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Wyoming Business Tips for May 28-June 3

May 19, 2017

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Robert Condie, WSBDC southwest regional director

“I am starting a new business and want to know what is better for bookkeeping -- a simple spreadsheet or an accounting system?” Logan, Rock Springs

This is a question that is always asked as small-business owners are about to start up. Which way is the best way to go -- a big, sometimes costly, accounting system or a small simple spreadsheet that can keep track of everything that is needed at the end of the year?

From my time spent working with accounting software and knowledge of spreadsheets, there are arguments both ways. But, at the end of the day, an accounting system seems to be the best way to go to address bookkeeping needs.

Some points against using spreadsheets:

-- Excel formulas are complex and prone to error. Accounting software handles all the calculations and does it properly.

-- Excel spreadsheets are susceptible to fraud, because it’s easy to change information and hard to keep track of who is making the changes. Accounting software maintains an audit trail.

-- Spreadsheet errors are easier to make -- copy/paste errors, moving content out of cells that other formulas base their calculations on, etc. -- and are much harder to track down.

-- Each income stream requires a different spreadsheet to track earnings. This means that when small-business owners start offering more services, the number of spreadsheets will increase, and this can become confusing.

One of my favorite things about an accounting system is the ability to call reports at any given time for a multitude of different reports to see an individual business from many different angles. There are built-in reports of income statement and balance sheets, as well as reports broken out by vendor or sales item.

Fundamentally, accounting software is built to ensure the business owner records accounting data effectively, with minimal mistakes and good auditing. But, the need to use the tools properly to get the benefit is still required.

Another advantage is that many accountants and bookkeepers are more familiar with accounting systems and can help with any discrepancies individual accounts might have if an owner uses their preferred tool.

The cost of an accounting system might seem to be costly at first, but it can save time come tax time, which is money well spent.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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