Bench.co has come a long way in a short time in the world of small business bookkeeping. They raised a lot of money from investors and built their own bookkeeping platform from the ground up and are now serving thousands upon thousands of small businesses.
CapForge, on the other hand, while having been around about as long, was started in a spare bedroom and bootstrapped with just $500 in seed money to where it is today with just under one thousand happy clients. Before deciding which service is the best fit for your business, there are five things to know about each that may help you decide.
Here are the five points we are going to compare:
- Proprietary Closed System vs Transparent Open System
- Bookkeeping Only vs Full Range of Services (Including CPA/Advisory/Payroll)
- Cash Basis Only vs Cash or Accrual Option (Ecom Seller? Take Note!)
- Standalone Option vs Full Apps Ecosystem
- Rigid Pricing Plans vs Flexible and Customized Flat Rate Pricing Options
1. Proprietary Closed System vs Transparent Open System
Bench.co’s service is built on their own proprietary software platform. CapForge uses QuickBooks Online and Desktop software. At first glance, having your own software might seem like a good thing, in that you can take all of the good and none of the bad from what your competition has built and create your own exactly the way you want it.
But there are some definite drawbacks to using your own black box solution:
- You can’t bring your historical info to Bench.co, so if you’ve been using QuickBooks for a while, you either lose your data or pay to have them recreate it in their system.
- You can’t take your data with you! If you decide to leave Bench, you can export the reports, but you can’t maintain any continuity. You have to either start over or lose the historical info. This means if you grow, and want to bring your accounting in house, you lose everything that got you there.
- There is no way for you to make or save a backup.
- You can’t completely control access to the books, meaning you will be restricted from either granting additional access or taking back control of all access. Instead, your business data is in the hands and control of a third party.
At CapForge, we set up clients with QuickBooks, usually the Online version but occasionally a Desktop version as well. Intuit’s QuickBooks is by far the market share leader for small business accounting software with millions of users dating back over 20 years. It’s the #1 most used program among bookkeepers, CPAs, and business owners.
In other words, it’s got a huge installed base of users and is backed by Intuit, a publicly traded multi billion-dollar corporation. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults and issues—it does!
But if you are going to build the financial heart of your business on a particular software, QuickBooks is still the best choice based on that fact that it has a long-term track record and is a very familiar name to anyone in the accounting world.
The advantage of going with a firm that uses QuickBooks are clear. If you have already been using QuickBooks, you can continue to do so.
If we set up a new one for you (which means you get our 50% off wholesale discount, passed on to you with no markup), we make you the Master Admin so you control who has access and if you want to change providers, the data and bookkeeping always stays with you.
Nothing is lost if a client decides to bring the books in-house. If you are trying to hire an in-house bookkeeper, finding one who knows QuickBooks is easy and there will be lots of candidates with previous QuickBooks experience.
Clients can also make backups as often as they like and switch back to the Desktop version if they were previously using the Online version, or vice versa.
The large base of existing users, huge community of accountant users, flexibility and clear ownership and transparency of control are all key differences that many clients find to be an important part of their decision in using a firm based around QuickBooks.
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2. Bookkeeping Only vs Full Range of Services (Including CPA / Advisory / Payroll)
Bench.co offers bookkeeping for clients but no other direct services. And in some ways, sticking to doing one thing well is beneficial. But it also means having to deal with lots of other providers and stitching various solutions together to get the job done.
At CapForge, we’ve made our “one thing” small business accounting, and that includes each client having access to all of the following:
- Bookkeeping service: monthly, weekly, quarterly as well as catch-up projects and one-off projects.
- Tax strategy and filing from our small business specialist CPAs.
- Full-service payroll for up to 10 employees (for more than that, we have other options).
- Advisory service. Need some training, coaching, a deep dive review of your books, or just some general business advice? Our Advisory service department can field all those questions, from one-off cash flow or projection projects to ongoing engagements to help you drive growth and profits.
- Sales tax filing- any state, multiple states, no problem!
- Year end 1099 filing- as many as you need, all accessed through our secure portal so you can manage the process seamlessly from your end and we'll handle the filing.
- Entity creation. Need to set up an LLC or S Corp or want to know which one is best and in which state? We can advise you on those things as well as take care of the set-up if you’d like.
- And more! Have another request or need not covered? Just ask! If we can’t handle it in-house, very likely we know just the person to send you to for help.
Clients at CapForge certainly don’t need to use all of these services. Many use us strictly for bookkeeping, having found a CPA they already work well with and not wanting to change. But if you don’t have these other items covered, or want a second opinion or a quote, we are happy to help.
Keeping it all under one roof and one central point of contact also means faster responses and turnarounds and not having to explain the same thing multiple times to multiple people.
3. Cash Basis Only vs Cash OR Accrual Option (Ecom Seller? Take Note!)
For many small businesses, doing your accounting on a cash basis is fine. Cash basis just means that when you get a deposit it counts as income and when you spend money it counts as an expense. On a cash basis, you aren’t tracking invoices or bills or inventory purchases. If you are a cash-based business then there is no difference here between Bench.co and CapForge.
If you do want to track invoices and bills, however, or you are a business that buys inventory to resell (such as Amazon and Shopify sellers), then you want to do your books on an accrual basis for several reasons—and Bench isn’t set up to offer that.
One key reason to use accrual is so you can match sales with expenses even if the timing of when you receive the money or pay for the goods don’t match. For example, as an Amazon seller, you may buy inventory a few months before you get to sell it, because it takes time to travel from the manufacturer to the warehouse and then more time until it is sold. Once it is sold, then you have another wait to get paid.
By using accrual, you match the amount you get paid to the amount the product cost you, so you can see your actual profit. This lets you manage the business according to how your profits are doing, not just by the bank balance.
Another reason for online sellers to use accrual accounting is that when it comes time to sell, the accrual method gives you a better valuation than cash. In fact, many business brokers won’t even list your business until you’ve done the books (or redone them) on an accrual basis. If you had been keeping them in Bench.co, this would mean spending money to have them all redone so you could sell. You’ll more than make up the investment in the conversion, but why have to do it in the first place?!
For many other businesses, accrual bookkeeping also makes more sense and in these cases you can’t use the Bench.co solution.
4. Standalone Option vs Full Apps Ecosystem
We’re in an app-based world these days with software options for just about everything you can imagine, especially when it comes to running a small business. There are apps for managing employee time clocks and billing, apps for paying bills, apps for special reporting, cloud storage, receipt and expense tracking, email integration, marketing integration and more.
Currently, there are over 500 apps in the QuickBooks app store that serve all of these functions. By having these apps integrate directly with the accounting software, time is saved and efficiency is achieved by avoiding double entry of items and lots of standalone solutions that don’t talk to each other.
While it’s not fair to say this is something CapForge directly has over Bench, as they are third party apps, it is something that can be used if you have QuickBooks as your software platform and which is not available to users of Bench.co. Check this list out for some of the most popular QuickBooks add-on apps for small businesses.
5. Rigid Pricing Plans vs Flexible and Customized Flat Rate Pricing Options
One of the first things that gets sacrificed when companies prioritize growth and scaling up fast is the ability to personalize. It makes sense in that it is hard to create custom solutions and take the time to get to know each client when you are trying to onboard hundreds of them a month (or week!) and you need to move fast. But that also means that if businesses don’t fit into a neat box it’s easier to say no to them than to try to figure out how to help.
Bench.co has competitive pricing in a number of tiers, but that doesn’t leave any room for custom solutions. They base their pricing on the dollar value of your expenses but that doesn’t allow any room for a client with high dollar value sales but low activity or few accounts to get better pricing. It also doesn’t make sense if you have two or three companies nested together, since you’d have to pay the base rate for each one even if one or two of them have virtually no activity.
Their system also means there is no allowance for clients to be active in their own books and they have no option for someone who only needs quarterly help or more frequent weekly help. And of course you can’t bundle other services together to get a discount, because they don’t offer other services.
At CapForge, although we have come up with some general price guidelines, we still quote every project separately. We can go lower than our “bottom” price listed and often do. We can bundle different services together for lower pricing or provide a group price if you have two or more businesses you need to bring over at once. If you are going to be active in your own books and just want support or an occasional review, we can price for that as well.
You tell us what you need help with and we’ll come up with a quote for just that work that is fair and custom to your exact needs. We’re not small by any means, but we still onboard each client one at a time and every project is just a little different.
Recap of the Pros and Cons of Each Option
Obviously, we're a little biased! Don’t get us wrong; Bench.co is a good solution for lots of small businesses who just need someone to take on their bookkeeping. It’s certainly better than not doing it at all and if you only need cash basis books and don’t ever expect to need apps or grow big enough to possibly bring it in-house, then this might be fine.
There are also many similarities- both CapForge and Bench assign you a dedicated bookkeeper, have multiple channels to communicate through, offer a client side portal to keep you organized and efficient and value great customer service and speedy response times. Our pricing is also similar- you may pay a tad more at CapForge in some cases, but usually it's very close and should never be a make or break difference.
However, if you are not someone who fits in one of their boxes, wants more control over their books, can see a day where you need to switch providers or bring the books in-house, or wants to integrate other apps with your books, then CapForge is the better choice. If you also expect to need other services at some point and want to benefit from having it all under one roof and bundled pricing, then CapForge is the way to go.
For us, the most important factor comes down to knowing that your bookkeeping isn’t locked into a system you can’t own. But everyone has their own idea of what’s important and hopefully this article has provided some knowledge to help you reach a decision that will work best for your business.