For small businesses, doing more with less has always been the norm, and the recent pandemic has put even more pressure on these entrepreneurs to more efficiently manage their businesses. Some businesses were able to continue operating during coronavirus, while many across the nation were required to close for months. For both of these types of businesses, being able to streamline costs and workflows became vital to their survival, with many looking to add better technologies to help them do so.
When looking for new online small business management software, business managers will usually compare the most well-known brand of small business bookkeeping systems, and a few other systems. The biggest brand among online small business accounting systems, which started as a desktop system and is used by many businesses, offers great tools for many types of businesses, especially retail-focused entities, especially compared to not using any software at all. But the program is generic in many functions, which means it is not necessarily the best fit for all businesses, most notably those within the professional services industries such as accounting, legal, engineering, and other firms whose product is consulting focused.
Ever since its introduction nearly 30 years ago, the original desktop version of that generic business program, and now the online version of it, have offered basic accounting and bookkeeping features that include:
- full charts of accounts and general ledger functions,
- easy to learn interfaces and dashboards,
- online bill payments,
- inventory tools,
- sales management,
- financial reporting, and
- basic customer and vendor data.
What elevates BQE Core when it comes to business accounting? BQE takes these generic bookkeeping functions and adds significant advanced features, including
- much stronger expense
- robust receipt management with GPS-based automated mileage tracking,
- deep time management capabilities with built-in scheduling,
- employee management,
- customer relationship management, and
- full-featured project tracking.
Another factor: In the generic “big name” online accounting system, security functions are based on role, with groups of users with access to certain areas, whereas in BQE, access rights are much more granular, with managers able to assign specific functions to specific users, as needed.
Typical accounting systems have a few screen views, but BQE Core’s dashboards can be broadly customized to show the key performance data the user needs, with extensive capabilities for drilling down into real-time data and reporting tools, including AI-guided performance assessments. BQE also has a broader collection of financial reports that can be fully customized, and offers custom report building for specific niche needs. And although terminology may seem a minor issue, it can be annoying to accountants, engineers and lawyers that the generic system insists on calling engagements “sales,” or your clients “customers.” BQE uses the right terms for professional firms because it has extensive experience working with these firms.
Time & Expense Management
In today’s digital-based practice, keeping receipts and other expenses in electronic format is a time-saver, but the generic online business accounting system lacks the built-in functions that firms need. The time and expense features in BQE Core, however, are focused on the needs of professional firms, and include multiple time entry options, auto-populating timecards, options for daily and weekly views, timers, time and expense tracking based on clients and projects, and receipt imaging. The routing process sends time cards and expense reports to management for approvals and adjustments. BQE also supports multiple billing rates based on staff, task, client, project or other factors.
Time and expense data can then be transferred to invoices and sent to clients digitally or by paper, with options to pay online. The time tracking features also integrate with BQE’s employee management functions, which include built-in tracking of PTO and comp time.
BQE Core’s reporting functions are also more geared toward professional firms, with hundreds of options that can be fully customized, including
- project reports,
- expenses and time,
- workflow analysis,
- billing analyses,
- margin reports,
- period comparisons,
- customer activity, and more.
The system can memorize reports and invoices to automatically recur, and the system offers customizable triggers that will alert appropriate users to billing, client actions, and other activities that may need attention. Reports can be shared among authorized users and clients, or exported as pdf, Word or Excel formats.
The generic online program does provide basic billing, but with limited customization options. The client invoicing functions in BQE Core are more flexible for service-based firms, providing options for automatic, progress, manual and custom invoicing. The available templates can be fully customized, with the ability to send them electronically to clients too. The system maintains billing histories that can easily be drilled down into for business managers to identify client payment habits, as well as determining the most profitable service areas and staff. Invoices can also be set to automatically recur.
Engagement and Project Management
For professional firms, one of the biggest missing elements in the generic online small business management system is in project or engagement management. Despite the general functionality of the system, they still haven’t really tried to build in project/engagement management functions. BQE Core was built upon projects/engagements, and shines with advanced tracking, job costing tools, allocations, forecasting.
For accounting firms, this means being able to accurately monitor the progress and productivity of various practice areas and clients, including tax, audit, bookkeeping, payroll, consulting and other engagements. For legal firms, BQE also offers strict billing, trust fund management, and royalty functions.
BQE Core leads the small business accounting market with the integration of artificial intelligence capabilities that dig deep into the data in the system to keep users on top of financial issues, tasking, reporting, and operations. The system even integrates with smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa, to enable voice-based connectivity and insight into key data.
The big name, generic small business accounting system evolved from the desktop version, and although it is fully web-based, its app, available on iOS and Android, has limited functions even compared to its own full online version. To fill out the app and program’s shortcomings, many third party apps are available to add-on functions like making bill payments, accepting client payments, time tracking, inventory, and expense management. All of these functions are a native part of the BQE Core app (iOS and Android), and users also have access to all of the other features in the main program. Whether in the office or on the go, staff can access, enter and manage time and expenses, accounting, project management, billing, HR, reporting and more.
The large, online small business software offers a generic solution that tries to meet the needs of all types of business, but businesses are not all the same. As a result, the program ends up lacking features that many professional services businesses need (such as project management and enhanced billing functionality) while being loaded up with features that many businesses do not need. That said, of the online small business management systems on the market, the generic system is strongest with product-oriented retail businesses.
BQE Core was designed specifically for professional services companies, including accounting firms, engineers, architects, consultants, legal professionals, and contractors. The system includes strong time and expense management tracking, project management, automated reporting and invoicing, greater customization for niche industries, as well as artificial intelligence and an exceptional mobile app. All with a lower cost of ownership.
BQE is a much better fit for professional firms looking for a cost effective solution to more efficiently managing their practice.