thing is users can move up from Simply Accounting to something else in the Accpac family. With much low-end software, this is not the case.”
In addition to providing an extra revenue stream, both Goldstein and Czubkowski have found the Certified Consultant program to be informative and well supported. “The online forum might have a special report that someone has designed to fix a specific problem, and it saves us hours of researching,” says Czubkowski.
Simply Accounting offers a two-day conference each year for the Certified Consultant program. There are several workshops a day on a wide range of subjects, such as Internet use for submitting invoices and payments, Electronic Fund Transfers for direct deposits, networking issues, basic training on Crystal Reports, and marketing services. “We spend three days interacting with our fellow consultants and discuss issues we run into, get advice, and discuss what we’d like to see in future versions. The best part of the program is meeting other people who do what I do, and knowing I belong to a very professional group who feel as strongly as I do about Simply Accounting, and offer excellent service to clients,” says Goldstein.
Carly Lombardo is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.