Create Reports that are Understood and Appreciated
This article could also be titled “Accomplish the seemingly impossible.” Seriously though, as an advisor, you honestly want your clients too truly understand where they stand financially. That’s why you do what you do each day! You must find the best way to create and convey the financial story of the business to the owner, CFO, or whoever you send the data too.
Let’s go over a few common places in the reporting process, where our practices could be refined to create more success. There are several different opportunities along the way to get those reports read, understood, and even appreciated by your clients.
When and how are reports sent out?
When sending reports out, scheduling is vital. Sending out reports in randoms intervals with no rhyme or reason can be problematic. It creates a situation where ignoring or just missing the report is a higher probability, which in turn leads to possibly more significant problems. When people know and are expecting their report in their inbox on the 10th of each month or the first Monday of the new quarter, it will become a habit to look for it. They can create time in their day to take a look at it, study it, and use the information contained inside. Being consistent is the key when it comes to sending out reports.
How reports are sent is just as vital as when reports are sent. Be consistent. Discover how they want it delivered; everyone’s a little different and works in their way. Putting a paper copy on someone’s desk that works remotely three days a week, well, we can all see why this could be a problem. This correction can make the difference between a report that hits or misses the mark.
There are many options; one will certainly work for each person, email, paper copy, fax (well, let’s hope not by fax!) or through a link. Reach reporting has a fantastic feature, Publish. It makes the delivery of reports as easy as a few mouse clicks. Once created, simply send your recipients a link via email. No attachments, no printers, no fax machines 🙂 The link quickly takes them to the report online. Extremely convenient for you and even more suitable for the reader. BOOM. Problem solved, report opened. A financial story created.
Reports are not being read, scrutinized, or studied.
Getting any needed feedback is the next step after sending the reports out. Are they even being opened? If so, is it just a glance and assume the information is correct? Train everyone who receives a report, to learn how to read it, and then what to do with the data.
- How to read it. Let’s start at the beginning (it’s a very good place to start). What do all those pretty charts and graphs mean? In Reach Reporting, adding descriptive text is easy and is an excellent way to add an explanation of what each table or graph means. It also is a place to explain how it affects the reader, their work, and their department. Don’t assume people already know. Also, be open to questions and take the time to answer them; it will save time in the long run.
- How to identify issues. A huge time-saver, in the long run, is teaching what to look for in reports and explaining how identifying problems. If no one knows about the wrong information, no one can fix it. For example, if a department’s accounts receivable is off 2-3% each month, that adds right up to 24-36% off a year. This example is an excellent example of a small problem going unnoticed for an extended period having BIG consequences.
- Who and how to respond with discrepancies. Set up a culture where identifying a problem is good! Asking questions is the best way to learn and get answers! Take it a step further by teaching how to identify a possible solution to the found problem. When you send out reports, always give an option for feedback. What is the best way to advise any discrepancies?
The most beautiful and accurate report is meaningless if no one takes a look at it; no one understands or has no avenue to discuss the data included. BOOM, reports understood.
Create and tell the financial story of your clients business
When creating a financial report, the old phrase “less is more” is exactly that, old. In the case of reporting, less information is not only not more but can lead to confusion, assumptions, and misunderstandings. When creating reports, simply giving numbers is not enough. As the advisor, telling the story of their business is your job. The tale of finances is laid out, ready to be understood once comparable data is added. Without it, you are requiring someone to go back, find past reports, and do the comparing themselves. Once comparative information is added, add the calculated difference between the data. Doing this is just continuing to add to the story you are telling. Plus then no one has to do the math 😉
Which one of these spreadsheets tells the story best? By far, the last one! It shows the past, the present, and what has changed between then and now. Just adding those two additional pieces of information, changes the story of the March 2019 numbers.
Do you want to take it one step further and show off? Take those differences and create percentages. Check out the example below.
Percentage breakdowns keep things in perspective and make the numbers more comfortable to read. BOOM, report better understood, client happier. A financial story created.
Make your report both informative and beautiful
Imagine your clients’ faces when they receive your report. It came promptly, with its gorgeous cover page, its colorful charts and graphs, and its detailed information with explanations to ensure complete understanding. They will be beyond impressed with your work. It will be impossible NOT to open the report because of it’s remarkable professionalism. You started telling them a story before they even open it! Reach Reporting has an entire design team to make this part easy peasy for you, the advisor. Just choose a theme and BOOM, a beautiful report, and your client appreciates your work.
Each of these practices, in time, will all but guarantee a better understanding by your clients. Also, they will make the accounting and finances in check, so there are no surprises when the end of the year arrives. When the reports do the job of absorbing the complexity of business finances, the advisor becomes invaluable to your client.