I’ve always thought the For Dummies series of books was just an insulting concept to begin with, no matter how valuable the information under the bright yellow cover. So, when I was offered a chance to review Bookkeeping Kit for Dummies, I almost gave it a pass, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Written by Lita Epstein, MBA, this thorough and focused book provides a great introduction to bookkeeping targeted specifically at the kind of information a small business owner would want to know. The book speaks to both the business owners who want to do their own books as well as the ones who want to hire a bookkeeper but want to have a better understanding of the process than just turning information over to the bookkeeper.

Right from the start, the author sounds like she is talking directly to kind of small business entrepreneur I know so well from cabinet shops and custom woodworking operations all across the country. These people typically got into woodworking because they like making things out of wood, not because they had plans to get rich quick. And most of them have little or no formal business training and less interest in that than in what they can do with a new saw blade. Epstein sets the tone for that kind of reader right away:

“Like most business people, you probably have great ideas for running your own business and just want to get started. … Well, slow down there – this isn’t a race! If you don’t carefully plan your bookkeeping operation and figure out exactly how and what financial detail you want to track, you’ll have absolutely no way to measure the success (or failure, unfortunately) of your business efforts.”

She goes on to cover bookkeeping basics, choosing accounting methods, and understanding basic accounting terms such as assets and liabilities. There are sections on keeping records and instituting internal controls, how to use bookkeeping tools to manage your business better, and how to check your work. Of course, there’s a good discussion of preparing financial reports and basic tax filings. Finally, there is a CD included that has various software and files, including chapter summaries of the book, to help with your bookkeeping and accounting.

Much of the book is based on use of QuickBooks Pro, which is by far the most commonly used bookkeeping software program in small businesses, including woodworking shops. That should make the information in the book even more accessible. For some, this will be too basic and for others it will be a lot more than they were prepared for, but it serves as a great general reference especially for the business training impaired woodworker.

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