If you’re currently using QuickBooks, you know how it’s transformed your daily bookkeeping practices. You can create sales forms like invoices quickly and find them when you need them. Your customer and vendor records are organized and stored neatly for fast retrieval. You can accept online payments, track your inventory, and record your billable time.

But if you’re not using QuickBooks’ built-in reports, you’re missing out on one of the software’s most powerful components. While you can look at lists of invoices, sales receipts, and payments, you can’t see in a few seconds who owes you money and how late they are paying, for example. You’re not able to get an instant overview of who you owe. You can’t call up a customer’s history instantly, and it will take an enormous amount of time to see which of your items and services are selling and which aren’t.

These are just a few of the insights you get from using QuickBooks reports. Beyond learning about your company’s past and present financial states, you can make better business decisions that will improve your future.

Before You Start

QuickBooks’ reports are exceptionally customizable, as you’ll see. But before you start creating them, you should see what your available report options are. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Company Preferences (which only administrators can modify). You’ll see this window:

Figure 1: Before you start working with reports in QuickBooks, you should make sure their global settings represent your needs.

You can see in the image above that you can control your reports’ general settings. For example, some reports can be created on the basis of either Accrual or Cash. You can designate your preference here. Do you want the aging process to begin on the due date or transaction date? How much information should appear when Items or Accounts are displayed? What additional data should appear on your report pages (Report Title, Date Prepared, Report Basis, etc.)? You can specify your own Format or just accept the Default.

Statement of Cash Flows is an advanced report (usually monthly or quarterly). It can be difficult to create, so don’t hesitate to call the office for assistance instead of trying to modify or analyze it on your own.

When you’re done here, click OK.

Learn What’s There

The best way to familiarize yourself with the reports that QuickBooks offers is to open the Reports menu and click Report Center. The content here is divided by type (Customers & Receivables, Sales, Purchases, etc.). Click around these lists and use the icons in each box to Run the current report, get more Info on it, mark it as one of your Faves, or view a Help file. You can choose the date range before you run it with your company’s own data.

Customizing Your Content

As mentioned previously, QuickBooks’ reports are easy to customize. Customization options vary from report to report, but one example is illustrated as follows:

You’re likely to want to run Sales by Item Detail frequently to see what your most popular items are as well as what’s not doing so well. Find it in the Report Center by clicking the Sales tab, selecting it, and clicking Run. If you don’t have a lot of data in QuickBooks yet, open one of the sample files that came with the software (File | Open Previous Company).

With the report open, click Customize Report in the upper left corner to open this window:

Figure 2: You have tremendous control over the content that appears in your reports.

There are four tabs here. Click on each to see what your options are.

  • Display. Includes options like Report Date Range and Columns.

  • Filters. What cross-section of your QuickBooks data do you want to see? Choose a filter, and the middle column will change to reflect your options there. You can add and remove as many filters as you’d like.

  • Header/Footer. If you want to change the settings you established in Company Preference, you can do so here.

  • Fonts & Numbers. Contains display options.

When you’ve finished customizing your report, click OK to create it. Your modified report format will not be saved unless you click Memorize and give it a name.

Two Kinds of Reports

You can customize and run most of the reports in QuickBooks by yourself. But there are several that you may need help with, beyond the Statement of Cash Flows mentioned earlier – such as standard financial reports, like the Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss. Ideally, these should be generated on a regular basis so you can get more actionable, deeper insight into your company’s finances. You’ll need them if you, for example, apply for a loan or seek investors.

If you want to understand better how QuickBooks’ reports can help you make better business decisions, don’t hesitate to call.

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