Are You Prepared If Disaster Hits Your Business

Hurricane Barry making landfall in Louisiana, the Mississippi flooding in multiple states, and the earthquake in California this year are painful reminders that disasters happen.  And we haven’t reached the peak of hurricanes on the East Coast or forest fires in the west and southwest. What would you do if you could no longer get to your office, access your computers, files,…….. Would you have to close your doors or do you have a backup plan so you could get back to work sooner, rather than later?

I personally think you should have both local backup and off-site backups, whether that be cloud-based or flash drives.  The local backup is in case you lose internet access for an extended period (many of us have experienced that) and off-site in case your system gets hacked or fire or flood damage. Good companies who provide hosting solutions also have backups in other locations – just in case of disasters.   There are many reputable cloud-based backup systems and you might find some of you have access to offsite backups but were either unaware or never set it up.

Stop and make a list of what all you would want backed up.  Here’s a list to get you started – some of these are obvious, but some are often overlooked.

  1. Accounting Software

Especially in tough times, you want money to continue to flow in, so that means being able to invoice or at least collect on receivables.  But you also need to keep up with payables. You wouldn’t want to learn the hard way that a vendor cut off your phone or Internet or would no longer sell materials needed for jobs.  (I know some of the QuickBooks line of products include offsite backup – but it does need to be setup!) 

  1. Online Calendar

Do you use an online calendar?  If you use a calendar such as Google Calendar, then it’s a good idea to keep a backup in case something happens to it that’s out of your control. 

In Google, go to Settings from the Settings menu, click the Calendars tab, and Export your calendar to get your backup. 

  1. Website

It’s common for business owners to rely on their webmaster to have a backup of their website, but this is often not within the scope of the webmaster duties.  Check with your webmaster to get a backup of your website files so that you are protected against hackers, hosting problems, and more.  Fortunately, my webmaster does provide backups. So, when my site was compromised a few years ago, I was back up and running in just a couple of hours.

If your blog is in the same place, make sure you have a backup of it as well.  You may also want to preserve any online profiles you have in the same way. 

  1. Your Email

We are all so dependent on our email these days that we should consider backing this file up daily, if not hourly.   The location of your email file varies, and some people have more than one.  It’s worth double-checking to see if this file is included in your regular backup routine. I learned one year that my email was not being backed up – you can be sure it is now and with the recent power outage, my backup came in handy.   You may also want to create a separate, more frequent backup routine for this critical file. 

If you have an online email account, make sure you have a backup of all those emails in case something goes wrong.

  1. Browser Data

Browser-related data, such as your bookmarks, history, toolbar, and saved passwords are all stored in files, but they can be hard to find and recover.  If something happens to your browser data, it may or may not be a big deal.  If it is, include these files in your regular backup so you can recover what you need more easily. 

  1. Online Bank and Vendor Account Information

If you get audited by the IRS, it’s almost always for a year in the distant past.  Digging up invoices you might have had online access to but no longer do can be time-consuming and painful.  Most banks and vendors have made it super-easy to download PDF versions of your invoices and statements, so be sure you do that before your access to them expires or becomes an extra charge. 

  1. Local and Cloud Drives

Every business’s technology setup is different.  If you have a server, chances are you’re getting it backed up regularly.  If you have employees, make sure each of their hard drives are backed up so they don’t lose any files that are not on the server.  If you have multiple drives, are all the drives being backed up or just the c drive?  If you have your files centralized in the cloud, make sure you have a backup of those files as well.

  1. Desktop

One additional place that may not be backed up is your Desktop.  It depends on your operating system; sometimes desktop files are excluded if you have your backups set to copy only “My Documents” files and subfolders. 

Bonus Tip

Periodically check the accuracy and effectiveness of your backups and see if you can recover a file or two.  If not, you’re back to the drawing board, and it’s better to find out in a non-emergency situation that you have some work to do on your backup and recovery strategy.

Reducing Risks 

Being a business owner is all about taking calculated risks.  Having all your important business data backed up helps you reduce your risks and protect what’s perhaps your most important business asset.  

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A Few of My Favorite Features in QuickBooks

There are many features I like in QuickBooks, guess that’s why I support the software!  But I find when I’m with new clients who have been using QuickBooks for a while or clients who are upgrading, I always like to share a few of the features I like either as a business owner or from a timesaving bookkeeping perspective.  So here’s my list:

The Company Snapshot – it’s almost all here in 1 place!  My account balances, payables, receivables (in red if late so it jumps at you), upcoming (like sales tax), and graphs (which I would rarely take the time to view).  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I love the ability to see trends for this year or compared to previous years, or visually see the percent of sales from a product or service or where the biggest chunk of my expenses is.  For busy business owners, you can look at this quickly and then move on with your day.  Doesn’t mean you ignore your other reports, but you aren’t going to run lots of reports daily, so it’s a great 1-stop page.

QuickBooks Features

Find – Doesn’t matter who it is – a client or my own books. I can’t tell you how often I use the Find feature and it searches sooo much faster than I ever could.  I even use this feature to help me build custom reports.   And because I’m a keystroke person, Ctrl-F quickly puts me in the Find screen (but you can get there by Edit>Find or putting it on your toolbar). I keep finding additional ways to filter what I’m looking for.  I use Amount, Account, Class, Transaction Type frequently, but another one I use often is Entered/Modified; this is great when you gave the transaction one date other than today’s date).  By using today’s date for Entered/modified, you can find the transaction no matter what date you gave it.  I could do a whole session on nothing but different ways I search when I’m looking!

Keystroke Shortcuts – Maybe it’s because of my DOS days, but I still use keystrokes to get around quickly – and I’ll bet I can move faster than those of you using the mouse ;-).

The Esc key closes whatever window you have open

Invoice: Ctrl-I

Find:  Ctrl-F. 

Pop-up calculator – Hit an operator (+,-,*,/) when you’re in a numeric field and voilá – up pops a calculator –  now you don’t need to copy & paste your answer!

Date Shortcuts – I find the date shortcuts are frequently faster than using the calendar (e.g. t for Today). If you keep pressing the same key, it continues in the same direction (i.e. hitting the + multiple times keeps moving forward in time, pressing M multiple times keeps taking you to an earlier month). The letters are not case-sensitive, either.

QuickBooks Features

Memorized transactions – This is a great timesaver for most businesses and there are so many types and reasons for memorizing; even (or especially) somewhat complex transactions – just change the numbers if you need, but the hard part’s been done.  Between clients and myself, I’ve memorized estimates, invoices, sales receipts, journal entries, bills, automatic deductions/charges and probably more.

QuickBooks Features

Groups – This is a very powerful feature. You can create a group item or a group of memorized transactions or a group of reports.  A group Item quickly pulls multiple items onto an estimate, invoice, sales/work order, purchase order, bill… Groups in Memorized transactions and in Memorized reports can help you stay organized.  But you can also double click on a group to create invoices or run multiple reports, saving you lots of time.

QuickBooks FeaturesType – I have been using types for quite a while now. It started when I was filling out surveys and applications with Intuit and they were asking me the percentages of my clients in certain industries. So, as you might imagine, I track industries and I use the Customer Type (and subtypes) to do that. Then it’s very easy to get a Sales by Customer Type report; I can even create a P & L by Customer Type to see which Types are most profitable!  

You can also do Vendor Types. One idea might be to have different types of subcontractors or suppliers so you can easily get a list.

Custom Fields – I used to overlook this feature, or not do much with it, but after working with a marketing coach, I realized there is more I want to track about my clients, products, and services, so custom fields help me do that.  If I pull them in on the invoice, I can get sales information – great for refining niche areas to pursue – or drop.  If information is in a custom field, I can pull it into a transaction, onto a report, sort, or filter – much more useful than buried in notes or descriptions. With Enterprise, you can customize even more as shown on the right-side of the screen shot below outlined in red.  I love the ability to create custom drop-down lists in Enterprise. This makes the data entry faster and more uniform so whether I’m filtering or sorting on a custom field, it’s much easier. (Just think how many different ways there are to enter dates – that gives you an idea of why controlling the information is helpful).

QuickBooks Features

I could go on with features that I like and use frequently, but I’ll stop here ;-).  I’d love to hear what your favorite feature is!

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Secrets to Monitoring the Health of Your Business in QuickBooks

How healthy is your business?  Many businesses just look at their profit & loss statement (aka income statement), but you could be missing out on some helpful information.

Have you ever heard of accounting ratios?  The first time I even learned of them was when I somehow stumbled on them in the help in QuickBooks (it’s no longer in there).  But they explained why I was struggling financially even though I had money in my bank account and my P & L showed a profit.

Banks often use ratios to analyze your financial statements as part of the loan approval process, so it’s helpful to know in advance what they’ll see.  Acceptable ratios can vary by industry, so you might find that your accountant or trade association may have those numbers.  This would also let you know how you compare to those in the same line of work.

In my article on the Profit & Loss report,  I discussed 2 key metrics – Gross Profit Margin and Net Profit MarginIn this article we’ll take a look at two ratios that are easy to get, but often ignored – Current Ratio and Debt Ratio. To calculate these ratios, you need to run your Balance Sheet (I know many of you do not), and that the Balance Sheet is in good shape.

Current Ratio – This looks at how easily you can pay your debts. For a true picture, you will want to include the “current portion of long-term debt”.  In other words, if you have 4 years left on a loan, move 12 months of principle from long-term liability to current liability.  (Your accountant or lending institution could help you determine this number if you need assistance.) This can be a substantial dollar amount depending on the number and size of your loans.  But even if you don’t do this, it can still be a good eye opener.  Simply divide your Total Current Assets by your Total Current Liabilities.  In this example (in blue), you would take 302,185 divided by 54,690.  Keep in mind that if you have credit card accounts in your Chart of Accounts, QuickBooks considers these current, which is fine unless you don’t plan on paying the card off within 12 months.

Debt Ratio – What percentage of your business is financed by debt? To get this ratio, divide Total Liabilities (debt) by Total Assets.  For Quality Built Construction, you would take 68,675 divided by 374,142 (highlighted in red).

So take a look at these ratios for your business and see what you get.  If you want to know if they are good or bad, your accountant can help you determine how you are doing for your industry.  I would recommend that you look at these at least quarterly if not monthly.  You may find that for your industry, these ratios will fluctuate seasonally. 

And, if you’re not sure if your balance sheet is in good shape, your accountant can give you a quick yes or no – hopefully you’ll get a yes. If it’s no, we’ll be happy to see what may be going wrong in your QuickBooks.

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Have You Checked These Balances Lately?

Balance SheetThe Balance Sheet is an important report in your business’s financial statements. Unfortunately, I find that many small businesses never look at this report.  Usually it’s either because they don’t understand the report or they think it has nothing to show them in terms of profitability. 

However, this is an important report for several reasons.

  • If you’re the owner, these are your numbers. If you don’t understand them, you want to, so it’s to your benefit to ask someone.
  • This report often shows me some mistakes people are making in QuickBooks. 
  • This report shows the overall health of your business and can warn you of problems that may not be apparent in your P & L.  Wouldn’t you like to know?!
  • Lending institutions may take a hard look at this report when determining whether or not they will lend to you and /or how much they will lend.  So it’s beneficial for you to know
    • first, that it’s correct and
    • secondly d what they will be seeing and using to determine your loan.

A Summary of Balances

A balance sheet is like a snapshot – it represents one date in time, for example, 5/31/19.  The numbers represent balances, and since the balances change daily, a balance sheet only represents one point in time versus a range (as found in your Profit & Loss report).  There are three parts to your balance sheet

  • What you own (Assets),
  • What you owe (Liabilities) and
  • Your net worth (Equity)


Balance Sheet1. Assets

You will most likely find three major types of assets

-Current (usually means 1 year or less)

  • Most balance sheets start off with cash balances, and these typically represent what you have in the bank minus any uncashed checks that could reduce your account once they come in
  • If you invoice customers, but have not been paid, that is considered an asset because it’s owed to you; this is typically known as your Accounts Receivable.
  • Employee advances or other loans payable to your business are also frequently listed here.
  • If you stock and sell products, the cost of those products you haven’t sold yet would be in your Inventory Asset account

-Fixed – If you own equipment, furniture, cars or trucks or something similar that lasts for years, you will have a balance in Fixed Assets. If it’s been a while since you’ve purchased them, you probably have an Accumulated Depreciation (the total you’ve depreciated over the years). When you subtract your accumulated depreciation from your original cost, you get a net value for your Fixed Asset

-Other– Here you may find security deposits, prepaid insurance, etc.

You will also have a total for all your Assets

2. LBalance Sheetiabilities

Liabilities, the second of three major sections of a balance sheet, are monies you owe others, such as taxes, vendors, or employees,

-Current (due in one year or less). Here you see

  • Accounts Payable- Day to day money you owe to suppliers, independent contractors, phone bill, etc.
  • Credit Cards – if you set up Credit cards as an account in QuickBooks, they are listed here
  • Line of credit (if you owe)
  • Payroll taxes you owe
  • Sales tax
  • “Short-term” loans (due in less than a year)

-Long-term (more than 1 year)

If you have bank loans, they usually each have a separate account like a bank account does.   Each bank loan account represents the principal due on a loan (the interest you pay goes to an expense on your Profit & Loss report).

3. Equity 

Balance SheetThe final section of the balance sheet is Equity.  It is the section that will vary the most depending on the type of entity your business is set up as. 

  • For example, if your business is a corporation, then there will be a common stock account which will represent the original amount of money you put into the business; it will match the Articles of Incorporation that you drew up when you incorporated.  This amount will rarely ever change for the life of the business.
  • If your business is set up as a partnership, the equity section will include an account for each partner that represents their balance in the firm, which is the net amount of money they have put into the business over the years plus or minus the business income or loss through the years
  • There is often an account called Paid-in Capital which is how much additional money you’ve put in or taken out of the company beyond the common stock balance. 
  • You will also have a Retained Earnings account.  This reflects accumulated profit (or loss) through the years of operation. 
  • The Net Income figure is the bottom line from your Profit and Loss. 

Balanced Balance Sheet

Balance SheetIf you take a closer look at the balance sheet, here’s another concept. If you take your total assets (what you owN) and subtract your total liabilities (what you owE), you are left with your Equity (or net worth as I sometimes say).  The way it’s presented on the balance sheet is your assets equal your liabilities plus equity – ALWAYS.

If you run this report, and it’s not balanced, then check the following:

  1. Did you run this report on a cash or accrual basis?  A cash-basis balance sheet may not always be balanced, but this article walks you through the steps to correct that. 
  2. If this is an accrual-based balance sheet, then there may be issues with your data file and you’ll want to reach out to tech support.

So take a look at your balance sheet and see what observations you notice about your business.

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Commonly Overlooked Features in QuickBooks Part 2

I’ve written before about useful features that many don’t know exist.  Today’s article takes a look at more features you might find helpful.

Workers Comp – If you use Intuit Payroll, you might like the Workers Comp feature – this can definiteQuickBooksly simplify those workers comp audits!

You can setup your various codes (see below, left) and either assign a workers comp code to an employee in the employee record, or if they change tasks, you can use them in the timesheets (see below, right).


QuickBooksNote that you can also set your experience mod factor and just look at the reports you can run!

QuickBooksBatch time sheets – Speaking of timesheets, if you’re still manually entering timesheets in QuickBooks and you have crews (even a 2-man crew), you can enter the time, work etc. just once instead of for each person on the crew. That can be a huge timesaver for some of you.  The “trick” is to scroll up to the top of the list where you have the option to click on Multiple names

Sales/Work Orders –  For those of you who use work orders and are doing it on paper, you might find the Sales Order feature in QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise an option. You can customize a sales order to be a work order (e.g. hiding pricing, adding instructions). You can create a sales/work order as a stand-alone or create it from an estimate.  You can create PO’s and invoices from sales/work orders and there are Sales Order reports.


Collection Center – For those of you who have to deal with collections, you might like the collection center. One feature it has that the Income Tracker does not is a place to write notes, which is often helpful for documentations purposes as well as other reasons.  Once you turn it on, you’ll find it in the Customer Center


Billable vs Unbillable

  • QuickBooksBillable in QuickBooks means you will invoice based on the actual cost of the time or materials with a markup. If you mark something unbillable but use the customer:job, the item or expense WILL show in your job cost reports
  • The default setting in QuickBooks is to make time and expenses billable any time you use a customer job in the transaction (e.g. bills and timesheets). If you invoice for time and materials, then I would leave this as is, even if you don’t always invoice that way.  Better to have to uncheck the billable, than find out later you missed it and now can’t go back and invoice the customer! However, if you always use fixed pricing, then by all means turn “billable off!!

Close Estimate After Converting to Invoice

If you NEVER use the progress invoicing feature, then you’ll  like this preference.


I’d love to hear which of these you found most useful. And, as always, if you have questions or want some assistance with any of these, contact our office.

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Commonly Overlooked Features in QuickBooks Pt 1

As I work with clients, I frequently see that there are features that can be useful but my client was unaware.  So, today’s article takes a look at several features you might find helpful.QuickBooks

First, whether or not you have admin privileges, it is worthwhile looking at the preferences. As a user, the My Preferences lets you customize QuickBooks in a way that you prefer.  As the admin, you can turn features off/on in the Company Preferences for the company file. Most the items on this list come from the Preferences. (Edit>Preferences).  Personally, I recommend going through the list any time you have a new version installed.  You never know what might have slipped in there that you could use!

Don’t save the desktop – For some unknown reason, the default setting in QuickBooks is Save the Desktop. That means, every window, report you had open, has to open and/or run before you can begin working in QuickBooks.  It can also impact other users if you are in a network environment.  So, either select Don’t save the desktop, or if you have a few that you need to see as soon as you open QuickBooks, then leave those windows open, and then select.



  • While we’re in the desktop preferences, if you like a top toolbar, like I do, I find color makes the icons easier to see, then check Switch to colored icons.
  • And if you work in multiple company files, I highly recommend making each company a different color so you know which one you’re in. Would be disheartening to realize you entered transactions in the wrong company file!
  • QuickBooksWhile NOT in the preferences, if you have multiple bank or credit card accounts, you can make them different colors. Simply open a bank or credit card account, then select your color!

1-line display : Another feature I use for bank/credit card accounts (for me, it’s my default view) is to use the 1-line display. I find can see more transactions (you don’t see the memo in that view)


QuickBooksTop Toolbar –Since I mentioned icons on the top instead of the side, click on View and you can switch from the left icon bar to the top if you’d like. 

Open Windows –If you’re like me and keep lots of windows open, I like the Open Window features. Then I can quickly move between screens by locating the desired one in the Open Window box that appears on the left.

Reminders –  Did you know you can choose the timing for your reminders?


Report Preferences – While there are many changes you can make to a report when you customize, some you might appreciate are in the company reporting preferences.


(Note: 2018 now has a quick cash accrual toggle right on the report page)

And here’s a look at the default formatting options. 


You might even want to exclude accounts that have a $0 balance


 Batch Enter –If you find that you are downloading transactions into a spreadsheet, this might be useful.  One aspect it has that you can’t do in the bank feeds is use Items, which is very important for job costing.  This feature is available in the accountant’s edition of Premier and all editions of Enterprise.


Did you find features you will begin using?  I’d love to hear which ones you found most useful!

If you need help with any of these or would like me to take a closer look at how you use QuickBooks, contact the office.

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What Your Profit and Loss Is Really Telling You

When I meet with new clients, I find they all like to look at their Profit & Loss (P & L or Income Statement). After all, who doesn’t like to look at profit?!  But I find many have misconceptions about what this report can/should do for them.  This is usually due to a lack of knowledge when it comes to accounting, which I understand. But whether you are the business owner or the bookkeeper you should understand at least a little bit about accounting and your financial reports.


If you are the bookkeeper, you’re the one doing the data entry, so it’s important that you understand how the transactions you’re creating are affecting the books. And if you don’t, ask your accountant.  Some mistakes can be huge.  A couple examples I’ve either seen first-hand or heard about:

  • Expensing loan payments
  • Entering vendor invoices (i.e. your bills) as invoices
  • Entering bank transfers as income to the business
  • Assuming that if you use the online banking/bank feeds, you don’t have to reconcile your bank & credit card accounts.

Those mistakes can have a huge incorrect impact on the Profit & Loss report.

If you are the business owner, these are your numbers so you should understand what this report can and cannot tell you.  Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant!!  After all, your business is your area of expertise and accounting is theirs. So, especially in the beginning, I understand this can all seem like Greek!

I know some business owners are hoping this report will help them with their cash flow if they run this report on a cash basis (I had someone contact me one time wanting to know why this didn’t match their bank balance). That’s not the intent of this report.  The focus is on profitability (not cash), so loan payments, sales tax remittance, payroll liabilities, are not to show on your P & L, yet they obviously have a big impact on cash flow. If you see them on this report, then find some help with getting your books corrected.


The purpose of your P & L is to show you Profitability and the factors that affect it.  When you run your Profit and Loss, you’ll first see Income, then many of you will a middle section for Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) and below you have expenses, with the net income or loss at the bottom. The Profit and Loss covers a period of time, which you choose, such as last month.

The types of expenses classified as Cost of Goods are typically those purchases you made in for a specific job, project, or product. Some examples are:

  • a retailer who had to buy products (inventory) that they could put on a shelf for resale.
  • a manufacturing company who has to purchase raw materials to make a product to sell.
  • for a  contractor it would be the materials purchased specifically for the job (like lumber, landscaping, appliances, etc.) and the labor involved for that job. (Note: if you are a contractor and you don’t have labor costs showing in your COGS, you’re not seeing the total costs associated with your jobs.)

Expenses are typically those associated with running your business whether or not you have jobs/projects, such as rent, your phone bill, internet access, utilities, and so on

 While the bottom line doesn’t change, it’s more helpful to see the direct costs (COGS) separate from the overhead (expenses). For instance, many of you want a particular profit margin for a job. 

Helpful Metrics

When setup correctly, you can run a P & L for job, turn on percentages, and the % showing for Gross Profit Margin is your profit margin!  And when you run the P & L for the company, you’ll see your profit margin across all your jobs.  Simply click to customize the P & L report, then check % of Income on the Display tab.



When you have percentages turned on, then you’ll also see your Net Margin as a percent. 


Both can be useful for planning purposes and giving you targets you need/want to achieve

Cash vs Accrual

One other aspect to look at when reviewing your financial reports is cash versus accrual basis. Most of my clients operate on a cash basis for tax purposes, but several operate on an accrual basis. If you’re on a cash basis, (in oversimplified terms), you earn the money when you get paid and you spend money when you write the check or pay by credit card. Most of us can understand that, since that’s typically how we treat our personal finances. Technically, cash-basis businesses don’t have an Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable. But accrual says that you earn the income when you invoice whether or not the client ever pays you! And you spend the money on the date of the bill whether or not you ever pay the bill. Those on an accrual basis can write off bad debt. Those on cash basis cannot write off bad debt because they never originally claimed the income. 


I generally recommend that clients look at their reports on an accrual basis because it typically evens out some of your income and expenses and is better for showing trends in your business. On a cash basis, sometimes cash comes in sporadically so you may find you pay several bills at once so you have understated expenses for some months and overstated expanses for other months. So cash basis doesn’t necessarily reflect the work that’s being done in business. Starting with 2018,  QB made it easier to switch between cash & accrual – the option is right on your report screen!

profitabilitySo, take a closer look at your report and see if problems jump out at you or if you get some new “aha’s”!  If you need help with this, you can contact our office or your accountant.

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Filter to Find What You Want

QuickBooks makes it easy to find information with their Filters.  A filter simply limits what you see (i.e. filters out what you don’t want) so you see only what you want to see.   Both the Find Feature and reports in QuickBooks use Filters. So once you know how to use filters in one place, you can use them elsewhere. 

Perhaps you’re having problems reconciling the bank account and you’re off by a $500. Click on Edit>Find

Don’t let the word Advanced scare you off!  Click on Amount, then click the circle by = and type 500 in the box.  Notice on the right, QuickBooks is listing your current Filters/choices.  (Posting status refers to whether or not it affects your financial statements.  Estimates, Sales/work orders, Purchase Order are “non-posting”, i.e. they don’t affect your P & L or your Balance Sheet or other financial reports.)  QuickBooks very quickly finds all the transactions that meet your criteria.  It’s great when you see only a couple transactions.  But sometimes you’ll get a long list and will want to narrow it down some.   

Perhaps you know that it’s from last month or you know it’s a payment and not an invoice. So if you scroll through the list of filters, you’ll see Date (in image below) and Transaction Type (in image on the right).





So in this example, I selected last month for Date and Bill Payment for Transaction Type.  Now my list is much shorter.  (Don’t panic – this example lists only 1 transaction but shows “twice” because there are 2 sides to every accounting transaction).

Other filters I frequently use in the Find feature are Account, Class and Entered/Modified.   Perhaps I entered or modified a transaction today, but dated it the beginning of the month or some other date. This way I don’t need to know the actual date of the transaction – simply the date I created it!

You might find there are times when you want more than one filter in a given category.  Using the bill payment above, perhaps I want to see bills paid by check or credit card.  By clicking Multiple, I can choose more than one

I’ve used the Find feature to create reports, and if you go to modify a report, notice you’ll have access to the same set of filters!   So maybe I want to see a list of bills that I clicked to pay but have not printed the checks yet.   Here’s what QuickBooks found. Notice you can click on Report or Export on the right.

So now that you’ve seen Filters, here are the filters to some common reports you run:

Now it’s your turn!  What do you want to find?

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Better Business Decisions by Customizing QuickBooks’ Reports

Whether you’re a contractor, wholesaler, non-profit or some other service professional, reports are crucial to monitoring your cash flow and profitability.  When I work with clients, I often recommend changes in their setup and changes in their data entry.  While part of this is to help them save time, the other reason is to help them get the reports they need in QuickBooks instead of using data from a variety of places and then using Excel or a calculator to get their final numbers.  Once changes are made, then there are reports in QuickBooks that are just a click or two away. And, these reports can help them make better estimates and business decisions going forward. 

Customizing ReportsOften, to get the information you need, you need to customize an existing QuickBooks report.  One of the aspects I like about QuickBooks is the ease of customizing reports. (And having dabbled in Microsoft Access years ago, I’m amazed at how easy QuickBooks makes this!)  You’ll find that the more you customize, the more tricks you will pick up helping you get all sorts of reports you didn’t know you could get!  

Types of Reports:

There are two basic types of reports –

  1. Summary (i.e. has totals like your Profit & Loss, A/R aging summary) and
  2. Transaction detail (which shows the detail behind the totals such as P & L Detail).

If you’re new to customizing, don’t worry if you think you’re not ready to differentiate.  Just realize that will explain some of the differences in which display options you’ll have.

When you run a report, then click on Customize Report, you’ll see 4 tabs

Customizing Reports

  • Display options let you specify the columns you want to appear in your report. Note that you can add subcolumns and change your sorting. If you’ve never done much more than change your date range, take the time to change the columns across the top, try some of the subcolumns, and be bold and even check out the Advanced button (trust me – it’s not too advanced for you)! Other options here include how your data should be totaled. Some reports let you choose between cash and accrual basis.

Customizing Reports

Customizing ReportsIf you’re in QuickBooks 2018 or 2019, it’s right on the report page (which personally I really like)


The Modify Report screen capture for the P & L above is from a “summary” report while the one below is from a detail report.  Notice you have more columns from which to choose in a detail report.

Customizing Reports

  • Filters let you be more selective as to which data you see (i.e. they filter for only what you want to see).  This is the tool that will provide the most insight. You can pick & choose classes, types of transactions, names, types, Items, etc.  If you’ve never really taken a look at the different filters, I encourage you to do so; you’ll be amazed at what all is in that list.  If you use the “multiple” feature, you can then choose more than one (e.g. class as shown below).

Customizing Reports

Another way to begin to be more comfortable in this screen is to take a look at some of the reports that come with QuickBooks and see how they’ve used filters. The more you try some of the filters, the more comfort you’ll have in this screen and you can then start to really tweak reports.  

  • Header/Footer – What I like best about this section is that I can name my report so that when it prints, it’s not using the name QuickBooks gave it – which can be very helpful if you’ve customized your report much.  And even more so if it’s a report you need to give someone or memorize.

Customizing Reports

  • Fonts & Numbers This section is probably used more often by my accounting friends, but if you’ve never looked at this screen, do take a quick look to see if you want to make any changes, like how negative numbers appear or whether or not you see cents.

Customizing Reports

Memorize!  If this is a report you will want to run again, then memorize it so you don’t have to recreate what you did and you can get your information faster next time! One tip on memorizing: as much as possible, use the dates from the drop-down date menu; this way, the report will “roll forward” with you. When you key in the actual dates and memorize, QuickBooks thinks you always want to see those same exact dates, and unless you do, you’ll always have to redo the dates.

Customizing ReportsComment? Do you ever find you need to explain (or ask) about particular numbers on a report?  Try the Comment button (new a couple years ago) right next to the Customize Button. 

After you click on comment, you’ll see little boxes appear next to each one.   

Customizing Reports

Simply click on the box next to the number you want to comment on and a box will appear for you to type your comment.  Notice that is has a number next to it so if you have multiple comments, there’s a way to reference.

Customizing Reports

With your custom reports (and other QuickBooks reports), you can spot cash flow problems, see which jobs are the most profitable, compare your estimates to actual costs, and maintain the right inventory levels. You’ll also be able to identify your best customers and your most sought-after products and services. Customizing your reports and analyzing your data will make the answers to your questions about your company’s future direction much clearer. Let us know if you need help customizing or creating your reports.

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Estimated vs Actual Hours

How did the actual time on the job compare to what you estimated?  That’s one of the big things you want do know, right? If job costs run over, it’s usually in the area of labor, not materials.  It’s been a report I’ve wanted to see for a long time. And wouldn’t you know, I found it, accidentally, so I have no idea how long it’s been there! So even us “pros” still learn ;-) 

This is for those who use a desktop version of QuickBooks (Pro/Premier/Enterprise) AND enter the time spent on jobs in QuickBooks (you either use Enhanced Payroll or Assisted Payroll or if you outsource payroll, you have the manual payroll turned on) Anyhow, here’s how you create it.

  1. First, the estimated number of hours needs to be on your estimate in QuickBooks.
    estimated vs actual hours
  2. Then, run the Jobs by Time Summary Report or the Time by Item Report
  3. Customize the report to include Estimate hours
    estimated vs actual hours
    estimated vs actual hoursestimated vs actual hours

And there you have it!

If this is  a report you will run often, memorize it, maybe even put it on your QuickBooks toolbar. Then next time it’s easy to change the customer:job or date range if need be.

If you want to see this in video form, here’s your link.

Let us know if you have questions or want some help with this.

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