8 Replies Latest reply on May 27, 2009 11:56 AM by joan

    Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)

    macbuz

      Title

      Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)

      Post

      I'll try and be as concise as I can.

       

      Where to start? Ok, I'm a home remodeling contractor. I use Mac's and have since 1995. As a contractor I do not BID work, I do ESTIMATE work, I bill according to time, materials, subcontractors, misc (fees, permits, etc). I need interfaces that allow me to:

       

       

      • Produce Proposals
      • Produce Invoices
      • Produce Statements 

       

       

      For Proposals all I need is the ability to format an attractive 'form' which would have my bus info, customer info, list items (in a table), notes field, maybe more.

       

      Invoicing and Statements require more. Maybe my current Excel model will shed light:

       

      I use 2 Workbooks.

       

       

      • WB 1 contains worksheets (WS's) for Labor, Material, Subcontractors, Misc. Each WS contains columns for Date / Customer / Employee / Hours / Wage Rate / Total / Work done. The columns change slightly depending - relative to if the WS is for Labor / Material / Subs / Misc.
      • WB 2 is generic, meaning I will duplicate it and rename according to new customers. The primary WS is for invoicing. The invoice is formated (as best I can in XL) and various cells have formulas that link to data from WB 1. That data is things like Payments Made / Total Due / etc

      WB 1 is where I enter all my data relative to a job. WB 2 populates relative to that data. There are many more details (for instance there is also a Payroll WS in WB 1. What I bill for Labor and what I pay for labor differ. You pay me more than I pay them :smileysurprised:, but I have overhead that you don't.

       

      For fear of having totally confused any who look here, I'll stop at this point. I'm sick of XL and looking for a new 'Solution'. Is it FileMaker?

       

      Thank you (for reading this far if nothing else).

        • 1. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
          Jade
            

          Well… I was right with you until you started saying things like "Statements" and "Payroll".

           

          Not that FMP can't do these; it can (IMO).  But it takes time to learn the application and customize it to your needs.

           

          Suggest you download the business package that comes with the free trial and kick the tires:

          http://www.filemakertrial.com/bpk/?ovmkt=O5M3PJVLTCEPQAGOU87V3150I0

           

          While you're looking, also see QuickBooks for mac and MYOB AccountingEdge. 

          • 2. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
            macbuz
              

             


            Jade wrote:

             ..............  But it takes time to learn the application and customize it to your needs.


             

            Anytime I'm faced with a new application learning curve I prepare myself to loose a couple more handfuls of hair. 

             

            Thank you Jade.

             

            I'll kick those tires you linked. Just finished downloading the v10 Pro Trial - I'll go get the Bus. Pack now. I kicked the tires of FMP 5.5 many years ago, think I own it but haven't seen the disk in a while.

             

            Re QBs and MYOB, two things. One I use a highly sophisticated yet lesser known accounting prog called MultiLedger - believe the developer is CheckMark Software. It's what my accountant used and urged me to use it too (past tense cause he passed away last year :( ). 

             

            The other thing is wondering what your intension was for suggesting accounting softwares. The most important thing to me is 'billing' for time and materials (etc) and need a DB or spread sheet to accumulate the data and then a way to gather specifics based on criteria.

             

             


            • 3. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
              Jade
                

              macbuz wrote:

               

              The other thing is wondering what your intension was for suggesting accounting softwares. The most important thing to me is 'billing' for time and materials (etc) and need a DB or spread sheet to accumulate the data and then a way to gather specifics based on criteria.

               

               


              I have no relationship with either company.  Just felt that these packages could offer better "off-the-shelf" solutions with less hair-loss from the accounting aspect of your requirements without knowing that you already were using MultiLedger.  For example, MultiLedger apparently has job costing, payroll, inventory, and invoicing modules according to CheckMark's site.  Obviously, I don't know your business or MultiLedger for that matter.  But I do know that those modules form the basis of billing for time and materials.  Just something to consider before choosing…:smileywink:

               


              • 4. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
                macbuz
                   Guess I better be looking closer at things I already have. Thank you for the tips. Not too sure why, but have always been shy about looking at MultiLedger's offerings in this regard - guess I better get over it.
                • 5. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
                  macbuz
                    

                  I have considered ML in the past - came to this conclusion after looking at it again, it does have some utility for me and my needs, but seriously lacking in tracking labor/material on an individual customer basis. I don't use their payroll package - let my bookkeeper take care of that :P .

                   

                  I'm back to looking at FMP and maybe a team effort between XL and FMP. Looked at the Business Tool Kit and found a couple things in there that helped start me under the hood of FMP. I've actually got a 'sample' DB started and wanting to figure where I can go from there. Similar to my XL worksheet where I have 5 or 6 columns of data - Date / Cust / Emp / Hrs / Rate / Total / Work Done. I see the find function will sort out by customer or employee, I'm wondering if there's some other way of 'viewing' the sorted data .... I mean is it possible to create an invoice template of sorts with fields that would call on specifics of the DB?

                   

                  Been searching around the Help files and Menu commands for where this next step may be. Given there is a next step ;) .

                   

                  Thank you for your assistance

                   

                  Edit: Forgot to mention - I ripped a labor worksheet from an archived XL WB (2007) and dropped it in to FMP which also helped me 'see' opportunity. This is the crux of my statement re a 'team effort', but the data entry whether in FMP or XL is one and the same.

                  • 6. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
                    FentonJones
                      

                    It's tough to go from spreadsheets to a full featured database, especially for something like home remodeling. I know. That's more or less how I began, back in 1997 or so, for landscaping (which is similar). I think the ideal would be to build much of the materials/work details/estimating in FileMaker, handing off the invoicing to another accounting application, one that featured some kind of integration with FileMaker (or hand it off to your accountant, via Excel exports or whatever). I did not do that, but my invoicing needs were not that complex.

                     

                    Your question, "wondering if there's some other way of viewing the sorted data," is a good start. Yes, there is relational design, which is really what databases are about; separate tables for "entities," such as Customers, Employees, Estimates, Estimate line items; which come from what I think of as the guts of the solution; the things that you do. Each of these is combination of Time and Materials (including such things as tool rentals, etc.).

                     

                    In other words, start from the things that you do, then work out. I know, for remodeling the variety is intimidating. The advantage of building such a system is multiple. It can be used both for estimating, and for organizing materials and work. 

                     

                    I don't think you can expect this to be working right away. Though, if you're using spreadsheets now, you have something to start with.  

                     

                    BTW, after I finally got my database working like I wanted, I decided that I preferred working with databases to landscaping. I've never looked back, though I must admit, every once and a while, when the weather is nice, I look outside...

                    • 7. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
                      macbuz
                        

                      Fenton Jones wrote:

                      BTW, after I finally got my database working like I wanted, I decided that I preferred working with databases to landscaping. I've never looked back, though I must admit, every once and a while, when the weather is nice, I look outside...


                       

                      Great reply. Thank you Fenton. BTW .... I've had the blinders off for a while looking for a 'switch' .... maybe it's DB's ;) 
                       I'm kinda old to be changing horses, I'm well beyond 'mid-stream', but I am sick of spreadsheets and need something new to look at. Not to mention DB's are intriguing. I've found the wealth of documentation that I am ploughing through now .... just starting at the beginning. Years ago I messed with FMP 5.5 (I think it was) and put together a couple relational DB's for an association I belonged to - worked pretty good for a newcomer's effort. I'm sure some of it will come back and figure the advances FM has made in the app will only serve me.
                       I have no expectations of having FMP up and running for myself any time real soon, although, infant DB tables can be started and expanded on as I believe you were referring - working on this from in to out - and as I catch on, can bring my infant along.
                       Thanks for the encouragement. 

                       

                       

                      • 8. Re: Looking for a Solution (Current solution = Excel)
                        joan
                          

                        I also run my own business using FileMaker.

                        I found the easiest way to design my databases as follows:

                        Think of the Main Form based on a table with all the fields that change from job to job. Maybe call it Jobs then

                        Create a table with the names,addresses, and phone numbers of all your called Clients:these change from job to job.

                        Create a table of products (option: you could create a Value drop down list on your Main form).

                        Create an invoice table that contains the needed fields.

                        On the Main form you could have a Sub-Form that displays the invoice(s) that have a relationship with each Job.

                        I use Pages Mail Merge function to merge the data (fields) I need from FileMaker to create a document. 

                        You Export from FM tables to Excel save as Numbers then from Pages merge with the Numbers saved doc. It will have all the fields you need.

                        Good luck.