Believe it or not, 12 Spokes has not always been the large team that it is today. (I know, shock). When we started, we were just a couple of really talented developers working at home, building hot software for a small cadre of clients.
It was 2006, and we’d been drinking the 37 Signals “Less is more” Kool-aid for a couple of years. We embraced the theory:
- Obviously, we collaborated using Basecamp.
- We used Google docs instead of Excel and Word. (Okay, it was 2006, and we used OpenOffice because Google Docs didn’t exist yet—but you get the gist.)
- We worked remotely and collaborated over Campfire group chat.
- We chose lightweight Blinksale and InDinero for invoicing and accounting, rather than bloated Quickbooks.
For the most part, the “less is more” philosophy really served us well. We’re still using Google Docs, HipChat for group chat, and we just bought a printer last week (reluctantly!).
But if I could give one piece of advice to the fresh-faced young entrepreneur I was in ’06, it’s this: When it comes to your accounting, always act bigger than you think you are. As a fledgling business owner, you might think Quickbooks—an overweight behemoth—is too big and cumbersome for you. But believe me, if (when!) your company starts taking off, you’re gonna want it.
This is where Past Erin steps in and calls Current Erin a sellout.
Now, Prior Self, don’t get all high and mighty on me. Believe me, Quickbooks is massive and definitely more accounting software than I need. But here’s why it makes sense: Small business owners, whether they run hair salons or software shops, are constantly reinventing wheels that all the other small business owners before them have invented. We’re all toiling in our offices trying to wrap our minds around health insurance options and 401Ks for our employees. We all have to figure out what the heck the federal 940/944 tax forms are.
There’s a gauntlet of minutiae that each small business owner has to untangle. As your business grows, you are going to spend more and more time on these minutiae and less time on your craft. By the time you realize you need Quickbooks, you’re going to be a very busy person. And believe it or not, using bloated software can lighten the load.
- When you’re small, you can take half an hour write your own custom spreadsheet to calculate your profit and loss. When you’re big, you’ll appreciate that your accounting software does it for you in under 30 seconds.
- When you’re small, it’s not a big burden to invoice through Blinksale, record income through InDinero, and run paychecks through your bank. You don’t have that many invoices or that many employees. But when you’re big, you’ll want to be able to enter each invoice once and have the software automatically do the rest.
- People are going to want to look at your books someday. Maybe it’s a prospective landlord who wants to make sure you’re for real. Maybe it’s a banker whom you’re asking for a loan. Maybe it’s your tax accountant. Whoever it is, he or she is expecting your books to look a certain way. (Hint: the Quickbooks way.) I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but when you hand them your home-cooked Google Doc, they’re not going to believe in you. I know, I know. Just because every other business in the world jumps off a cliff, that doesn’t mean you should, too. But you should.
Prior Self, you can definitely find other software that’s cheaper, lighter and can do most of what you need Quickbooks to do. But believe me, future self with thank you if you just act big from the beginning.