Help clients make the most out of customizing reports in QuickBooks

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Creative Suggestions from QuickBooks ProAdvisors

 By Sandi Smith, CPA

Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors and other accounting professionals are saving their clients time and money when it comes to customizing reports, and their clients are loving it. 

The tips in this article are some of the most creative I’ve heard in the nine years I have been writing for Intuit. I hope you and your clients can benefit from implementing them in your businesses. 

Collapse a Clunky Excel Transfer 

“Sometimes we overlook the simple things,” says Caren Schwartz, Founder of Time & Cents Consultants, LLC in Southport, CN. “I had one non-profit that was spending hours taking the balance sheet and profit and loss statement information and putting it into Microsoft Excel because the board of directors didn't want to see the detail.

“We made a few changes to the Chart of Accounts and then used the collapse button on the report,” says Schwarz, an Advanced QuickBooks Certified Professional Advisor and member of Intuit Accounting Professionals Trainer and Writer Network.  “Now instead of hours, they have the report for the board in one minute.”

Workflow Management

How about customizing reports to manage the flow of invoices? Gary Preisser, Manager at Ireland San Filippo, LLP in San Jose, CA, offers this idea. “We send all invoices to our client first for his approval.  We mark the date it was submitted for approval and show it as ‘to be printed’ and ‘to be e-mailed.’ Once the invoice is approved, we e-mail it and uncheck the ‘to be printed’ and ‘to be e-mailed’ boxes.” 

Preisser says, “In order to ensure that we are receiving approvals on each invoice, we have a customized report called Unsent Invoices that shows any invoices that are still marked ‘to be printed.’ As new invoices are created and approved invoices are sent, this report is automatically updated so we can quickly tell if anything is falling through the cracks.”

Liberation from index cards

A great question to ask your clients is, “Are you using index cards for anything?” Go on a search and destroy mission for all your clients’ index cards, and get those things automated and moved to the Smithsonian right next to the 80-column punch cards where they belong. 

Michelle Long, author of Successful QuickBooks Consulting and proprietor of M. Long Consulting in Lee’s Summit, MO, had a client who was a seamstress. She kept all of her client’s measurements on index cards. Michelle set up a customized report that included custom fields. “The measurements were input into the custom fields, and the seamstress could then print a list of customers and their measurements.

“We joked about how women may not want to know that - especially since she could sort based on those custom fields!  But, it was a great idea to get rid of the index cards she used in the past,” says Long, a CPA, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and a Member of the Intuit Trainer/Writer Network.

Create your own custom report around the client’s key indicators


Ask your clients what numbers drive their business, and design a custom report around just those numbers. Examples include cash balance, net income, accounts overspent, top customers, or receivables older than 90 days. 

The key numbers that drive business decisions are called many different things: critical success factors, a dashboard of key financial measures, key financial indicators, or accounting snapshot, to name a few. Whatever you call them, ask your client what’s important to them and design the report that meets their needs and saves them time. 

Note: My favorite dashboard report is the Sales by Customer Summary, sorted by Total, largest number first, and with a percentage column. This gives me an immediate glance at who my most important customers are, whether I have too many eggs in one basket, and so much more. 

Bells and whistles

You can demonstrate the value you add in cosmetic ways, too.

Add the “cool” stuff to your report for added readability and usability. These include:

  • Percentage columns for at-a-glance prioritizing. You might have heard of the 80-20 rule: 20 percent of your customers generate 80 percent of your sales. The percentage column helps you to easily apply the 80-20 rule to various aspects of your business.
  • Use red font to let negative numbers stand out.
  • Show your clients how to use the Process Multiple Reports feature to bring up a batch of monthly or weekly reports in one click.

Be sure to work with your clients on customizing reports. You’ll no doubt save them time and money and end up with a delighted client. 

Sandi Smith, CPA, coaches CPAs to succeed in business.

She is a frequent contributor to Intuit ProConnection.

 Her Web site is

Reprinted with permission from Intuit.

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