Accounting tools for a growing business

By Fahmida Y. Rashid, contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Question: I recently purchased a small medical supply business. The business is both a retail store and a business-to-business distributor; we are also planning to add e-commerce.

I am trying to find a new system for inventory control, accounting, purchasing, and point-of-sale tracking. Obviously, being a new business owner, I am on a tight budget -- but I want a system that will be able to handle all functions and grow with the company. Any recommendations? -- Stephanie, Knoxville, Tenn.

Answer: Midsized businesses like yours are in a tough spot. There are some great small business accounting packages out there, but if you have money coming in and out in multiple streams, that's not enough. You can't have the website storing e-ecommerce transactions in one place and point-of-sale data somewhere else.

We've identified a few all-in-one business management systems. One of them may be just what the doctor ordered.

Klix

Klix Online is a Web-based application that brings together accounting, inventory control, e-commerce, and point-of-purchase records in an intuitive and easy-to-use interface.

The main screen displays an activity flowchart with all aspects of the company's operations, divided into two sections: Money In and Money Out. You can view data for a specific company, customer, vendor, or employee.

Along with basic accounting features (accounts receivable, payable, and so on), Klix manages inventory and tracks product assembly. Klix can also support e-commerce sites, with built-in support for PayPal payments and the ability to integrate with an existing Web store. Online sales data is automatically integrated with the accounting data in the system, and for existing sites, users can manually import transaction data in Excel format.

Point-of-sale devices can also execute transfers and upload transaction data into Klix. The POS module works with cash drawers, bar code scanners and credit card readers.

Klix is a Web app, but it stores a copy of the latest data locally in case there's an Internet outage. As soon as connectivity is restored, the data is synced with Klix again. The software is hosted remotely on Klix's servers, which means you won't have to handle upgrades and maintenance -- it all happens automatically.

Administrators can allow data to be shared between users and departments, and can assign user access rights to control who sees what data. Each user is assigned a role, such as "accountant" or "sales clerk," which sets the access level. However, Klix can't customize access rights within a role: two employees with similar job titles needing different access rights would need to be labeled with different roles in the application.

Klix is priced at $29 per user, per month, for up to 100 users. Add-ons cost extra, like e-commerce functionality ($49 per month regardless of the number of users) or POS support ($19 per concurrent terminal use per month). A 60-day trial period is available for the full version.

Compiere

"Enterprise resource planning" (ERP) is jargon that usually translates to "monolithic software that costs millions," but Compiere aims to shake up that perception. Its open-source ERP software is targeted at small companies.

Compiere's feature set includes accounting, distribution, e-commerce, point of sale, and purchasing tools. It also has customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities for tracking customer service records and order histories. Each capability is offered as a module, allowing business owners to install only the modules they need and to add others as their business grows. Reporting tools are also extensive, with each module providing its own set.

Compiere keeps all accounting data, regardless of its source, in one centralized location. While available as either a hosted or on-premise solution, the application is always accessed using a Web browser.

Like Klix, Compiere controls user access using roles. Administrators define required tasks and responsibilities for each role, and each user sees a management dashboard customized to the role, making it easy to drill down and monitor relevant data.

As an open-source product, Compiere might be a little too complicated for a small business unless you have a tech whiz on staff. Compiere has multiple editions, with varying support levels. The community edition is free, but there is no support provided. Compiere Standard, at $400 per user per year, has all the features a small business needs, along with some support services. Compiere Professional, at $750 per user per year, provides expanded reporting capabilities.

At these prices, it may make more sense to look into Compiere On the Cloud (all applications run on Amazon's EC2) instead of going for an on-premise setup. There are also third-party providers that resell Compiere as a hosted solution.

QuickBooks

If you're already using Intuit's (INTU) QuickBooks, consider extending its capabilities through the software's Marketplace applications.

QuickBooks takes care of all of a company's financial tasks, including maintaining the general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, and inventory. For an extra monthly fee, business owners have access to payroll processing services and can scan and deposit checks directly to their bank. A "Company Snapshot" page displays a financial overview (income, expense trends, account balances and top customers).

QuickBooks has basic inventory controls; for additional functionality, Intuit's Workplace App Center is full of add-on applications. To top of page

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