Tips for Staying on Top of Your Business’s Finances

Many companies use QuickBooks, but few utilize its full potential to keep financials up to date

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If your company’s going to grow, you need organizational processes that are streamlined and efficient. Bookkeeping is a key part of that — ignore it, and you could end up in trouble with tax officials, customers and vendors. Plus, you’d have no clear understanding of how your company is performing.

Compared to the old carbon-copy receipts and an Excel spreadsheet, bookkeeping software is more accurate, efficient and versatile. An automated bookkeeping system is a game-changer. Many companies buy accounting software like Intuit’s QuickBooks, but few use it to its fullest potential.

Cara Martinson, owner of CM Business Services in Madison, Wisconsin, is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor who has used QuickBooks since 1997.

“It’s a great system for business owners. If you’re not using software of any kind, we would recommend it, just to keep you organized throughout the entire year,” Martinson says. Paper copies build up over time and are difficult to track, especially with a large number of invoices.

“The accounting software system will prepare you for year-end, so you’re not caught with boxfuls of receipts and paperwork. You won’t have to sit down for a few days to a week at tax time to try to organize it all,” she says.

Tax season isn’t the only time when financials need to be in order. Think of the future. If you want to transfer or sell your company, accurate financial records are a must.

QuickBooks comes in different versions, and this column focuses on the online version. With QuickBooks Online, businesses can pay bills, accept payments and manage payroll. And that’s just the start. Here are some of the additional features.

Accepting payments

QuickBooks provides a free mobile card reader to create invoices and accept credit card payments with a mobile device like a smartphone. To do so, you register for a QuickBooks merchant service account and download the payment app. Although QuickBooks charges a fee for this convenience, this fee typically is lower than PayPal or Square. Plus, you get paid right at the job site.

“With the mobile reader, you can just grab their card and swipe it,” Martinson says. Instead of chasing down small invoices later, you’re paid immediately after finishing the job.

“It’s one less thing to worry about.”

With QuickBooks, customers can pay online with a credit card or eCheck. They can view the invoice, click and pay.

“It gives the customer the tools to make a payment straight away.”

Outstanding invoices

QuickBooks enables you to track specific details for each account to fit the type of transactions you make. With one of these trackable details, you can record who pays the bills.

With QuickBooks, you can see if a customer viewed the invoice and how often. If no one viewed the invoice, you might be sending it to the wrong email address. If someone viewed the invoice but you’re not getting paid, the problem isn’t on your end. You’ll just have to figure out a way to light a fire under them.

One technique is to set up a system of email reminders. You choose when to send an email reminder — after 15 days, 30, 60, depending on your net terms. QuickBooks automatically sends a notice.

“It’s handy if you’re out and about in the field and don’t have the time to think about it,” Martinson says.

Speaking of payments, QuickBooks enables you to track the history of invoices/accounts receivable. At a glance, the A/R Aging Summary report shows invoices that are 30, 60 or 90 days old. You’ll know who owes you money, how much and how long the payment is overdue.

Customize settings

A fast way to categorize expenditures is to create custom settings. With memorized reports, QuickBooks will remember the category you set when you re-enter the expense in the future. You complete the customization process once, and it’s filed away for the next time you input similar data.

For example, if you treat your team to lunch at Pepe’s Pizza Palace, you can categorize your credit card purchase under food and entertainment. The next time you spring for lunch at Pepe’s, QuickBooks will remember it. You’ll simply need to review the credit card statement and click Accept. If an entire list of expenses all belong in the same category, select Click All and you’re done.

Reconciling the books

You can set up your books so multiple accounts automatically feed into QuickBooks. A savings account, checking account and line of credit all can be connected. With a few clicks, all of your accounts update to current balances and show the most recent transactions. Reconciling the books is much easier when you can see all of your accounts.


QuickBooks enables you to create custom reports to evaluate key financial benchmarks. To do so, select a period, like a month, quarter or year, and compare it with the matching time period from the past. This way, you can track what’s changed.

For example, if your receivables are significantly lower, try to determine the cause. Are you behind on billing for the period? Did you lose a primary customer or experience weather delays? You won’t necessarily know these things unless you have a report system in place.


Payroll can be complicated, even when using sophisticated software like QuickBooks.

“The most important thing is to get it set up right,” Martinson says.

Unless you have an in-house human resources staff, you might want to seek expert help from a credible bookkeeping firm because of the many details and deadlines. Mistakes, incomplete records or late reports can lead to costly penalties issued by state tax authorities or the IRS.

However, if you have a good handle on payroll, you can use QuickBooks to schedule automatic, direct-deposit payments to employees. Additionally, you can manage employee information, including tax ID numbers and benefits. Once you set up the system properly, QuickBooks can calculate payroll taxes and process and send quarterly and annual tax reports.

On a side note, QuickBooks partners, like TSheets, offer digital time sheets and other features to track employee hours.

Pay bills

If you set up a merchant account, you can pay your bills with eChecks through QuickBooks. The payments funnel through your bank account. As an alternative, you can write a paper check and enter the payment information into the computer.

“As long as you’re putting everything into the system and balancing out at month’s end, you’ll have a good idea of where your business stacks up,” Martinson says.

Track jobs

For job costing, QuickBooks tracks labor, money in and out, and inventory for a specific job. All of this information funnels through to the job you’re tracking, so you can measure its profitability.

Keep it up

Just like the math class you took in high school, you need to keep up with QuickBooks to get the best results. For example, you need to assign each check you receive to an account. You specifically record which deposit goes with which invoice. You can’t just lump deposits together under sales. By keeping the accounts up to date, you won’t have the stress of recreating the past 12 months for year-end reports.

“If you’re not organized throughout the year and have to spend a week trying to organize everything for the year, it’s very stressful,” Martinson says. Plus, it takes time — time that you could have been making money or doing something you enjoy.

Get trained

To introduce users to QuickBooks, ProAdvisors like CM Business Services offer one-on-one training. In addition, QuickBooks tips are just a few clicks away. You can quickly search for information and find step-by-step instructions, tutorials and videos.

Automate your bookkeeping

QuickBooks allows you to accept payments, pay bills, manage payroll and much more. With custom reports, you can evaluate key financial benchmarks. If you don’t know where you’ve been and where you’re at financially, it’s hard to determine where you’re going and at what speed.

“It’s a great system for small-business owners,” Martinson says. 


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