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Account And Project Management Software

 
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:40 AM   #1
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Account And Project Management Software


I have a growing general contracting/design-build business. Currently it is only me as full time, and a cadre of sub trades and casual labourers in tow when needed.

I have cobbled together adequate systems of expense and project tracking, but between the multiple spreadsheets, and project binders, and folders of receipts, i have come to the conclusion that this is not working as well as it ought to. I need a more capable software solution. Here is what I need :


- must be mobile capable
- contractor accounting capable
- expense tracking
- expenses tied to project that incurred them
- expenses flagged with what labels to identify what part of the project incurred them
- labour hours tracking
- labour associated with project
- label on labour to show what part of the project incurred it
- billing
- basic project management

There is an ocean of options out there, but it is hard to learn anything about them with talking to sales people in order to get a free demo. Which i am not interested in doing.

Anyone out there have some possible solutions for me?
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Old 11-30-2014, 11:29 AM   #2
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


I disagree with the mobile part and I don't think it is practical to try to do your record keeping in the field. Trying to do record keeping in the field is like dragging your office with you with a ball and chain that bogs you down.

It sounds real cool to be able to whip out your ipad, smart phone, or whatever and punch in numbers, or whatever, but trying to put records together in the field, or anywhere outside of your office will cause you do do double the work because you are going to end up with your field input data and then you will have data, bills, payments, etc. going directly to your office and now you have two sets of books that you need to blend together into one set.

The best way to manage your job is stop using smart phones and ipads to manage your records. I don't own an iphone nor smart phone, never will and I work in the field on very large jobs. I always have a clipboard in my truck and I always carry a large piece of paper in my wallet or pocket that I make notes on. When I get to my office at the end of the day, or next morning at latest, I transfer my notes to my software's 'Job Daily Report' section.

The 'Job Daily Report' is critical and this is where I enter everything that pertains to the job for every day including weekends and holidays when we don't work.

The reason I enter information for weekends and holidays is because I want my software to calculate how many calendar days the job is in progress. For example, I am on a current job that was supposed to take 25 days and when I look at my software we are now 145 calendar days into the job. I want to know whether or not my company was scheduled to work on a weekend and the reasons why. Then, I want to know if my company worked on the weekends as they were supposed to. All this is important at the end of the job to avoid arguments, resolve issues and avoid or win lawsuits.

The Job Daily Report is where I enter what each employee did each day, how many hours he worked on each project, his hourly rate and his total for the day. This is what you said you wanted to calculate. Later, you print the Job Daily Report and transfer information to the Job Breakdown section, invoices, statements, etc. and all this is done in your office where you have peace, quiet and you can focus on accuracy (not in the field).

The Job Daily Report also includes every detail about the job that is important i.e. when the customer causes a delay and the reason why, and I enter information regarding material problems and change orders. We email our customers copies of our Job Daily Report for the purpose of documenting, verifying and getting feedback from our customers. This shows that we are on top of our game and if the customer disagrees with something we write they always have the right to send an email back and clear up a point. We want to make sure everything is documented so if we get into a lawsuit we can prove our case.

The most critical part of the Job Daily Report comes when I do my payroll and record keeping. The Job Daily Report is where I get most of (not all) the information I need to make sure my payroll is accurate and to make sure I bill my customers for every change order and for everything you can imagine.

You will never find a canned software program that does what you want it to do without having hundreds of features that you don't want and these unwanted features only slow you down and make your software more burdensome and less accurate.

Do your trade when in the field and do your record keeping when in your office. That is more-efficient and more-accurate. I posted a software program in the software section a few weeks ago. It will do exactly what you want it to do and if you feel you have to take your software with you then use gotomypc on an ipad if you have to and you can log into your office computer.

I won't use web-based software because it is too slow and there are hundreds of other problems you cannot control, change nor correct. If you don't have the ability to tweak your software then you are a loser when you need your software to do something and you can't make it to do.

www.bestlineplumbing.com/businesssoftware.zip

The best software to run this is MS Access 2003, but any version of MS Access will work. This software is simple to modify to suit your needs.

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Last edited by pcplumber; 11-30-2014 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 11-30-2014, 01:21 PM   #3
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


You’re going to have a hard time finding one thing that does everything you want. However, there are some solutions, you might have to use 2-3 platforms together. I am a big believer and user of cloud & field based software, we use a couple of things to do a lot of what you listed. PM or email me and I am to make suggestions.

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Old 11-30-2014, 03:03 PM   #4
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


First, let me strongly disagree with pcplumber with the advice to not enter your receipts on the go. That may not work for him, but it works VERY well for me and it is one of the best changes that I have made in my life recently. I struggled for a long time keeping up with my expenses and frequently just didn't do it. Having a mobile solution to accounting is one of the best things that I have ever done for myself--quitting smoking cigarettes may pale in comparison.

YNAB (you need a budget) is a cloud based solution to accounting that is not particularly tailored to business, but has a philosophy that you will enjoy. You may want to use them for your personal finances, but just reading what they have to say about accounting has helped me a lot. Particularly, they work entirely based on the enter-as-you-go system. The thought is, 10 seconds of entry when you are going about your life is easier to swallow than 30 minutes or 2 hours of entry once a day, once a week, etc. And it's a pretty easy habit to form.

I spent the last few years doing a ****ty job of tracking my expenses. I have a degree in computer science, so I figured that I could make better excel spreadsheets than these assholes who wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars. Indeed, I thought that I was eventually going to make my own time and materials system after I had gotten it figured out in the spreadsheets. That was cute, but it made me stressed out and didn't get the job done.

This year I started using Harvest (www.harvestapp.com). It's *really* simple. There are a few missing features, but too many features is almost more crippling than too few. For instance, I tried quickbooks but had no use for something so tremendously complicated. It was just a headache. Harvest tracks time and materials. You and your employees can take pictures of receipts with your smart phones or tablets and enter them in. It tracks projects, makes invoices, and all that good stuff. It has a one month free trial, I believe.

Project management software is a whole other enchilada. There are a million different speciality management suites for every type of job you can imagine from construction to landing on the moon and back to computer software design. I, like you, am a small design / build contractor. I don't want a specialty suite for either the cost or the complexity. What I use is what computer software professionals use, and it works amazingly well for me.

Basecamp (www.basecamp.com) is the software that I use for project management. Again, it's cloud based, has a very elegant little phone/table app, and I can't say enough good things about it. It doesn't do anything for you really, it just allows you to take really good notes, search your really good notes, and share your really good notes. You can take pictures with it, and you can organize everything however you want them, as long as you want them to be organized simply.

If you want to read a good book about business, the creators of base camp have written that too. 37singnals is a very interesting tech company that wrote a nice little book with some fun illustrations. The book is ReWork. I think it is available free online, but I'm not sure. If not, you can buy it and it's worth however much it costs. It's tells you a little about how Basecamp came to be and you can learn about their philosophy to project management.

Again, I am going to mercilessly attack pcplumber's view on accounting. Having your receipts and your phone record to "blend together" is a *REALLY* good system to make sure that you didn't miss anything. I have someone who does that for me once every few months. All my receipts go in envelopes on my visor in my truck. All my employees have those envelopes. I don't need to look at them for a while, but periodically they get filed. It's not a second set, it's a double check. And, it's an easy double check that someone can get paid very little to do. They really should match, and when they don't then you just caught an error. Again, it's all about having a good philosophy on accounting and a forming some habits. I cannot form the habit of coming home and spending an hour or two entering data, this other guy (and millions of other folks) got really good at that. There are systems that are MUCH better than this though and much easier to form habits around if you don't already have something that works for you.
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Old 11-30-2014, 06:45 PM   #5
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


Quote:
Originally Posted by osmcgraw View Post
First, let me strongly disagree with pcplumber with the advice to not enter your receipts on the go. That may not work for him, but it works VERY well for me and it is one of the best changes that I have made in my life recently. I struggled for a long time keeping up with my expenses and frequently just didn't do it. Having a mobile solution to accounting is one of the best things that I have ever done for myself--quitting smoking cigarettes may pale in comparison.

YNAB (you need a budget) is a cloud based solution to accounting that is not particularly tailored to business, but has a philosophy that you will enjoy. You may want to use them for your personal finances, but just reading what they have to say about accounting has helped me a lot. Particularly, they work entirely based on the enter-as-you-go system. The thought is, 10 seconds of entry when you are going about your life is easier to swallow than 30 minutes or 2 hours of entry once a day, once a week, etc. And it's a pretty easy habit to form.

I spent the last few years doing a ****ty job of tracking my expenses. I have a degree in computer science, so I figured that I could make better excel spreadsheets than these assholes who wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars. Indeed, I thought that I was eventually going to make my own time and materials system after I had gotten it figured out in the spreadsheets. That was cute, but it made me stressed out and didn't get the job done.

This year I started using Harvest (www.harvestapp.com). It's *really* simple. There are a few missing features, but too many features is almost more crippling than too few. For instance, I tried quickbooks but had no use for something so tremendously complicated. It was just a headache. Harvest tracks time and materials. You and your employees can take pictures of receipts with your smart phones or tablets and enter them in. It tracks projects, makes invoices, and all that good stuff. It has a one month free trial, I believe.

Project management software is a whole other enchilada. There are a million different speciality management suites for every type of job you can imagine from construction to landing on the moon and back to computer software design. I, like you, am a small design / build contractor. I don't want a specialty suite for either the cost or the complexity. What I use is what computer software professionals use, and it works amazingly well for me.

Basecamp (www.basecamp.com) is the software that I use for project management. Again, it's cloud based, has a very elegant little phone/table app, and I can't say enough good things about it. It doesn't do anything for you really, it just allows you to take really good notes, search your really good notes, and share your really good notes. You can take pictures with it, and you can organize everything however you want them, as long as you want them to be organized simply.

If you want to read a good book about business, the creators of base camp have written that too. 37singnals is a very interesting tech company that wrote a nice little book with some fun illustrations. The book is ReWork. I think it is available free online, but I'm not sure. If not, you can buy it and it's worth however much it costs. It's tells you a little about how Basecamp came to be and you can learn about their philosophy to project management.

Again, I am going to mercilessly attack pcplumber's view on accounting. Having your receipts and your phone record to "blend together" is a *REALLY* good system to make sure that you didn't miss anything. I have someone who does that for me once every few months. All my receipts go in envelopes on my visor in my truck. All my employees have those envelopes. I don't need to look at them for a while, but periodically they get filed. It's not a second set, it's a double check. And, it's an easy double check that someone can get paid very little to do. They really should match, and when they don't then you just caught an error. Again, it's all about having a good philosophy on accounting and a forming some habits. I cannot form the habit of coming home and spending an hour or two entering data, this other guy (and millions of other folks) got really good at that. There are systems that are MUCH better than this though and much easier to form habits around if you don't already have something that works for you.
I agree with you on the QuickBooks. I purchased Quickbooks three times and literally threw the software in the trash. I didn't see enough value to even give it to someone, but it works for millions of businesses and everyone who uses Quickbooks does not complain. Strange! Maybe I am encountering the same problem with the systems I am pushing.

You said your ability to scan receipts changed your life. Please elaborate and explain why you need a software that tracks your receipts on-the-go, why you need a mobile solution for accounting and then why you need to have someone other that yourself do your books every few months.

You talk about gathering information for your books, how this gathering changed your life, how you have an accurate system for double-checking and then you have someone else do your books. Why do you have or need this other person? I tried using book keepers for many years and that was where all the errors were made. Regardless, of how perfect your system is they will screw something up and that can cost you thousands of dollars for losses, penalties and fines. Even if the worse does not happen I found that I had to spend more time explaining things to my book keepers than it took me to put my own books together.

Book keeper problems:

Wasted time preparing and delivering to book keeper. If you do a good job preparing your books you may as well complete your books yourself.

Waiting for the book keeper when I can do it myself in a few minutes.

Ooops! I missed that, or I didn't understand it. Now you will pay!

Multiple communications to request information.

Things you forget, could remember, or do better when you do the books yourself.

Doing your own books give you the ability to learn, create better systems and save time and money.

Or, you can prepare your books, send them to your book keeper, have the book keeper send you back the completed books for your review, send the books back to your book keeper with your corrections, get them back a 2nd time for your review and send your books to a CPA. Personally, I would never run a business without a CPA. Accounts do books and a CPA knows the laws much better and will keep you out of hot water.

With the correct software and system all I have to do is push a few buttons at the end of the year and wah lah! Why do I need a book keeper?

If you have a computer science degree then why don't you make your own software other than Excel. Simple databases take only a few hours to create and they do thousands of things that Excel cannot.

I would love to see your process from the beginning until they reach your accountant or CPA because when book keepers are involved with putting the books together my imagination runs wild. I refuse to use a book keeper and do all my own books in-house. When I send my books to my CPA I convert them to Excel files and his work is done.

I have no problem with even working with you or others. My goal is to make software better, simple, practical, idiot-proof, effective, accurate and free.

I really don't have an ego problem. I only think that I have software and systems that are accurate, simple and I know that they will not suit every contractor, but the software I use is free and it can be easily modified. MS Access and similar databases do everything a contractor needs and it can be web based, but I would never waste the time making it web based because I think production should be done in the field and book keeping should be done in the office.

I've seen many businesses fail because the owners spent too much time screwing with technology when they should have been focusing on marketing and production. Of course, everyone also sees businesses that fail because the owners focus only on the marketing, production and they don't focus on book keeping, at all.

Last edited by pcplumber; 11-30-2014 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 11-30-2014, 06:51 PM   #6
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


@pcplumber

I have been using a very basic version of "track as you go" with a platform called "invoice2go", it has served me well, and has been a great way to simplify record keeping. Based on that alone, I have every confidence that the mobile tracking approach is definately the way for me to go. Clearly, you have a system that works excellent for you, and I applaud that.

@osmcgraw

thanks! thats a really good starting point for me. I am very familiar with ReWork, i just recommended it to my beloved for helping her run her arts organization. And I had read about basecamp in my previous life as a photographer/designer, but had no need for something that elaborate, but it sounds like now is a great time to revisit that.

As for harvest app, it too sounds like a good fit. I am excited to explore these options.

Thanks guys! If there are any more thoughts or suggestions, i would love to hear them.
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Old 11-30-2014, 07:13 PM   #7
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


@osmcgraw

first look at harvest is very encouraging. thanks for the note.
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Old 11-30-2014, 07:33 PM   #8
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


Rudeworks:

Good deal. I recommend base camp because it's project management that you could easily do in notepad on your computer. It's that simple, but somehow it's just so enticing to use it, and to keep using it. It's not very expensive either.

@pcplumber:

I don't have a CPA. I just have a guy go through my receipts and make sure that everything got entered and then put them in a file for record keeping. If he finds a mistake then he gives me the receipts back. It's a low value / high value activity thing. There are better things I can do with my time. I pay him $12/hour to put receipts in a file. They have already been entered, so there are generally no problems. It's just a simple idiot check. That way I'm not the only person looking for it.

I agree that doing your own books allows you to think things over. I did see a little bit more of that "oh, ****, I spent too much money on tools this month" when I was laboriously entering my own receipts. But, then, I really didn't enter them much unless I needed to for an invoice. It was really sloppy.

Same with making a database. I could make a database and always intend to, but I never got around to it. At $20/month or whatever it is for Harvest, I have a LOT better things I could do with my time right now. They did a really good job at it. Furthermore, the way they do things is nice enough that when (if) I do my own system what I do will be informed by their solution. I don't have a unique or complicated enough situation that a simple solution like theirs is difficult.

As for a CPA, I am sure that you are right and getting a CPA has been on my to-do list for a long time. I use a payroll service after majorly ****ing up trying to file my own payroll taxes one year. Well, it wasn't major, I paid the **** and filed the wrong form. I got weird letters from the IRS for three years after. Ahhhhhh!!! So, the payroll service does the payroll taxes now. The CPA, well, I just haven't gotten there yet. I will take yours as a reminder that I should do that sooner than later.

Doing the entering on the go is so nice because it doesn't feel like you are doing it. It takes 30 seconds per receipt if that. It is all neatly categorized and ready to go. Making invoices is stupid easy and someone else can do that for me too, for the most part. It's a habit thing, as I was saying before. I found it very easy to form the habit of sitting in my truck or entering the receipt as walking back to my truck after a purchase. I found it very hard to form the habit of entering the stuff every day at the end of the day or even every week. It became a mess. If what you do works for you, that's great. If someone is looking for a new way to do it then I wouldn't suggest trying to do it your way because it's probably harder to train yourself to do it that way. The entering of the receipts was always a stressful, annoying thing because I didn't have a system in place to make it easy. Now, thanks to doing it on the fly, I have the system that works for me.
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Old 11-30-2014, 07:51 PM   #9
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


Quote:
Originally Posted by osmcgraw View Post
Rudeworks:

Good deal. I recommend base camp because it's project management that you could easily do in notepad on your computer. It's that simple, but somehow it's just so enticing to use it, and to keep using it. It's not very expensive either.

@pcplumber:

I don't have a CPA. I just have a guy go through my receipts and make sure that everything got entered and then put them in a file for record keeping. If he finds a mistake then he gives me the receipts back. It's a low value / high value activity thing. There are better things I can do with my time. I pay him $12/hour to put receipts in a file. They have already been entered, so there are generally no problems. It's just a simple idiot check. That way I'm not the only person looking for it.

I agree that doing your own books allows you to think things over. I did see a little bit more of that "oh, ****, I spent too much money on tools this month" when I was laboriously entering my own receipts. But, then, I really didn't enter them much unless I needed to for an invoice. It was really sloppy.

Same with making a database. I could make a database and always intend to, but I never got around to it. At $20/month or whatever it is for Harvest, I have a LOT better things I could do with my time right now. They did a really good job at it. Furthermore, the way they do things is nice enough that when (if) I do my own system what I do will be informed by their solution. I don't have a unique or complicated enough situation that a simple solution like theirs is difficult.

As for a CPA, I am sure that you are right and getting a CPA has been on my to-do list for a long time. I use a payroll service after majorly ****ing up trying to file my own payroll taxes one year. Well, it wasn't major, I paid the **** and filed the wrong form. I got weird letters from the IRS for three years after. Ahhhhhh!!! So, the payroll service does the payroll taxes now. The CPA, well, I just haven't gotten there yet. I will take yours as a reminder that I should do that sooner than later.

Doing the entering on the go is so nice because it doesn't feel like you are doing it. It takes 30 seconds per receipt if that. It is all neatly categorized and ready to go. Making invoices is stupid easy and someone else can do that for me too, for the most part. It's a habit thing, as I was saying before. I found it very easy to form the habit of sitting in my truck or entering the receipt as walking back to my truck after a purchase. I found it very hard to form the habit of entering the stuff every day at the end of the day or even every week. It became a mess. If what you do works for you, that's great. If someone is looking for a new way to do it then I wouldn't suggest trying to do it your way because it's probably harder to train yourself to do it that way. The entering of the receipts was always a stressful, annoying thing because I didn't have a system in place to make it easy. Now, thanks to doing it on the fly, I have the system that works for me.
Your explanations make sense.

Thank you very much.
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Old 12-04-2014, 11:24 PM   #10
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


I have to agree with much of what pcplumber had to say. Although mobile apps that scan an hold receipts, and even maybe sync them with your PC when you get back to the office sound groovy, what happens when 85% of your non-labor expenses come in the form of an invoice from suppliers you establish credit with? How important is that receipt scanning app really going to be then? I also wonder how many receipts/expenses are we talking about that occur on a daily or weekly basis. If you're running a business with an ATM card or credit cards, how sustainable is this?

I also agree that much of the construction project management and project accounting software available today is created to be the end all be all software. You will pay a high price for functionality that you may or may not ever use. When I decided to choose the correct software for my company, I selected software that large contractors used, creatingthe mindset of Be-Do-Have. In my industry and in my neck of the woods, Prolog is the project management software of choice, Primavera P6 is the scheduling software of choice, and I have only used Sage for construction accounting.

Lastly, I wholeheartedly couldn't agree more that having a good construction CPA is crucial to the success of your growing construction business. It is been said that a contractor needs three trusted professional advisors… a construction attorney, a construction accountant, and a solid bonding agent.
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Old 12-05-2014, 03:53 PM   #11
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


@govtcontractor

your right, once I get to the point of being a full blown construction company, then yes, a rinky dink app will no longer do the trick at all. However, as I am currently hovering at the one man army/casual help level of business development, i expect that heavy hitting software such as your suggesting is not quite worth it yet.

But your point is well taken, and will be acted upon once i out grow this current mode of operations.
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Old 02-11-2015, 01:54 AM   #12
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


Not sure if it's been mentioned, but Jobber is pretty nice. I have me and one guy. It does time, receipts, invoicing etc.
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Old 02-11-2015, 07:34 AM   #13
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


Jobber hey? Let me check that out.
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:47 PM   #14
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


try redteamsoftware.com
we even have a free lite version
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Old 08-02-2015, 07:05 PM   #15
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


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Jobber hey? Let me check that out.
Just looked at this and sounds neat. Have u used this?
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Old 08-03-2015, 09:33 PM   #16
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Re: Account And Project Management Software


BuilderTrend for project management. Bookkeeper/CPA for $130 a month to reconcile my books (they use quickbooks) and have access to my banks accounts online so I have very little communication with them. I used to use SmartSheet for scheduling but now I use BuilderTrend.

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At DrywallTalk.com we cater exlusivly to professional contractors who make their living as a contractor. Knowing that many homeowners and DIYers are looking for a community to call home, we've created www.DIYChatroom.com DIY Chatroom is full of helpful advices and perfect for DIY homeowners.

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