D&AS SURVEY SAYS …: Door Dealers Prefer QuickBooks
© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2008
Author: Tom Wadsworth
D&AS SURVEY SAYS …
Door Dealers Prefer QuickBooks
By Tom Wadsworth, Editor
What accounting software should you use for your business?
Door dealers have struggled with this issue since the invention of software. Even if you have already bought a particular software package, chances are good that you’re considering looking elsewhere.
“No one seems to love what they are using,” one door dealer told us. “It is a necessary and aggravating part of doing business.”
Well put. Your accounting software is the cornerstone of your business, directly affecting several critical business systems. These can include billing, customer information, receivables, payables, payroll, inventory management, estimates, job scheduling, job costing, tax form preparation, and much more.
As another dealer told us, “You don’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are.” This is the essential task performed by accounting software. Depending on the program you use, taking the pulse of your business can either be a quick 15-second operation or a painful hours-long ordeal.
The Clear Winner
According to a new survey by Door & Access Systems, QuickBooks clearly ranks first as the most popular accounting program used by door dealers. The survey collected input from 191 dealers in the United States and Canada.
Half of all dealers (51%) use one of the QuickBooks programs, such as QuickBooks Pro (32%), QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions (10%), or QuickBooks Premier (5.5%). Peachtree programs came in a distant second with 7.5 percent.
Our survey also revealed that a few dealers have resisted the purchase of accounting software. We were surprised to learn that, even in 2008, 4.4 percent of dealers don’t use it.
If you’re looking for advice about accounting programs, our dealers had plenty to offer. Nearly 40 percent of respondents were glad to share their advice on the subject.
A third of all advice had something to say about QuickBooks, and most comments were positive. “For most dealers, the easiest to use would be QuickBooks,” was a common sentiment.
“Use QuickBooks Contractor—it’s simple and works,” advised one dealer. “You will spend thousands making a change (to another program) for poor results.”
QuickBooks comes in various versions and add-ons that provide more features. QuickBooks Pro, for example, starts at $199.95 retail. QuickBooks Premier Editions start at $449.95, and Enterprise Solutions can run from $3,000 to $9,000.
One dealer who had experience with QuickBooks’ various offerings said, “For a small company of up to three or four installers, QuickBooks Pro Contractor’s addition is easy to use and efficient. If you have five to seven installers, you could move up to Enterprise Solutions.”
Bruce McConnell, a professional financial advisor to door dealers, encourages dealers to set up QuickBooks’ general ledger to best suit their needs. “The additional features found in QuickBooks, such as class tracking and data filtering, allow you to quickly create a number of easy-to-read reports designed to focus on a specific time period or area of your business.”
A few dealers, however, had some criticisms about QuickBooks. One accused the program of “engineering obsolescence into the software by only supporting it for three years.” He said that QuickBooks offers payroll tax tables for only about three years. “Then you are forced to upgrade if you want to continue using the payroll feature.”
“Scheduling would be helpful,” added one dealer, “but it is one option that QuickBooks Pro does not do.” Another agreed: “QuickBooks works well for bookkeeping but has nothing for scheduling, and you cannot look up customers by address.”
The Scheduling Challenge
Several other respondents also mentioned scheduling as a desired function for their accounting software. Some use QuickBooks along with another program to cover scheduling and other the key aspects of their business.
“QuickBooks is easy to use for accounting,” said one comment, “but we use a custom program for job tracking, scheduling, and inventory.”
One dealer recommended QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions with the add-on module of QExpress for scheduling. QExpress is not made by QuickBooks, but is designed to work with it. “This is a seamless product that can be expanded to dispatch repairs through PDA software and Microsoft MapPoint,” he added.
Another door dealer expressed a different point of view. “I do not believe accounting software should be relied upon for dispatch, estimating, work history, and scheduling. We are currently switching our software program to a different solution. We are looking at S2000Win” (a program designed for field service businesses).
Another advised, “You need an integrated accounting software (that offers) contact database, inventory management, quoting/order entry, purchase order tracking/scheduling, etc.” But he added, “Good luck finding one. We did our own integration.”
Several dealers noted the challenge of inventory management. “We need software with an excellent inventory program,” cited one dealer. “That’s where all the dollars are spent or lost.”
QuickBooks, Peachtree, and others offer an inventory management feature, but a few dealers were not impressed. One dealer urged other dealers to find software “that allows the inventory to be tracked correctly, as this has been our major problem with all standard packages.”
One software company, ASG Technologies, recently began offering Door Tracker, an office management program for garage door dealers. The program is intended to provide features such as scheduling, inventory management, invoicing, job tracking, and more.
If your business has outgrown off-the-shelf programs like QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, or Peachtree, you may be ready to spend a few grand on ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planning). One out of every ten dealers uses QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, while 6.5 percent use MAS 90 or MAS 200 by Sage.
“MAS 200 is great for a business that has outgrown QuickBooks,” said one respondent.
Before you bite the bullet and purchase new accounting software, Bruce McConnell advises dealers to identify the specific deficiencies of your current software. “Many perceived problems or limitations come from the lack of knowledge of how to use all of the features already in place.”
Behind QuickBooks, the second most common accounting solution for dealers is “custom software prepared solely for our business.” The custom approach is used by 8.7 percent of the dealers in our survey.
For more than 20 years, various companies have offered software programs that are either targeted to door businesses or can be customized to your specific operation. These programs attracted both positive and negative remarks.
The high cost of a customized solution has discouraged many dealers, but some have found the personal touch to be worth the price. “Paradigm by Paragon has the total package for garage door dealers,” raved one dealer. “Their support is the best.”
One dealer had used custom software since 1984, but changed to Peachtree in 1998 to get “a stable program that would be around for many years.” He said that Peachtree’s annual updates and low cost are a big plus.
“Limited customizing is a slight pain, but worth it,” he added. “We use a payroll service. It can’t be easier or better.”
“If buying a custom program offered by a door dealer,” warned one dealer, “make sure their company and yours are about the same size.”
McConnell warns that many software vendors promise to solve all of your problems. “Your success will still rely on your staff’s ability to understand accounting in general and to learn how to efficiently run the program’s processes.”
Do Your Homework
Our survey’s most common advice urged caution and research before jumping into a particular package. “Do your homework. Do not be in a rush,” was a common refrain.
“I have tried three different programs,” commented one dealer, “and they all have good and bad. Take your time and research every part of the program.”
Many dealers recommended finding a software company that can offer you the support you need. “Get referrals and check them out.”
Door dealers might tend to think that their business is unique, making them feel totally alone in this purchase decision. But many resources exist. Some dealers advised that you talk to other dealers, your accountant, or similar subcontracting businesses that install and repair products.
This research effort may take some time, but it can set you on a reliable course that will guide your business for many years to come.
“Accounting software is not something that you change at a whim,” counseled one dealer.
“As an old expression goes, ‘Choose your rut, you will be in it for a long time.’”
What accounting software program do you presently use for your door business?
Software / Percent of respondents
QuickBooks / 50.8%
Custom software prepared solely for our business / 8.7%
Peachtree / 7.5%
MAS 90 or 200 / 6.5%
We don’t use accounting software. / 4.4%
Accpac by Sage / 3.8%
Microsoft Great Plains/Microsoft Dynamics / 3.3%
Other (please specify) / 15.0%
The 2008 Door & Access Systems Accounting Survey was conducted from Jan. 22 to Feb. 2, 2008. The online survey was sent to 790 garage door dealers throughout the United States and Canada; 191 responded.