Any discussion of accounting in production agriculture eventually gets around to the tools producers use for bookkeeping. We get enough questions about them that I thought I’d start a series of short articles about the differences between AgChek and QuickBooks. In this post, I’ll just catch you up on our history with the two software packages. We have recently had folks mention they are using AgChek and think that means we don’t want to work with them because we switched to QuickBooks. Others switched to QB from AgChek after taking our classes and think that we don’t want to work with them because they no longer use AgChek. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We want to work with any producer who wants to learn more about the financial management of their farm or ranch. We don’t care if you use AgChek, QuickBooks, some other software, or a pencil and paper.
For those of you who are now confused, here’s a little history. In the Fall of 2000 I was tasked with picking out the software to teach in the new community college program for farmers and ranchers. The original premise of the program was that an agricultural-specific double-entry accounting software would be used as the centerpiece of the instruction. That, of course, left QuickBooks out – it is double entry but of course not ag-specific. We were able to negotiate a very attractive deal for student purchase which was in place for 5 years. Frankly, it wasn’t a bad choice. AgChek proved to be solid, reliable software with great features. I loved it and still do.
Unfortunately for us, by the time the 5 year agreement came up for renewal, the key people we had worked with at Red Wing Software were no longer there. Through a series of mergers and splits, the company had different people and a different perspective and we were not able to continue with a great student discount. Eastern Montana’s farmers and ranchers are practical people with their eye on the bottom line and we knew that the new price was not going to be feasible.
At approximately the same time, frustrations with the nature and shortcomings of ag accounting had us wanting to expand our offerings to include more financial analysis. We wanted an easier day to day accounting process and a much, much more robust year-end financial analysis process. Fortunately, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management had exactly the solution we needed with their FINPACK financial analysis software. With a full-blown year-end financial analysis package at our disposal, it was much easier to make the decision to switch to teaching the less-specific but more affordable QuickBooks software for accounting.
My accounting records in QuickBooks start with 2006, so that must be about the time we made the instructional switch too. Frankly, at first I found it a very difficult change – no doubt a sign of my advancing years. Eventually, I learned to love the features that were better in QuickBooks and not obsess as much about those features I missed from AgChek. In a future post or two, I’ll compare the two software packages. In short, each package has it’s advantages and disadvantages and the decision to switch is not clearcut and is different for every farm or ranch.
Our Services – QuickBooks Transitions and Bookkeeping
Please let me repeat this. We want to help any farmer or rancher that wants our help. We don’t care which software package you use. We don’t care if you use software at all. And of course, if you’d rather not do your own bookkeeping, we’d be happy to provide that service.
If you are thinking of switching from AgChek to QuickBooks, we’d love to help with that too. We think we are pretty good at making the switch efficiently. When Windows Vista first started shipping with new computers, we were hearing that AgChek would not work on Vista (and therefore 7). However, now I see there is a newer version of AgChek that will run on the 32 bit versions of Vista and 7, but I don’t have any idea how much it would cost. In addition, most of us have the 64 bit versions and AgChek is not ever going to run on those. For most of us, this effectively means having to run an old computer with a finite life to keep AgChek going. At some point, you’ll likely be forced into a switch and QuickBooks is likely to be your new choice. QuickBooks claims they have an 85% market share among small businesses. That is pretty hard to argue against and for that reason, most people don’t. It truly is the 800 pound gorilla in the room
In future articles, we’ll discuss some of the differences and what they might mean to Montana’s ag producers.