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UK's two holy grails are crippling its next generation of bright sparks

When your accounting program starts emailing you, you pay attention!

Since we switched from Aweber and Mamut CRM to Octane - which does our both email and follow-up marketing - I receive an email every morning telling me which follow-up letters to print, which prospects to custom email or to call in regards of an outstanding quotation. An online program as "task-master" where ever you are (and have internet/email access of course).

I'm also used to receiving emails from my accountant on what to do next on the business, I hope your's does this too. But now even my accounting program is emailing me!

Further switching to on-line programs

In an earlier post I explained why our existing accounting and -ecommerce desktop software needed replacement. The new Ecwid e-commerce widget was quickly found and doing what it is supposed to be doing: easy navigation for our online shoppers with a simple and straight forward check-out process (offering various payment options too).

Next up was the accounting part. The search concentrated on UK based SaaS (Software as a Service) software, eliminating waiting time on support tickets if and when needed (5 - 8 hours time difference between UK and USA is half a days work missed - been there, waited that long). Having some experience with Liberty accounting I discarded that program - not flexible enough for my standard/methods of bookkeeping, project management and financial reporting (yes, we are a small company but facts and figures does help you to know where you stand and where you want to go, so rather important).

Kashflow, online accounting softwareHad a look at Clearbooks but like Liberty it has a fixed fee for limit on transactions then additional costs when you go over your "llimit", which IMHO restricts effective bookkeeping in service of financial management. So I in the end I selected Kashflow (found this program through a tweet from Duane Jackson, Kashflow's founder, when I tweeted about Clearbooks - now that's a clever and effective use of twitter).

Liked what I saw and read, specially the API link between Paypal and the online software, plus one fixed fee per month for everyone with no nonsense about limiting the number of transactions. Free trial available for 2 months - which I took. After only 1 week I decided to open an account - free trial continues, I won't be billed until this period has finished.

When features are benefits

Kashflow comes with many (simple) features which in many cases are real benefits for those, like me, who consider bookkeeping an essential and important part of running your business in such a way that working in the business becomes working on the business.

Customer details included the source this contact came from (with the additional "feature" of setting a cost per source - enabling you to finally discover which 50% of marketing expenditure works (sure you all know the famous quote about knowing 50% or your marketing budget works, but you don't know which 50%), reports of income per month or any period you want to see, per source, drilling down to client level.
(Side-note: I have one little problem with these on screen pie-chart reports: selecting invoice issued or invoices paid gives a rather different result, one reports ex VAT, the other including VAT; just a matter of adjusting the way you "think" about "income" I guess.)

Like the first ever bookkeeping program I selected when we first arrived in the UK (there is a slight difference in Dutch or English bookkeeping methods, won't go into that here) MYOB, Kashflow trusts its users to know what they are doing and allows editing of bookings unlike other - big name - software programs. When MYOB was taken over by Mamut we added the accounting package to the Mamut CRM - only to discover that now some beneficial items of the CRM program no longer worked. The only solutions was to upgrade again to an even higher package (Enterprice 3) to resolve this problem. Strange but true.

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Mamut accounting did not have the option of editing any of the bookings which meant credit notes, correction journals etc. Finally with the last upgrade this was sorted: only it seemed Mamut is so afraid business owners do not know what they are doing that every time you want to correct/edit a booking (only very limited corrections also) you had to enter your user name and password again, even when you - like me - are the only administrator in the program. For every single correction!
Come on Mamut - we're no naughty kids, we are business owners!

Anyway, those days are now gone and I'm quite happy with the Kashflow online software. When the trial period is over we'll be paying £ 14.99 ex VAT per month, plus £8.45 per month for the Paypal imports. There is a second option for Papal, importing income and outcome once a week for £2.99 a month but I decided to compare "costs" versus time to be spent on adding known data - already online - to another program manually.

Since the switch from Mamut ecommerce to Ecwid ecommerce there has been a significant increase in online orders being paid through Paypal express or normal Paypal checkout. More orders also mean more often booking the courier (also online, great company) which we pay by Paypal. All sales, purchase and transfer details are collected by Kashflow once every hour through the Paypal API, creating new customers or suppliers where needed and adding the invoice, purchase order to the contacts. IMHO this saves me more in time than the £ 8.45 represents.

Minor issues

Of course, there are - as with every program - minor issues. Already some of my questions/querries, suggestions submitted through the excellent and quick to respond support desk (who seem to work during the evenings and weekends!) have been added to the to-do-list of the development team. Could be that I have a different way of looking at bookkeeping than others, but nice to know Kashflow appreciates involvement of their clients.

One of the issues I have are the product codes: at the moment I have to create a product code in both the "Sales-Type (as Kashflow renamed the nominal accounts group for turnover) as well as to the "Outgoing Types" (as Kashflow renamed the nominal code groups for costs of sales and expenditures).

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Why not one product code tab which has a sales type and an outgoing type as default value? I'm adding the code products now as and when needed.

Repeat purchases are easily created, which is a great time saver, only not for those suppliers who bill you in different currency than GBP

Repeat invoices and bank transactions can also be created, only not repeat journals. You can create journal templates though, so perhaps turning the templates into repeat journals once o month, quarter etc will be possible in the near future too. I hope so.

The software works so effective the "books" are now up to date every day, more and more purchases are added to the automated repeat purchase list, so next month I'll have even fewer items to book. And the normal financial management reports I create every 3 months for myself and my team, including our accountant, are already "in there" with one click of a button.

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So top marks and the Kiss Award for Kashflow, makes running your business easier with in-depth instant details on how you're doing. And of course sending me early morning emails telling me which suppliers need paying and which clients should pay us today.

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(Side-note on Mamut: I've now been told that because we're not renewing the annual service agreement fee I will loose access to the desktop software program the minute the existing agreement ends. A desktop program - not online "hire" of server space. When I argued I'd paid for the actual program itself and the service agreement is for updates and support all I hear is: it is mentioned in the licence agreement. Well, the person who sold me the first ever Mamut product (CRM & Sales) never told me that.
So, be warned if your business needs a more complex Enterprise Solution - check you don't end up with only the exported bits and bytes of all your historical data when you cancel the service agreement of a desktop program!)

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