Cash Flow in Quickbooks: Measuring and managing it for your business
It doesn’t take much time running any type of business to figure out the importance of cash flow for your company’s financial health. Even if you’ve invoiced customers, it’ll often take them 30, 60, 90 or even more days to pay in some cases. To figure out your cash position in popular accounting software QuickBooks Online, there’s a handy cash flow report called the Statement of Cash Flow that will show you cash flow projections based on the cash coming in to your business and the cash going out in a period of time.
In this article we’ll take a deep dive into cash flow reporting and how you can best manage cash flow as a business owner to grow your company.
QuickBooks Tip: How to Run a Statement of Cash Flows in QuickBooks Online
The cash flow statement in QuickBooks Online is a fairly simple, yet powerful tool. Be sure that you’re using the accrual accounting method (instead of the cash basis accounting method) for the report to be available. Instructions for desktop versions may vary. Here’s how to do it:
1. Go to the Reports section
2. Search for Statement of Cash Flows in the search bar
3. Click Statement of Cash Flows
4. Click customize to change any settings as necessary, such as the date range
5. Click Run Report to see your cash balance
You’ll now have a clear cash flow statement so that you’ll know your actual cash position, complete with graphs for a visual representation. You can now plan for any shortfalls or rest easy knowing you have positive cash flow.
What is QuickBooks Cash Flow? An In-Depth Guide for Business Owners
The Cash Flow Center in QuickBooks Online gives you all the information you need to manage your business cash flow using your bank and QuickBooks activity. You can get cash flow projections for cash inflows and cash outflows for 30 days or 90 days into the future. It also syncs all of your bank accounts, automatically updating with your bank balance. This eliminates the need for manual tracking with spreadsheets, saving you time. (Because you need every minute you can save as a busy business owner!)
The State of Cash Flow for Small Businesses
Cash flow can be difficult to manage for small businesses, especially if they lack cash reserves and their customers demand invoice payment terms that are months long. Day-to-day accounts payable and operating expenses still have to be paid – like payroll, supplier payments, marketing expenses, and small business taxes – but cash often doesn’t come in quickly after work is done. This often leaves small business owners with negative cash flow.
Additionally, cash flow management can be difficult for small business owners that are quickly growing. Not only do you have to pay daily business expenses in this scenario; you also have to have cash upfront to buy supplies, hire contractors, and take care of any other expenses for taking on large projects or more customers.
Consequently, many small business owners look for ways to get positive cash flow by improving their current cash flow. Because banks often aren’t interested in extending a line of credit to a small company with a short (or non-existent) credit history, they have to get creative. This can include:
- Asking for loans from friends and family
- Charging expenses to business credit cards
- Exploring alternative finance options like peer-to-peer lending and merchant cash advances
- Using invoice factoring to pay for expenses and growth with cash they’ve already earned
Invoice factoring is a financial tool where a business owner sells invoices to a factoring company. The business owner receives cash for the invoice amount, usually less fees, ahead of the payment terms. The business owner’s customer, who is responsible for paying the invoice, instead pays the invoice amount to the factoring company according to the original payment terms. (It’s important to note that this is different from invoice financing, where a factoring company still gives a business owner cash for their invoice, but the business owner pays back the invoice amount themselves, plus a fee.)
See our blog on the definition of invoice factoring for more information about it and how it helps businesses like yours grow and improve future cash flow by avoiding potential cash flow problems.
Why the Statement of Cash Flows Is Important
You can only make informed decisions with confidence for your business if you know where you stand financially. The cash flow statement report gives you that information by revealing your actual cash flow and sources of revenue. By seeing cash inflows and outflows that have already happened for a given time period (i.e., on a quarterly or monthly basis ) it’s easy to see how much cash you have on hand. Because QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner (and the statement of cash flow) predicts cash coming and going from your business, you’ll also be equipped to undertake more financing activities if you don’t have cash reserves and negative cash flow is on the horizon.
Use financial reports to see how much you've made
There are two columns in the Cash Flow Forecast that show how much you’ve made. The Accounts Receivable column includes the customer payments you’re supposed to receive based on the payment terms you’ve logged for each transaction. The Net Inflows column projects the cash inflow for each week based on data from the Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and Bank Accounts columns of the report.
The cash flow statement isn’t the only financial statement that can help show how much you’ve made. Also look at your:
- Balance sheet
- Income statement
- Quarterly and monthly expenses
Identify your top selling items
Additional reports are available that could shed light on how to improve your cash flow in QuickBooks. If you navigate to Reports > Standard > Sales and customers you can see two reports that will help you identify your top selling products or services. Sales by product or service summary shows the total sales for each product or service. Sales by product or service detail shows sale transactions by product or service.
See which customers have upcoming and overdue invoices
Keeping an eye on accounts receivable outside of the cash flow statement will help you manage cash flow and make sound business decisions; one way to do that is to see invoices that are coming up or are past due so you can follow up on the late payments. To do this choose Reports > Transaction List by Date > Customize > Choose range for payment dates > Check Transaction Type > Select Invoice > Check A/R paid > Unpaid.
See which bills you need to pay
It’s easy to see your bills and manage them in QuickBooks. Simply go to Expenses > Vendors. At the top, you’ll see a bar showing amounts for Overdue, Open Bills, and Paid. To pay a bill, select New in the upper left-hand corner and Pay Bills. To pay bills online, check the box next to each bill you want to pay, then click Schedule Payments Online. Choose either your bank account (or account with other financial institutions), debit card, or credit card. Then choose how your vendor will receive payment (you can pay by check even if you pay online). Finally, schedule your payment dates.
See where you can cut business spending
One of the key components for avoiding negative cash flow is keeping your expenses in check. You can do this by viewing the Profit and Loss report. Click Reports in the left-hand menu, and choose Profit and Loss from the Favorites section at the top. From here, you’ll be able to see all your expenses broken down into different categories, such as advertising, materials, and insurance. (The report pulls this info together from all the transactions you’ve either entered manually or have been downloaded from your synced business bank account or credit card.) You can then consider each of these areas, your highest cost centers, and where you could cut save additional cash.
See your top vendors by expense
Another way to view expense data, and get a clear idea of your operating activity, is by seeing which vendors you’re spending the most money on. Go to the Reports menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Search Transaction list by Vendor in the search bar. In the Report Period Field, select the date. Then click Run Report. You can then click into every individual line item to see more details about how much money you’ve spent with a given vendor and for what products and services.