Seale: Bringing Theory To Practice

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There is a lot more to small business accounting software than just technology, says John G. Seale of Greensburg, Ind.-based RBSK Partners. "Anybody can put a disk in, hit 'set-up' and 'run.' The accounting theory is where everybody falls down," says Seale, manager of the firm's Brookville, Ind., office.

RBSK'S technology efforts are about a lot more than supporting small business accounting software. The firm, however, takes two different routes to providing technology services. It supports small business accounting through its four-person Small Business Services Department, which also provides write-up and bookkeeping services.

The more typical IT operation, RBSK Technology Consulting, provides IT services such as LAN/WAN consulting, computer repair, and sales of Dell hardware, along with sales of business software. It also provides remote assistance to its clients via Citrix.

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The decision to place services for Peachtree and QuickBooks outside of the IT department stemmed from the fact that such installations often meant the firm provided supporting accounting and payroll services at its own offices. That's why Seale says the accounting theory is often more important than the technology knowledge required.

RBSK now has two accountants dedicated to installing and training clients on QuickBooks. It charges clients anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for a day-and-a-half to set up and train them on the software. "I don't care for QuickBooks, but the clients are buying it and we've had to learn it," says Seale.

Seale, a CPA, and head of RBSK's Audit Department and managing partner for the technology group, says clients are sold on the retail accounting software package because they buy into its marketing message that it is easy to use. And then when they try to install it they can't, and proceed to wreak havoc with their existing documents.

"When I get a new client and they've got QuickBooks, I suggest that I send someone out for set-up and training,'' says Seale. "There is a large percentage of them that have made the shoebox messier."

Given the opportunity, RBSK urges clients to use Client Bookkeeping Solutions from Creative Solutions. "It is our alternative QuickBooks or Peachtree," Seale says. "We don't have one client that has regretted going to that type of software."

The software causes the accountant and client to work together "where you can split the duties," he continues. "We tell the software what the client can or cannot do." The rights granted clients can vary from the ability to open files to having everything completely locked down. It's that kind of control that the firm likes about the CSI application.

Since 1965, RBSK has evolved from a sole proprietorship into one of Indiana's largest accounting and consulting firms. Together, technology services now represent 15 percent of the firm's $2 million in annual revenue.

Seale, who joined RBSK in 1984 after two years as a field examiner for the Indiana Sate Board of Accountants, describes himself "as a self-taught IT guy."

Today, RBSK Technology Consulting, which serves all of southeastern Ind., has enough work to keep its four full-time computer sales and repair technicians busy.

The firm also provides Internet service to Greensburg, the county seat of Decatur County, and the surrounding area. RBSK offers a package of service, including residential broadband, business wireless T-1 and DSL, and wireless rural service up to a 15-mile radius from its tower. That service stemmed from a PC repair visit to the Decatur County Courthouse.

During the service call, RBSK's IT manager realized that the county clerk's office didn't have Internet access. So RBSK offered to provide high-speed Internet services for all of the offices within the courthouse. "We bought a T-1 line for $1,600 a month and resold some of it to the courthouse," says Seale.

RBSK PARTNERS SNAPSHOT

HQ: Greensburg, Ind.

Offices: 4

Employees: 28

Annual revenue: $2 million

Accounting software brands: QuickBooks, Sage BusinessWorks Gold, CSI Client Bookkeeping Solution

Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at riccardo.davis@sourcemedia.com.

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