A problem that a lot of us run into when we start a business: Whatever it is the business does, we’re really good at it. That’s why we started the business in the first place. We have the abilities required to make a great cup of coffee, or we know everything there is to know about repairing cars, or which cigars are better than the rest, or how to keep a dog nice and calm while you trim his nails and groom his hair. But we don’t know… all that other stuff.
We have to learn on the job. How do you market a business? How do you run a payroll? How do you find trustworthy, reliable hires? And maybe most importantly: How do you keep the books without getting audited?
There’s a lot of learning that you need to do when you start a business, a lot of stuff that you didn’t go to school for, and even more that you can’t go to school for, stuff that can’t be taught, stuff that you can’t get from training, stuff that you only pick up through experience. But, there’s also software to make it a little easier as you go.
One piece of software that popped up on the radar recently was Shopkeep Backoffice.
Here’s our review in brief: It’s the next best thing to hiring an in-house accountant. Every penny, every expense is accounted for, and it’s all organized in a manner that will seriously reduce your headaches come tax-time.
Here’s what you need to know about Shopkeep Backoffice:
How Detailed Is The Reporting?
When we say that every penny is accounted for, we mean it. It’s surprising just how efficient the software system is at tracking every expense involved in running a business. A high point is the raw ingredient tracking. The software doesn’t just keep tabs on what you’re selling, it makes sure to take into account every dime you spend on sugar, on coffee beans, on ground beef and so on. If you spend money on it, or you make money on it, the software tracks it. If you’re paying for equipment repairs, it will track that. It’s not just a cash-register operating system, it really does just about everything an accountant could do for you.
This makes it very easy to file come April. Every single thing that you might be able to get a deduction on, you can take a look at the numbers and see what you can claim. It also makes it very easy to find out what you need to restock and when, what your most popular items are and so on. Essentially, it makes it easier to run your business on every front. You’ll know where you’re wasting money, you’ll know where to invest more.
What Will It Cost Me?
Similar programs often ask for a hefty licensing fee right up front. This can seem like a big expense when you’re still in the early stages of your business. If you’re running a food truck and you’re not quite sure whether or not there’s a market for what you’re selling just yet, then that licensing fee could well double your startup costs.
With Shopkeep, the deal is that you pay a monthly fee, and the licensing costs are rolled into that. The cost for the standard user is a pretty reasonable $69 a month. This fee is month-to-month, and there’s no termination fee. That includes everything, the cloud server fees, the licensing costs, customer service and the software itself.
It’s cheap and it’s low-commitment, and here’s something cool about this model: They only succeed as long as their customers succeed. If you have to close your restaurant, then you won’t be paying them anymore. They want to be a foundational tool in running a successful business because that’s the only way that they can turn a profit themselves.
Is It Easy To Use?
Shopkeep Backoffice is easy to use once you get the hang of it, but you’ll want to set aside some time to go through the “orientation” that the software starts you off with. The first time you boot it up, you’re going to have to do a lot of configuration and go through all the tutorial screens and everything. From there, it’s as easy to use as a pocket calculator. But you’ll want to take an hour or so where you don’t have anything else to do when you first go to set it up.
Of course, after that first setup, it only requires a little bit of tweaking here and there to get it just right. Teaching your staff how to use the software is pretty easy, as well. It’s a pretty simple touchscreen based interface. There are more intuitive software systems out there, but Shopkeep isn’t too challenging. If you’re at all tech savvy then you should be able to get the hang of the software in a single afternoon.
Who Is It For?
Shopkeep is designed specifically for business owners and management at the intersection of small business and food service.
Can it work for medium sized businesses? Sure. Can it work for a small retail shop? Absolutely. But these are not the business owners for whom the software is designed. It can get the job done, but eventually you’re going to bump your head against the software’s limitations.
Systems designed for larger businesses and industries outside of hospitality may be pricier, but they’re designed for businesses who see a lot more money coming and going than a small dive bar or a taco truck that takes in maybe $6,000 a month.
If you think that the system might be right for you, but you’re not entirely sure, then it may be a good idea to try the two week free trial, first. That said, some reviewers have complained that the software actually cost them money when they tried to apply it to a busy urban bar or a large retail store. Whether this is down to the user’s mismanagement of the system or the system’s inability to manage their businesses, we’ll leave that for you to judge.
The point is that the system is more or less perfect for small business owners running cafes, diners, bars and so on, but it’s generally not what you’re after if you’re running multiple locations or you have a dozen employees to worry about. The software is intended to make life easier for mom and pop stores, startups and other small businesses. If you can afford enterprise level software and an accountant to go along with it, then Shopkeep might not be able to meet your needs. On the other hand, if you’re selling burgers and fries out of a rented trailer, then it might be absolutely perfect.
What If My Internet’s Not Great?
We’ve mentioned the cloud in this review. That might be a problem for some users. If you run a food truck, for instance, then you’re going to be traveling all around the place, and you’ll wind up in areas where you might not be able to get any wifi at all. If the weather is kind of crazy where you live, then a storm can knock out your internet for hours at a time.
The good news on that front: Shopkeep uses a cloud-based system, but with local-installment options. The only thing missing from the local-installation is integrated credit card processing. Beyond that, it stores everything in the tablet, and then uploads it to the cloud whenever you get to a wifi connection.
Do I Need It?
Shopkeep is for a very specific level of business owner. If you’re not quite a medium business anymore, but you’re doing too much business to keep tallying up the day’s sales on a memo pad, then Shopkeep is perfect for you.
If you’re still in your “salad days,” if you’re still building your brand, feeling your new business venture out and waiting to see if it has legs, then Shopkeep might be helpful, but not exactly necessary. We’ll put it this way: If you had to do some math in your head to figure out whether or not $69 a month is within your budget, don’t worry about it just yet.
Try the free trial if you like, but don’t think that you need to upgrade with a full point-of-sale software system just yet.
Here are some details worth mentioning that don’t quite demand their own sections:
• Most of the negative reviews are from people who used the software in multiple locations. It’s really designed for just one. Invest in an enterprise level system if you have an enterprise level business. Shopkeep does feature a multiple location feature, but it doesn’t really compete with enterprise level software on this front.
• The software is designed for the iPad and the iPad Mini. Unfortunately, these are the only devices on which it is available just yet. It will require iOS 8.2 or higher.
• There’s something nice and comforting about Shopkeep’s user interface. You know how some software feels strictly utilitarian? Like Microsoft Excel. There’s no reason for that program to bother having any personality. But Shopkeep’s sleek, metropolitan design is easy on the eyes. This might not be the deciding factor for any serious business owner, but it’s a nice bonus when the UI feels good to look at.
• The big buttons in the cash register interface are appreciated by big-fingered individuals. No more squinting and trying to tap just the right thing with the very corner of your thumbnail. You can just slap your big thumb right where it needs to go and select what you need to select.
• The reporting suite just about files your taxes for you. It lists everything from average cost reporting to customer reporting, sales, discounts and so on, and lets you set the tax rates right in the app. No more walking into HR Block with a milk crate full of disorganized papers, you can print it all out into one neat stack.
Shopkeep Backoffice: So What’s The Verdict?
Here’s our final verdict: It’s not the most powerful POS system out there, but for a small business, it’s about as good as it gets at $69 a month with no termination fee.
You’ll want to take it for a spin with the two week trial, and compare it to other POS systems while you’re at it. Even if the information is factual, a review is only ever somebody else’s opinion. Sometimes selecting the right software is less about finding the “best” software available, and more about finding the one that works for you.
A musical theorist will tell you that a baby grand piano is better than a Casio keyboard, but if you love the sound of the Casio, then you’re going to write better music with the keyboard than with the piano. The same goes for business software. It’s all about the results that you can get out of the tools.