This issue’s topics include:
- Get ready for spring cleanup
- 3 questions to ask before you expand your business
- Turn your team into a customer service powerhouse
- Cash Flow Corner
- Are you due for a business insurance review?
This issue’s topics include:
We can’t emphasize this enough: QuickBooks’ Reminders can prevent countless problems with your finances.
How do you know when it’s time to pay a bill or follow up on overdue customer payments or print payroll checks? If you’re still using a paper calendar and sticky notes and file folders, there’s a good chance you’re missing some important deadlines on occasion. Manual methods aren’t effective enough when you’re dealing with your business finances. You might experience:
If you’re missing the mark frequently, you won’t be able to get a true picture of your financial status, and your cash flow will suffer.
Use QuickBooks’ built-in reminders to avoid this unnecessary drama. Here’s how they work.
To start setting up Reminders, open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click Reminders in the left vertical pane. With the My Preferences tab highlighted, click in the box in front of Show Reminders List when opening a Company file to create a checkmark. Then click on the Company Preferences tab to open this window:
When you’re setting up your Preferences for QuickBooks’ Reminders, you can customize each type in multiple ways.
As you can see in the above image, QuickBooks lets you create reminders for a wide variety of actions. For each, you can indicate whether the Reminders window will display a summary or a list, or whether that particular activity will not be included. For those that are time-sensitive, like Checks to Print, you’ll also be able to specify how much warning you’ll get – how many days in advance each item will appear in the Reminders list.
My Preferences vs Company Preferences
If you haven’t worked much with QuickBooks’ Preferences, you may not understand the difference between the two tabs that appear in each window. Only the QuickBooks Administrator can make changes on the Company Preferences page, since these affect company-wide settings. All users, though, can change any options that appear in the My Preferences window.
Here’s an example of a Preference (General) where all employees can indicate how they want QuickBooks to work for them specifically:
Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then General to open this window. Everyone who uses QuickBooks can set up their Preferences here, but only the administrator can modify Company Preferences.
If you indicated in My Preferences that you want the Reminders window to open every time you open your company file in QuickBooks, it should appear on top of your desktop. If you didn’t, or if you need to see it after you’ve closed it, open the Company menu and select Reminders. A link should also be available in the toolbar.
Using the Reminders tool is like using any other interactive to-do list.
QuickBooks’ Reminders window displays the tasks you need to do today and in the near future. You can click the arrows to the left of each boldfaced category to expand or collapse the list.
The left pane of the window displays tasks that must be done today, while the right shows upcoming tasks. Small arrows to the left of each task category expand and collapse each section when you click on them. Double-click a task (not the category label), and the relevant form or other document opens. When you’ve completed the chore, it will disappear from the list.
There are two icons in the upper right of the window (not pictured here). Click the plus (+) sign, and the Add To Do window opens. You can create six types of to-do items here: call, fax, e-mail, meeting, appointment, and task. Each can be assigned to a customer, vendor, or employee, or earmarked as a lead. You can designate a priority (low, medium, high) and a status (active, inactive, done) to each. You can also assign a time and date due, and enter descriptive details. Each to-do then appears in the appropriate place in QuickBooks.
The other icon, a small gear, opens your Preferences for Reminders.
The mechanics of setting up your Reminders window are not difficult. What can be a challenge is watching your cash flow as all these transactions occur. If you’re struggling with that, let’s sit down together and develop a plan for keeping your cash flow positive while meeting your financial obligations.
QuickBooks and QuickBooks ProAdvisor are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc.
It’s important to maintain good relationships with your vendors and suppliers. QuickBooks helps you track your interaction with them.
QuickBooks never forgets. That’s one of the reasons you use it. You create a record or transaction, enter a note about a customer, or write a check, for example, and the information gets stored in your QuickBooks file. If you don’t remember exactly where it is, you can search for it. No more flipping through a card file or folder, or digging in drawers.
QuickBooks makes it possible—easy, even—to maintain thorough records of your vendors, the individuals and companies who provide you with office supplies, product parts, computer equipment – everything you need to keep your business operating. Once you’ve started building a vendor record, you’ll be able to use it in transactions and reports, and to simply refer to it when you need some information.
If you’re just starting to use QuickBooks, part of your setup will involve entering vendor details in the record template the software supplies. If you’ve been a QuickBooks user for a while but you’ve only suppled enough information about vendors to create transactions, consider fleshing out those elements of your accounting file as you have time.
Filling in Fields
To create a vendor record, open the Vendors menu and select Vendor Center. Above the tabbed table, there’s a small toolbar. Open the New Vendor menu and click on New Vendor. A window like this will open:
You can store an enormous amount of detailed information about your vendors in these record templates.
At the top of the screen (not pictured here) is a box labeled Vendor Name. Enter it, then move on to the Opening Balance field and supply the amount and date. If you don’t understand the concept of opening balances, we can go over this with you.
Fill in as many of these fields as you can, then click on the Payment Settings tab in the toolbar on the left. The fields in this window—Payment Terms, Credit Limit, etc.—are optional, but complete what you’re able to. The more you can fill out now, the less work you’ll have to do later, since much of the information here automatically comes up when you create transactions.
The other tabs here open windows where you can specify:
When you’re done, click OK.
Viewing Your Records
Once you’ve created one or more vendor records, the Vendor Center will display a list of them in its left pane. Click on one to highlight it, and you’ll see something like this in the right pane:
The Vendor Information window displays contact information in the top pane (not pictured here), and additional details below.
Here’s where your conscientious work creating records starts to pay off. Click on any of the five tabs in the top toolbar to display that vendor’s Transactions, the Contacts from that company, any related To Do’s, Notes you’ve taken, and Sent Email. Once your lists grow unwieldy, you can search by a variety of filters.
Using Records in Transactions
There are numerous transaction types that require vendor information, like purchase orders, bills, checks, and sales tax payments. When you open one of these transaction forms and click the down arrow in the Vendor field, your list will drop down. Select one, and related details that you’ve already entered will automatically appear in the correct fields.
You can create vendor transactions from either the home page or the menus. You can also do so from the Vendor Center. With either the Vendors or Transactions tab active, you’d click on the New Transactions link in the upper toolbar and select the one you want to launch.
QuickBooks provides numerous paths to creating vendor-related transactions.
The mechanics of filling in the fields in vendor records and using that information in transactions are not overly complicated. But as we’ve noted here, you may run across unfamiliar concepts. We’d be happy to spend some time with you exploring this whole topic, to ensure that your relationships with vendors remain positive.
QuickBooks and QuickBooks ProAdvisor are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc.
Invoices not being paid promptly? Customers questioning their payment history? Create statements.
Let’s say you have a regular customer who used to pay on time, but he’s been hit-and-miss lately. How do you get him caught up?
Or, one of your customers thinks she’s paid you more than she owes. How do you straighten out this account?
Both of these situations have a similar solution. QuickBooks’ statements provide an overview of every transaction that has occurred between you and individual customers during a specified period of time. They’re easy to create, easy to understand, and can be effective at resolving payment disputes.
A Simple Process
Here’s how they work. Click Statements on the home page, or open the Customers menu and select Create Statements. A window like this will open:
QuickBooks provides multiple options on this screen so you create the statement(s) you need.
First, make sure the Statement Date is correct, so your statement captures the precise set of transactions you want. Next, you have to tell QuickBooks what that set is. Should the statement(s) include transactions only within a specific date range? If so, click the button in front of Statement Period From, and enter that period’s beginning and ending dates by clicking on the calendar graphic. If you’d rather, you can include all open transactions by clicking on the button in front of that option. As you can see in the screen shot above, you can choose to Include only transactions over a specified number of days past due date.
Now you have to tell QuickBooks which customers you want to include in this statement run. Your options here are:
At the top of the right column, you can select a different Template if you’d like, or Customize an existing one. Not familiar with the options you have to change the layout and content of forms in QuickBooks? We can introduce you to the possibilities.
Below that, you can opt to Create One Statement either Per Customer or Per Job. The rest of the choices here are pretty self-explanatory – except for Assess Finance Charges. If you’ve never done this, we strongly recommend that you let us work with you on this complex process.
When you’re satisfied with the options you’ve selected in this window, click the Preview button in the lower left corner of the window (not pictured here). QuickBooks will prepare all the statements in the background, then display the first one. You can click Next to view them one by one. At the bottom of each, you’ll see a summary of how much is due in each aging period, like this:
It’s easy to see how much each customer is past due within each aging period. This summary appears at the bottom of statements.
After you’ve checked all the statements, click the Print or E-mail button at the bottom of the window.
Your company’s cash flow depends on the timely payment of invoices. Sending statements is only one way to encourage your customers to catch up on their past due accounts. There are many others, like opening a merchant account so customers can pay you online with a bank card or electronic check. If poor cash flow is threatening the health of your business, give us a call. We can work together to identify the trouble spots and get you on the road to recovery.
QuickBooks and QuickBooks ProAdvisor are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc.
QuickBooks provides numerous ways to learn about your company’s health. Income Tracker is one of the most effective.
You can get an enormous amount of useful information from QuickBooks’ reports – especially if you customize them to isolate the precise data you want. Reports included with the software range from the very simple, like Open Invoices, to output that’s exceptionally complex, like Trial Balance and Profit & Loss.
Warning: Standard financial reports like Trial Balance are easy to run in QuickBooks, but very difficult to understand and analyze. You should, though, be aware of what they’re telling you at least once a quarter – even once a month in some cases. We can help with this.
Sometimes, especially first thing in the morning as you’re planning your day, you just want to cut to the chase and get a quick overview of your company’s finances. That’s where QuickBooks’ Income Tracker comes in. It not only provides that overview, but it also contains links to related screens where you can do the work that’s needed there.
A Simple Layout
Click the Income Tracker link in the toolbar to open the tool’s main screen. If you’ve been using QuickBooks for a while, you’ll see a framework like this with your own company’s data already filled in.
QuickBooks Income Tracker displays both summaries of income types and the specific transactions that contribute to those totals.
Look first at the top of the screen. You’ll see six horizontal bars, each of which represents groups of transactions that either require immediate attention or will at some point in the future. Besides identifying the type of transaction, each block displays the number of transactions involved and their total dollar amount. They are:
Modifying the View
Click on any of the colored bars, and the list of transactions below will change to include only those that meet that particular criteria. To get back to the default display of all transactions, click the Clear/Show All link in the upper right of the screen.
QuickBooks also lets you display a user-defined subset of the transactions. Click on one of the four drop-down lists above the transaction grid itself to change the view of:
You can also modify the toolbar if your company doesn’t use all the sales forms/transaction types supported. To do so, click the gear icon in the far upper right of the screen and click in the boxes in front of Estimates, Sales Orders and/or Time & Expenses to remove them.
QuickBooks’ Income Tracker provides a great way to get a quick look at your finances. But it also serves as a launching pad for related activities.
Click the down arrow in the Action column to take care of tasks related to that transaction.
Highlight a transaction by clicking in the row, then click the down arrow at the end of the row in the Action column. The options that appear there depend on the type of transaction you selected. Choose a Sales Order, for example, and you can Convert to Invoice, Print Row, or Email Row. Options for an invoice are Receive Payment, Print Row, or Email Row.
As we said before, QuickBooks offers numerous reports that can give you more insight about your accounts receivable. If you understand the software’s robust customization tools, you can create reports about your income that will answer questions you may have. If you don’t, let us know. We’ll be happy to work with you on pulling together just the data you need.
They’re not as commonly used as invoices. But if you need them, they’re there.
When you want to document sales that you can’t (or won’t) fulfill immediately, but you plan to do so in the future, you can’t create an invoice just yet. This is where sales orders come in.
You may never need to create a sales order for a customer. Perhaps you have a service-based business, or you never run out of inventory. Or you simply don’t enter an order unless you know you have the item(s) in stock.
But if you plan to use sales orders, you must first make sure QuickBooks is set up to accommodate them. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Sales & Customers. Click the Company Preferences tab to open that window.
Before you can use sales orders, you’ll need to make sure that QuickBooks is set up for them.
Sales Orders Are Required for Some Tasks
There are a few situations where you must use a sales order:
Warning: Working with back orders can be challenging. In fact, working with inventory-tracking itself may be problematic for you. If your business stocks enough of multiple types of items that you want to use those QuickBooks features, let us help you get started to ensure that you understand these rather complex concepts.
Creating a Sales Order
Creating sales orders in QuickBooks is actually quite simple and similar to filling out an invoice. Click the Sales Orders icon on the home page, or open the Customers menu and select Create Sales Orders.
A sales order in QuickBooks looks much like an invoice.
Click the down arrow in the field next to Customer: Job and choose the correct one. If you use Classes, select the correct one from the list that drops down, and change the Template if you’ve created another you’d like to use.
Tip: Templates and Classes are totally optional in QuickBooks. Templates provide alternate views of forms containing different fields and perhaps a different layout. Classes are like categories. You create your own that work for your business; they can be very helpful in reports. Talk to us if you don’t understand these concepts.
If the shipping address is different from the customer’s main address, click the down arrow in the field next to Ship To, and either select an alternate you’ve created or click <Add New>. Make sure the Date is correct, and enter a purchase order number (P.O. No.) if appropriate.
The rest of the sales order is easy. Click in the fields in the table to make your selections from drop-down lists, and enter data when needed. Pay special attention to the Tax status. Let us know if you haven’t set up sales tax and need to.
When everything is correct, save the sales order. When you’re ready to convert it to an invoice, open it and click the Create Invoice icon in the toolbar. QuickBooks will ask whether you want to create an invoice for all the items or just the ones you select. You’ll be able to specify quantities, too, in the window that opens.
When you create an invoice from a sales order, you can select all the items ordered or a subset.
As we’ve said, sales orders are easy to fill out in QuickBooks. But they involve some complex tracking, and you may want to schedule a session with us before you attempt them. Better to understand them ahead of time than to try to troubleshoot problems later.
Online banking may get all the headlines, but a lot of small businesses still prefer paper checks. QuickBooks can accommodate them.
“I don’t write checks anymore,” you hear a lot of people say these days. Debit cards, smartphone payment apps, and online banking have replaced the old paper checkbook for a lot of consumers.
That’s fine if you’re at Starbucks or the grocery store, but many small businesses still prefer to issue paper checks to pay bills, cover expenses, and make product and service purchases. QuickBooks provides tools that help you create, print, and track checks.
But you don’t just head to the Write Checks window every time something needs to be paid. There are numerous times when you would record a payment in a different area of the program. For example, if you’ve already created a bill in Enter Bills, you’d go to the Pay Bills screen to dispatch a check.
Once you’ve recorded a bill in Enter Bills, you need to visit the Pay Bills screen to dispatch a check. The image above shows the bottom of that screen.
Other examples here include:
Let’s say you asked an employee to go to an office supply store to pick up some copy paper because you ran short before your normal shipment came in. If you knew the exact amount it would cost, you could write a check directly to the shop. But the employee agrees to pay for it and be reimbursed.
Click the Write Checks icon on the home page. If the BANK ACCOUNT that’s showing isn’t the correct one, click the arrow to the right of that field and select the right one. Unless you’ve written a check to that employee before, he won’t be in the Vendor list that opens when you click the arrow to the right of PAY TO THE ORDER OF. Enter his name in that field.
The Name Not Found window opens. If this was a new vendor that you would be working with again, you’d click Set Up and follow the instructions in the step-by-step wizard that opened. Since this isn’t the case, click Quick Add. In the window that opens, click the button next to Vendor.
Note: If you’re using a payroll application, you already have an employee record for that individual, which would have filled in automatically when you started typing the name. Since this is a Non-Payroll Transaction, it won’t get mixed up with his payroll records as long as you assign the correct account.
If you don’t want to create an entire record for the payee of a check, you can just click Quick Add.
QuickBooks will then return you to the check-writing screen, where you can verify the check number and date, and enter the amount. Fill in the MEMO field so you’ll remember the reason for the payment.
At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a tabbed register. The Expenses tab should be highlighted and the amount of your check entered. Click the down arrow in the field under ACCOUNT to open the list, and select Office Supplies. The AMOUNT should fill in automatically. Not sure which account to select, and what the remaining three columns mean? Ask us.
Note: You would only enter the expense under the Items tab if you were buying inventory items or paying job-related costs.
Warning: If you’re planning to print the check, be sure to check the Print Later box in the horizontal toolbar at the top of the screen.
When you’re finished, save the transaction. Since you want to pay the employee right away, click the Print Checks icon and click in the field in front of the correct check to select it, then click OK.
Easy, But Tricky
QuickBooks makes the mechanics of writing checks easy. Simple as it is, though, a lot can go wrong if you, for example:
We encourage you to set up a learning session with us if you’re new to check-writing in QuickBooks or are confused about any of its attributes. We’ll be happy to help ensure that your accounts payable activities will result in accurate record keeping.
You work hard to make sure your QuickBooks data is accurate. Make sure it’s safe, too.
Your QuickBooks company file contains some of the most sensitive information on your computer. You may have customers’ credit card numbers and employees’ Social Security numbers. An intruder who captured all that data could create tremendous problems for you and a lot of other people.
That’s probably the worst-case scenario. But other situations could also spell disaster for your business, which involve losing your company data through fraud, hacking, or simple technical failures.
We can’t overstate the vital importance of protecting your QuickBooks company file, especially your customer and payroll information. Whether someone steals it or it’s inaccessible for another reason, it’s gone. Keeping your business going after such a loss would be very difficult – maybe even impossible.
Here’s what we suggest to prevent that.
No business owner wants to believe that his or her employees could use their QuickBooks access to commit fraud. But it happens. Your company file contains credit card and checking account data that could be used for nefarious purposes. As we discussed last spring, you can restrict user access to specific areas and actions of QuickBooks.
You can limit your employees who have QuickBooks access to certain areas and activities.
To get started, open the Company menu and select Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users. The User List window opens. It should have at least one entry there, for you (Admin). Click Add User and enter the employee’s name and password in the next window that opens, then click Next.
Tip: Your QuickBooks license limits you to a specified number of users. If you’re not sure how many you’re allowed, click F2 to open the Product Information page. The number of user licenses you’ve paid for appears in the upper left.
On the next page of this wizard, click the button in front of Selected Areas of QuickBooks. The following screens will let you define that employee’s access permissions in areas like Sales and Accounts Receivable, Inventory, and Payroll and Employees. When you’ve clicked through every screen and reviewed the summary displayed, click Finish. Your user will now be able to sign in and access the areas you specified.
You can—and should—take numerous other steps to keep your QuickBooks data safe. If your company is big enough to have a dedicated IT expert, he or she will handle most of this. But there’s a lot you can do on your own to prevent data loss and theft.
Keep Your Operating System and Applications Updated
Don’t ignore this dialog box.
Software companies’ occasional updates offer more than just adding new features and fixing bugs. They sometimes refresh your software to ensure greater security based on new threats. Don’t forget about those all-important antivirus and anti-malware applications, as well as QuickBooks itself.
Keep Your Networks Safe
Just as a cold virus spreads around your office, so, too, can unwanted intrusions like computer viruses. Don’t allow an electronic epidemic to get started; take steps ahead of time to prevent it:
Use Common Sense
You can fight data loss and theft by being cautious. Be diligent about backups, and if you create them on a local, portable device, don’t leave them in the office. Cloud-based solutions are better. Shred papers that have sensitive information on them. Log out of QuickBooks when you’re not using it or when you leave your office. Be aware of who may be around you, looking over your shoulder.
We take data security very seriously in our own office, and we strongly encourage you to do the same. Contact us if you’re at all concerned with your own data safety, and we’ll come up with a plan together.