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Review of Peachtree's Accounting Software

Input, output, expenses, taxes... what does it all mean? With Peachtree's latest editions, you can start making the numbers work for you.

When it comes to accounting, folks generally separate into two camps: those who transact, and those who analyze.

Any of the major small-business accounting programs--Peachtree, QuickBooks, Microsoft Small Business Accounting, DacEasy--will serve entrepreneurs in either camp. But if you're an analyzer, chances are you'll feel most at home with one of the just-released editions of Peachtree Accounting. That's especially true if you carry inventory. It's not that Peachtree's 2007 editions have features competitors don't. It's about depth in certain key areas and a degree of flexibility that appeals to those who--if truth be told--kind of dig accounting.

Most of us are transactors, of course, because that's the easiest thing to be. A good accounting program will take a lot of bookkeeping drudgery off your shoulders--but nothing saves time like dumping your shoebox on a paid professional. The only trouble with that particular strategy is, even if you strike gold early on, fortune never smiles on a business forever. You're bound to hit a rough patch sooner or later--sooner if competitors hear about your margins. That's when a good accounting program really comes in handy.

Star to Steer By
Just recording your transactions in a program like Peachtree creates the most important database you'll ever own--the one with your company's key financial details. Peachtree also happens to be an excellent container for customer and vendor records, syncing tightly with Microsoft Outlook and Sage Software's ACT!

As transaction information piles up, standard Peachtree reports will let you compare your performance to those of competitors or industry averages kept by organizations like the Risk Management Association. RMA's website is also a good place to find useful standard operating ratios, like an instrument panel to steer your business in the right direction. Before you know it, you'll be analyzing--something you can't do if your financial data is sitting on an accountant's computer.

Devra Walker, co-owner of Walker Pharmacy & Gifts in Statesboro, Georgia, has an even better approach. She manages her own books with the help of in-house data-entry staff and uses an outside accountant to double-check them, file taxes and act as a sounding board. Peachtree 2007's improved access privilege system facilitates this kind of close-but-safe relationship.

A CPA herself, Walker, 45, needs quick data access because she and her husband, Lindsay, 47, manage eight separate business units with combined annual sales of $8 million and a 60-employee payroll. Peachtree lets her roll up the accounts of all her units when preparing payroll or financial statements, but isolate their performance milestones when meeting with her unit managers.

That kind of strong reporting gets stronger still in Peachtree Premium 2007 and the new Peachtree Quantum 2007, says Dean Penderghast, certified Peachtree consultant with Anaheim, California, Sales Automation Services Inc. Premium and Quantum use Pervasive's 32-bit data engine--it holds more data per record and delivers it faster than the 16-bit Btrieve engine in other Peachtree versions. Quantum can also juggle still-larger databases and more simultaneous users than Premium.

One Bean, Two Beans.
Companies needing high-level data management and reporting include mixed product/service businesses like contractors, architects--anyone tracking jobs or projects. It's particularly critical to the margins of manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and e-tailers who face the twin challenges of costing and managing large inventories.

For example, Paula Gilliland, a Roswell, Georgia, accounting consultant and owner of e-commerce site PocketScope.com, uses Peachtree to orchestrate the comings and goings of thousands of parts and assemblies for her $900,000 medical instrumentation business and one client's large inventory. Many parts are used in several different subassemblies, and if there's a failure, Gilliland, 44, has to quickly find the bad part among hundreds of similar subassemblies, see if it's under warranty and arrange a replacement.

Keeping too much of something increases carrying costs and, maybe, capital costs. Keeping too little can increase handling and shipping costs, or cost you customers. Both erode margins, so Gilliland leans heavily on Peachtree reports when trying to arrive at just the right inventory mix. The difficulty of this task was underscored recently when Intel had 38 percent shaved off its quarterly profits primarily because it didn't sync up inventory and sales. If it can happen to a company with Intel's market experience and business resources, think how easily it could happen to a smaller, product-oriented business.

Of course, not every growing business faces these kinds of challenges. But if you do, you could fare worse than Peachtree's tools. After 30 years of use by companies with 100 or fewer employees, they're pretty well-honed.

How peachy is peachtree 2007?

Pros: Fast and easy to use with a degree of record detail unique in its class. A new interface brings key business barometers forward on a home page, while tabs permit quick hops to other modules. There's new flexibility in budgeting, cash-flow analysis and the use of lists and custom data fields. Formatting, formulas and lists are maintained when you swap data with Microsoft Excel or Outlook.

Cons: None. But Peachtree may be more program than you need if you sell services exclusively, or only one or two people need simultaneous access to your books.

Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's technology editor.

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This article was originally published in the July 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Analyze This.

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