A question I often get asked from my business owner clients is "what reports should I be asking for so that I can keep my finger on the pulse on my business".
Now this does differ slightly from business to business. For example, if you are a retail shop, then you're going to automatically have daily figures available to you as part of your normal process. However most businesses should be asking for weekly, monthly and quarterly reports.
WHY I NEED TO READ REPORTS!
Before I go through the reports in detail, I know that a lot of people do not like looking at the figures in their business. And usually this is because they do not know what it is that they're looking for. So usually then their accountant or bookkeeper (or receptionist!) Gives them a monthly report, they glance at while holding their breath, and then either breathe a sigh of relief if it shows a profit, or they grimace and swear when it shows a loss . But usually by the time they've got this report, it's already too late. The financial status of your business should be at the forefront of your mind every day- not something that you look at once or twice a year when you run out of cash.
The first thing to decide is how frequently you need to see reports. I suggest a minimum of monthly, if not weekly. This can sometimes depend on whether you have a full time accounts person, or whether they only come in once a month.
TOP TIP: DO A YEAR END EACH MONTH
To help you know what's going on in your business, one of the first things to implement into your business is a culture of having a year end every month. By that I mean … you want to ensure that every revenue figure and expense if recorded according to the month that it's incurred. If you insist on this type of culture, you will start to receive accurate figures. So think end of year each month and close off all financial data for each month. That way you know that your reports fully reflect the state of your business and you get accurate profit and loss reporting and it can help you to identify trends in your cash flow.
With regards to reporting, if you have a full time person looking after your reports, you should be having a weekly meeting with them to review reports. To make this process easy for you, refer to the 'Essential Financial Management Templates' workbook which you can purchase from our website. This workbook has a standard financial meeting agenda that will help you to guide your meeting so that it's both effective and efficient.
When you are meeting with your accounts person, you want to ensure that you have all the reports up front -before your meeting – so that you have time to go through them and highlight any discrepancies that you can then address during the meeting.
YOUR WEEKLY REPORT PACK
So what information do you need to know if your business is doing well or not? Well your weekly report pack should consist of the following five reports (by the way, a sample copy of each of these reports is also included in the workbook that I mentioned before):
1) A Profit and Loss – this should be provided weekly (if you're meeting weekly) as well as a Month to Date and a Year to Date report. So that's actually three reports in total!
2) From there, you would request a copy of your Aged Payables. This report shows a list of all the people that you owe money to, and when it's due – or if its overdue. If there are any amounts that exceed your suppliers trading terms, you want to know why. If it's because of cash flow, you then look at your cash flow analysis report to see when they will be paid. To maintain a great relationship with your supplier, you then need to communicate this with them.
3) Another essential report is your Aged Receivables. This is where you can clearly see who owes you money and if they have any amounts outstanding to you. This allows you to follow up on collections way before it becomes overdue. As part of your financial management systems, you should have a standard follow up system. For example – if a client has exceeded their trading terms by 7 days, what happens – do you follow up with a quick phone call to check that they've received the invoice. If its 14 days – what happens – and so on.
If you refer to the 'Essential Financial Management Templates' workbook that I mentioned before, there's also a list of demand letters designed to help you when you need to be a little more serious about collecting. But once again, Aged Receivables is essential because you need to see when your money is coming in – so that you can pay your suppliers and employees their wages without having to dip into your own personal cash reserves.
4) This brings me to the next report – a Cash flow analysis. This report should be put together by your bookkeeper and outlines when money is coming in and when it is going out. You can then see if there are any shortfalls so that you can make plans in advance to get this covered. It may be that you need to transfer monies from another account – or it may be that you chase outstanding payments. What you do not want is to find out when you go to transfer the money is that there's nothing in the account!
Believe it or not, this is often the most under-utilized financial report – and yet it's the most important. You would not believe how many bookkeepers or accounts people do not do them either. It's not so much that it's difficult to produce, but it's a working document which means that it needs to be regularly updated. But persist with this one, even if your accounts people try a mini revolt over it, because it's a life saver for your business.
The 'Essential Financial Management Templates' workbook that I referred to previously that's found on our website contains a fantastic cash flow analysis report that will save you and your team a lot of time.
5) The other essential report to have is the Bank Reconciliation. If your bookkeeper is full time, then they can do this weekly by using the online reports from your bank. If its monthly, then they will need to wait for the bank statement to arrive from the bank before they can finalise. However, keep on top of them for this – this report shows that the necessary process has been done to ensure that the month end has been closed off and that the cash in bank and any other payments or receipts are accounted for. Basically a bank reconciliation is done so that its guaranteed that your amounts coming into and out of your bank account are accurately reflected in your accounting software package.
WORKING WITH YOUR ACCOUNTANT
I would also recommend requesting that your financial controller automatically sends a copy of your monthly reports to your accountant. This way your accountant can see where you're headed from month to month. Depending on the size of your business, you could then establish regular meetings with your accountant – whether it's monthly or quarterly – to discuss those reports and your financial plans for the coming month.
Once you are receiving these reports regularly, you will find that you become much more empowered in your business and your finger is never far from the pulse!