Try Seeing the Trees in the Middle of the Forest

I have found many businesses using only a fraction of the reports built-in their software. And when they do, the reports are produced with the default filters. If the reports are for your accountant only, then you are fine, but let’s get down to the information that is important to you and the way you run your business.

You need to custom fit your reports to your business. Typically, reports are generated from accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) software, but any database can produce some sort of reporting. There are two keys to a great report; 1. the right pieces of information and 2. how the information is filtered.

Start with the built-in reports. Take a good look at the information on the report, how it is set up, and what filters are available. A good example is an accounts receivable aging report (like all the accounting jargon?). This is a report that shows you which customers owe you money, how much, and how long they have owed it. The important information on this report includes the customer name, invoice number, invoice date, and invoice amount. On its own, this report is fine, it gives you a big picture (the forest) of money owed to your business.


Now, let’s put this in a simple scenario. You want to collect money that is past due.

Back to our two keys, information and filter. To utilize this report for collections you need the contact person and phone number, so you need to add information. You also need only the past due invoices, so you have to filter by invoices older than 30 days. These two quick changes created a customized report for collections (the trees).

Everyone still with me? Good.

Pick a database, any database…how about Outlook contacts. Yep, Outlook is a database too. If you assign categories to your contacts then you can simply choose the category option in the view feature to sort all your contacts by category – the filter. You can also move around the information as it is shown to create a customized view of the results.

How about another one…CRM. A quick salesperson report could consist of all completed phone calls for this week. The information would include the company, contact, date, notes, and duration of the call. The filter includes the salesperson and the date range.

Time to get a little tricky. Let’s dig deeper into some of these examples.

Back to the past due invoices. Maybe you only care about the ones that are over, say, $500. Collections is a time consuming part of business, so better to spend that time on as much money as possible. OR, maybe you know some of your clients and they always pay in 45 days, so there is no need to call them. You can filter those clients off the report.

And what about the salesperson’s week? Well, if you are pushing a new service, or a special promotion, or an end-of-life product, then filter the notes for specific words, to see how many calls were addressing these issues. AND, remove the filter of the specific salesperson and you will get all calls for the date range where the conversation included the key words you are looking for.

Time is money…

Take the time now to think about the information you need to get a better handle on your business; customers, vendors, products and services, cash flow, sales, sales efforts, marketing campaigns…ROI.

These important questions will cover all the bases in accounting, sales, and marketing…

Where is your money coming from? How and why?

Where is your money going? How and why?

The answers are not going to be found in the standard reports, you need to look at the details (the trees).

Good luck, and let me know about some of your creative reports and filters.

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