Four hours a month.
That’s how long Christine Ruther, owner of C&R Engineering in California, a solo biomedical engineering consulting firm, took to run billing for her biomedical consulting business (lawyers report an average of 8 hours per month). When you’re trying to provide medical-device designers and manufacturers consultation on their critical safety and quality compliance needs, that is four hours too many.
However, like clockwork at the end of every month, Ms. Ruther was stuck, going through the exhaustive process of running bills for her company. A process she doesn’t like in the least, but knows is necessary part of running a small business.
She says she tried to shop for a better solution, but none of them fit the bill. Even the ones supposedly designed for the biomedical engineering industry, were just too big for her small business needs. Here’s what she had to say about it,
“There were the programs built specifically for engineering firms… And those weren’t really appropriate for me. They were very powerful if you had a 20-person engineering firm and you were running 80 projects, but I run maybe five projects at a time. I don’t need a lot of project management overhead.”
She settled on software which treated billing and accounting as two separate entities. This meant she was required to enter the same information twice. A task that was not only time consuming, but she would prefer not to do. Or, as she put it,
“Double-entry is not my idea of a good time. As an engineer, I would rather spend time figuring out a spreadsheet and then, as unpretty as it is, work with that.”
The four hour process wasn’t only giving her headaches she says, it was also causing stress for her accountant. While she tried to find a solution, she couldn’t find one that worked for her and her accountant. In fact, it was her accountant who helped her realize it was time to make a real change:
“My accountant was basically saying you need to have a real accounting program.”
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Christine Ruther, C&R Engineering
The PCLaw “Sweet Spot”
A Solution Arises in an Unlikely Place
Naturally, Ms. Ruther shared her experience with friends and family. In fact, after hearing her situation, her brother-in-law, who also happens to be an attorney, recommended she take a look at LexisNexis® PCLaw® accounting and billing software. Although designed primarily for the legal industry, after listening to her needs, he realized that PCLaw could solve her business problem because it fully integrates billing and accounting into one program.
Fast forward to present day and Ms. Ruther can imagine life without the PCLaw application. Today, instead of spending time manually entering information twice, her software does the job for her. The integrated software now makes her life easier and more efficient:
“It’s incredibly powerful. It’s very easy to fix mistakes. And at the end of this past year, after closing year-end and giving a really nice packet of stuff to my accountant, she was thrilled. “I’m also much better at tracking hours because it is so simple. You just open up PCLaw and click the timer. It’s much, much easier.”
In fact, Ms. Ruther’s such a fan of the technology she now recommends it to her colleagues who are in similar situations. She also appreciates how the technology allows her to accommodate the various needs of her clients:
“I have retainers on occasion, and I found it to be a very easy process to enter the retainer into the account and bill against that. I set up my invoice and the retainer is noted at the bottom, and any replenishment for the retainer is noted.”
Another feature that makes her financial management work more streamlined is having the ability to set a client’s hourly rate and never have to worry about it again:
“I have clients I’ve worked with for five years and their rates have not increased. And to be able to just select a rate in PCLaw once and have it automatically fill in and not have to keep track of it, that is incredibly powerful.”
While she admits managing the financial aspects of her business will never be high on her “want to do” list, she knows billing is survival in a service oriented business like hers. The difference is today she doesn’t have to try be an accountant or a bookkeeper. Rather, she can focus on her true calling— being a dedicated biomedical engineer and get paid in a timely fashion to do it.
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