consulting practice management quickbooks desktop quickbooks online setup Nov 19, 2021

We often get calls from customers asking for support, and before there has been a full analysis of the project, they ask for a quote. This is easy for a brand new clean setup. Our rule of thumb to determine the estimated support cost is to charge two to three times the annualized cost of your software. However, if the job requires clean-up from a bad setup, the cost for support can be at least double that. A cleanup support job requires corrections to many transactions and resolving major issues. If it is really bad, it can be best to start over. If payroll is involved, it needs to be fixed.

As QuickBooks ProAdvisors, we hesitate to give a quote with setup projects because we do not know exactly what we are dealing with and what information is needed until we complete the file review. We recommend that a client hires us to do an onsite review for a day at our daily support rate so that we can assess the project scope to determine what needs to be done. During this time we do not do any onboarding or training. We call this our “getting to know you” day. We need to spend this time understanding your business to ensure a successful setup. During our review, we take notes on your processes and make recommendations of tools within QuickBooks to improve the current method and address the client's pain points. There is even a chance the wrong software was already purchased and part of our design will include selecting the best software for the job. At the end of the meeting, we leave with notes so that we can create a tangible report of our recommendations with a plan for the next steps to take action. This is also a great way to determine if you work well together. The client can keep this report of action steps whether we are hired or not. Once the report is provided, there is now a plan and suggestions for review.

An analogy to describe this to our prospective clients is to think of this business review as if you are contracting to build a house. You would never sign a contract or agree to a price with having a plan for the project. We are like the general contractor. We cannot fix our client’s issue without figuring out the details. If we take on a project without a plan, we may solve one need for the client, but that can cause other problems because, without the full picture, you will not be considering how it affects the rest of the workflow.


In this scenario, a client calls to request help moving from Sage to QuickBooks Enterprise. The client envisions that this project takes one day as they do not have a full understanding of the complexity of the tasks to move the data file.

Here are some different ways the day can playout when a ProAdvisor arrives without a plan and fails to meet the client's expectations:

  1. ProAdvisor arrives on site to find that the computers are not adequate, fumbles with downloading the software, as they are not a computer hardware expert and wastes precious time simply downloading the software. This support is billable, and at the end of the day, nothing is finished.
  2. ProAdvisor arrives on site to find that the software is downloaded and networked properly. The client is ready to set up the data file. They have SAGE open and can export the inventory list into a CSV file. YAY! ProAdvisor imports the new list into the new QuickBooks data file. The client didn’t understand that the list needed to be updated and they imported over 1 million items and more than 75% are obsolete. Now they have a big mess on their hands. The ProAdvisor and staff spend a few hours deleting the parts that aren’t needed. This support is billable, and at the end of the day, nothing is finished.
  3. The software is downloaded, and the client attempted to start a file. They didn’t understand what they were doing, and payroll was set up in midyear, and the pay stubs are all wrong. The ProAdvisor spent the day troubleshooting the file, pointing out errors and omissions. They decided to start with a brand new file and do it right. This support is billable, and at the end of the day, nothing is finished.
  4. The client uses third-party programs that they need to be connected to the new software. The ProAdvisor was unaware until they arrived. They spent the day on the phone looking for an expert to assist with the connection, leaving lots of messages with vendors and unable to connect the programs. It turns out these third-party vendors promised they seamlessly connected with QuickBooks but it turns out they do not connect, and no one was able to help. Everyone was frustrated and nothing complete. This support is billable, and at the end of the day, nothing is finished.
  5. The client doesn’t track inventory properly and wants to keep it the old way. The client explains that in their prior system, they set up inventory as non-inventory items but one of the pain points they want to fix in this new software is to set up the workflow so that the profit and loss reports are accurate and that they can monitor the gross margin on the sale of products. ProAdvisor enters in-sample data to show the client how it will look in QuickBooks tracking as inventory. They even look at the new reporting and the client is excited. ProAdvisor imports all 25,000 items into QuickBooks adding them as Inventory. Then ProAdvisor requests the inventory count and the valuation from the client. The client has never taken a physical inventory count and doesn’t want to look up the values. The project is halted and a new ProAdvisor is called.
  6. When ProAdvisor shows up they learn that the client has requested that all the history be moved into the new QuickBooks data file for look-up purposes. The next few hours are spent discussing how much manpower is required to do this task and figuring out if the expense is greater than the reward. We would ultimately recommend that we start with the end of the last calendar year and have the client use old reports on hand and/or a copy of the old data file on a spare computer for lookup. This support is billable and at the end of the day, nothing is finished.

In all of these examples above, the project is not done in one day, the client is not happy and the ProAdvisor is frustrated. The client thought converting the file was an easy task but didn’t take into consideration that their existing workflows were causing the pain points they wanted to address. The reality is this project would make the client happier if they designed a plan and hired additional manpower as needed.

For all parties involved, it’s a much better experience if everyone understands the purpose of the first meeting. Be clear when scheduling this appointment what will be accomplished so that everyone involved has clear expectations. Keep in mind, not every business is the same. We feel like it’s better to talk through all the client’s issues on paper before we start creating the data file. After the plan is developed and the client agrees to continue to work with the ProAdvisor, the next step is to cleanse the data to get it ready to build the data file. The ProAdvisor can do this step in their own office so they can tie down and balance the numbers in the old system or whatever report the client deems as accurate using the data and lists provided by the client to reconcile the old system with the new system.

The final step is to schedule delivery of the new data file, go live, and training for the employees. Before this happens, make sure the IT firm has downloaded the software and networked the computers. You do not want the ProAdvisor to be standing around “on the clock” watching another professional do the entire computer installation, perhaps time this so that we are both only there at the same time during the upload of the new data file. After the data file is uploaded and the training is finished, you can then schedule some follow-up training sessions to answer any questions along the way.

An onsite visit with a report plan can start around $1500 to $2000, depending on the client’s needs. The file build can take at least 20 hours by themselves to get the file to where they need it to be. Training and tweaking could be another 20 hours. Typically for a small business, the overall cost can run between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on the build itself, training, and procedure requirements.

Be sure the client understands this is an estimate and that there are many situations that are massive and may take much more time than expected. Some may be less if they have already invested in creating and using a good workflow.

We have two on-demand courses to train you on how to set up QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. Learn more about our membership options.

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