What’s in a name? You might be asking this question when presented with the many solutions Sage offers. Why? Because several years ago Sage went through a significant rebranding, changing product names such as MAS 90 to Sage 100, Timberline to Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (CRE), and—the name you’re probably most familiar with—Peachtree to Sage 50 Accounting (not to mention, in Canada, Simply Accounting to Sage 50 Accounting).
Again, I’ll be talking about Sage 50, which many of you (and especially your clients) probably still refer to as Peachtree Accounting or Simply Accounting. I’ve already covered some of this ground in a prior article.
Before I get into talking about how to determine whether Sage 50 is right for a client, I want to let you know how it is that I’ve become what I feel is a pretty knowledgeable expert on all things Sage 50. It’s because of my membership in the Sage Accountants Network.
The Sage Accountants Network Has Made Me a Sage 50 Expert
I’ve been a member of the Sage Accountants Network (SAN) for over five years. As a SAN member, I receive free access to Sage 50 Accountant Edition, which I use to connect to all of my Sage 50 clients. Combined with years of hands-on experience, getting this level of access to all things Sage 50 as a result of being a SAN member makes me, I feel, something of a Sage 50 expert.
How did I learn so much about Sage 50? Mostly through one of the cooler features of being a SAN member, which is having access to the online forums. From there, I get to access detailed product information and technical papers on Sage 50 and can also download new releases and payroll updates. I’m able to ask and answer questions in conversations with Sage staff and other SAN members.
By logging into these forums on a regular basis, I’ll often find ways to use Sage 50 in unique ways I hadn’t thought of through tips and ideas shared by others. There’s also a ton of information on third-party products that extend the functionality of Sage 50. For example, one of my clients needed a time clock system and, after posing the question in the forums, I was able to get the answer I was looking for and make an informed recommendation to my client.
How to Tell If Sage 50 Accounting Is the Right Fit for a Client
There are lots of accounting solutions available. This is something we’re all keenly aware of. They all have their strengths, and they all have their weaknesses. Many of these strengths and weaknesses help define which solution is best for a particular client.
There are times when, based on what a client of mine is looking for, I recommend an accounting solution other than Sage 50. However, for the most part I find that Sage 50 is the easiest solution to use when it comes to not only meeting the needs of my clients but also making my work that much easier to accomplish, based on the many features Sage 50 offers.
Let me give you three of the most compelling reasons why I like Sage 50 so much.
Reason #1: Use of Account Numbers
Sage 50 requires the use of account numbers when setting up the chart of accounts. This may sound minor, but I find it stops a lot of occurrences of clients posting to incorrect accounts. For example, where payroll is concerned, there is Accrued FICA, Withheld FICA, and FICA Expense—three different accounts.
Two of these accounts, while similar, still need to have their transactions booked into the proper account. Now this is payroll, so in a perfect world with a perfect client, payroll accounts should always be perfect and never need any adjustments. But most of us don’t live in a perfect world or have perfect clients; sometimes payroll accounts need to be adjusted. If I tell my client to debit account 2304 Accrued FICA and credit 5304 FICA Expense, there is no mistaking what I am telling them to do, nor can they make the mistake in the adjusting journal entries.
But without account numbers, I find clients haphazardly type in the word “FICA” (or even just the “F”), select the first option that comes up, and move on. They are in a hurry and they don’t do it right. This is just an example to illustrate that account numbers help to remove confusion and prevent mistakes before they happen.
Reason #2: Professional Looking Reports and Simple Dashboards
I prepare compilation reports that go to board members, banks, bonding companies, and other important people. Every report that goes out of my office reflects on the image of not only the client, but of my CPA firm. Sage 50’s reports are professional looking without me needing to do any additional work. I can get a proper looking Income Statement and Balance Sheet in a professional font.
If I need to change a report’s footer (say from “Management use only” to “See accountant’s compilation report—and notes to financial statements”), it’s very easy to change and save the report for future use. In products where the reports aren’t as professional, I have extra work to do using Word or another program to make the reports look professional before I will release them.
In addition to the reports my clients need for external use, the Trial Balance, Chart of Accounts, General Journal, Payroll Registers, Adjusting Journal Entries, and other reports are clean, easy to look at, and nice to use. Below is a partial Balance Sheet using Sage 50’s sample company, Bellwether Garden Supply.
To take this one step further, the entire look of Sage 50, including its dashboards and drop down menus, are very easy on the eyes. Since there isn’t a lot of clutter, it is easy to locate items. The less I have to look through clutter to get where I want to go, the happier I am.
Reason #3: The Flexibility and Masking of Account Numbers
I have clients with multiple locations, divisions, departments, rental properties, etc. Sage 50 allows you the flexibility to set up your chart of accounts into segments. You can then run reports based on segments, or “roll-up” the accounts into one master account.
While accountants often think of this in terms of large ERP systems, this can be useful for the smallest of tracking items, like locations. I have a client with two locations. I can make Operating Supplies, Location 1 account 5200.01, and Operating Supplies, Location 2 account 5200.02. I can divide all accounts on the income Statement this way. Then, I can tell my reports to run a Location 1 Income Statement only. This will pull all XXXX.01 accounts. I can do the same for Location 2 (XXXX.02). I can then run an Income Statement for the whole company in which I “roll-up” the accounts into just the one account, Operating Supplies as a whole.
Below is the chart of accounts from the same Sage 50 example company, Bellwether Garden Supply. It’s not my favorite chart of accounts, but you’ll get the point. You will see how they used letters to mask the accounts into different types of products.
This is a fairly simple example of masking of account numbers. As you can imagine, the possibilities are quite large if you want to get into detail. And you can, indeed, get into detail. You have the ability to use numbers and letters and go up to 15 digits with or without space identifiers. If each of the locations in my first example had various departments listed in the Bellwether example, I could further segment the chart of accounts to give me information by location and department.
It is best to really think through your account masking thoroughly. In the end, you will help your client be able to examine each aspect of their business in the smallest detail in order to make the best business decisions going forward.
More Sage 50 Information
If you’re looking for more information on Sage 50 beyond my blog posts, I’ve found that the videos that Sage puts out to show how a different feature works or to showcase something new are super helpful, so be sure to check these out.
I also recommend becoming a Sage Accountants Network member, as it will pay off in no time. If you want to access some of the forums without being a SAN member, you can go to the Sage City online community where there are blogs, forums, and other areas for product specific questions, as well as a dedicated area for accountant and bookkeepers.
I’m looking forward to getting into more specifics about Sage and Sage 50 in the future!