Access to data in today’s environment is becoming increasingly easier, but now we are faced with the task of sifting out the information that is crucial to the development of our business. Just because we can access a report doesn’t mean that it will ultimately give us the information needed to effectively lead our business and team to reach the goals we have set. In today’s episode of the Cultivating Business Growth Podcast, we are talking about effective reporting for business owners. Your friendly neighborhood virtual CFO sits down to give you the tips you need to find the right information at the right time.
What we cover in this episode:
- 02:39 – What reports should I be analyzing?
- 06:12 – Company snapshot
- 14:15 – Examples: Reports and frequency
- 19:11 – Ensuring accuracy through processes
- 19:49 – Industry reports and comparing to industry standards
- 23:21 – Consistency is key
- 25:46 – Establishing accountability
What reports should I be analyzing?
The short answer is, it depends. It comes down to focusing on what reports give you the data you need to press into your goals. There are an endless amount of accounting reports available to you as a business owner – cash flow reports, accounts receivable aging reports, your standard P&L (profit and loss) and balance sheet, and the list goes on and on. To determine what reports provide beneficial information for you, start by looking specifically at your business. In order to avoid the overwhelm that can come with looking at all available information, focus on priorities in your business.
To get the information you actually need, we recommend first thinking about your business triggers and pain points. Is cash flow a common area of concern? Are you finding yourself tapping into a line of credit and then paying it back? When you think of accounts receivable (AR), do you immediately get a headache? What are the uphill battles you face? Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what reports you need most. Now, this isn’t to say you can completely ignore everything else, but a cursory look at numbers will help you identify that they are remaining on track. For example, if your AR isn’t a pain point, you don’t need to dig into it. You should still take time every week to look at the receivable reports but there’s no need to analyze this further.
Next, look at what motivates you. If you are someone driven by goals, you’ll need to pull reports that show you if you’re hitting the mark. You may need to enlist the help of your advisory team to talk through the metrics you’d like to measure and a certain timeline in order to achieve your long-term goals. Once you’ve gone through all of this, think outside of the box and identify any other information you want to know.
At PJS & Co. CPAs, we have compiled a custom report that we review weekly in what is called a company snapshot, or company scorecard. We have boiled down the items that matter most to our business and our goals so that we can discuss them amongst our leadership team and ensure we are on track or taking action to fix areas that can improve.
What’s included in a company snapshot report?
This report can highlight things like how many business leads we have in the pipeline, how many accounts receivable we have outstanding, how many accounts receivable are outside of 30 days overdue. Other things you could consider including in a snapshot are revenue, expenses, and debt. If your goal is to grow your business, you’ll want to see your revenue increase week over week and compare that to the goals you’ve established. If needed, shift things around. For your expenses, you may want to see how they are moving. Seeing the principal amount of debt regularly can keep you aware. In a nutshell, a report like this gives you a snapshot of line items where you can see how you are trending. In order to determine what all is in your snapshot, you need to know what you need to know.
How to create a company snapshot report
Although typical accounting reports are good, you should get a snapshot set up as a custom report. This report should be very focused and specific to your business and strategic goals. The person to set this up should be someone who’s experienced and involved in your business strategy and overall goals of your business. This person can work together with you, like an advisor, to help you put together the customized business snapshot that includes all of the appropriate data points. This will allow you to measure progress to see if you are achieving your goals. Want to talk about how to do this? Reach out to us.
Examples: Reports and frequency
As virtual CFOs and experts in providing business growth guidance, PJS & Co. CPAs has helped a variety of businesses approach, and establish, effective reporting. There isn’t a one-size fits all solution when it comes to reporting for businesses. That’s why we help businesses figure out the frequency, consistency, and timing for their reports.
In our experience, we don’t often advise pulling daily reports. However, you may need to do so depending on the type of business you run. Our advice is, know your business and your needs. If you are a transactional business, like a retail store, paying attention to daily revenue is important. In retail, daily revenue is a key indicator for trends, identifying the best sales day during the week, and taking that information to then build upon it. For our CPA business, and many other service-based businesses, daily reports are not as intuitive as they would be for someone in a transactional business.
Keep in mind, the more you touch data, the more work it creates, which will increase costs. If cash flow is an issue, you may want to look at a cash flow report daily in order to really understand the fluctuation and where the cash is going. Once you become more knowledgeable about your cash flow situation, you can switch the reporting to weekly. Understanding cash flow movement and getting that under control will help you much more than feeling the need to run daily reports. Essentially, let your reports change with how your business changes. The needs upfront aren’t the needs that you might need a few months from now.
A common theme in this episode is to focus on your business, specifically. Your weekly reports will be highly focused on your business, the challenges you face and the goals you have set in your strategic plan. We highly recommend pulling the typical reports, like Accounts Receivable aging, keeping an eye on cash flow, sales reports, etc. You may see a benefit in creating a custom company snapshot (company scorecard), discussed earlier. If you need help analyzing
Typically, monthly reports include your balance sheet and P&L (profit and loss) statement, budget, cash flow, and industry benchmarking to name a few. Monthly reports are great tools for identifying trends. Monthly reports and comparisons will help you understand and analyze seasonality and recognize more challenges and opportunities within your business. It is essential for your business that you are able to identify and expand on what you’re doing well and continue to innovate.
Ensuring accuracy through processes
Having a solid accounting process is critical because in order for the reports to accurately reflect where your business stands, you must have some way to know that the books are closed out for the month and all work is done prior to pulling reports. If you’re pulling reports without the knowledge that the information is complete and accurate, your information will be useless. Someone, or a team of people, should be tasked with completing all necessary reconciliations, ensuring checks and balances are complete, and knowing the timing and type of reports needed. Whoever holds this job has to be accountable and be involved in the entire process. This can be a CPA, CFO, or even a higher level accountant. Regardless of who holds this responsibility, their skillset needs to be primarily understanding analytics and reporting needs. Identify a specific date on your calendar each month that your books are closed and have a designated time for reports.
Industry reports and comparing to industry standards
As a business owner, it’s normal to feel like you should be looking at everything in your business. That’s not always the case though. Some reports are important, but don’t need to be reviewed as frequently as others. The numbers you need to review directly play into your business goals and what you are trying to achieve. At PJS & Co. CPAs, we don’t have a collections problem or an AR aging problem. So, on our snapshot we look at our full balance and then, if needed, we dive in and ask questions. There may be things you need to monitor weekly, but then really dive into it monthly. The decisions regarding what level of analysis needed should be made with your accountant.
When doing industry comparison, it is also important to understand the similarities and differences of your business compared to the industry. For example, as a virtual CFO and virtual CPA firm, we can’t look at our industry averages and expect our business model to match others. We don’t have a building. We all work from home and we don’t have the overhead of rent, utilities, and phone systems other CPA firms have. We had to identify how we are different from industry norms from an accounting firm perspective. We match up similarly to accounting firms in regards to paying our team, software costs, etc.
You may have an idea of what industry information you need to obtain like net profit margin and sales growth per year, in order to determine how you compare. However, many times we suggest tapping into a virtual CFO, advisor, or other specialist. An expert in this area can help you decide what industry reports and averages need to be pulled, and work with you to analyze and improve if needed.
Consistency is key
Once you establish the reports you need, the work isn’t done. You actually have to review them! Consistently obtaining your reports, reviewing them, and using that information plays directly into the overall strategic plan of your business. Establish a process to run reports, review them, and compare them with trends in your strategic business plan. If you pull them once, understand where you are and what is needed, but then never check in again, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice. Inconsistency with reporting and analysis will hurt you in the long run when it comes to business strategy.
The reporting needs that you have from a leadership perspective, and how you use them to lead your business into its next phases, are really important. With something that important, it always helps to have someone else take a look at the data. A second set of eyes can spot something you missed and sometimes they can even point out something good that happened when all you can see is bad. Advisors can bring confidence to areas where it is lacking.
A virtual CFO, business advisor, or CPA can benefit you and your business by providing ongoing monitoring of your reports. They can hold you accountable by making sure you review your reports, understand them, and make changes if necessary. Not only that, but they can be the ones who push and encourage you. We understand some people need a little nudge, positivity, and accountability with their business, not someone dictating how to run their business. A virtual CFO can be that person! We’ve seen business owners try to tackle everything themselves, from start to finish. It can be done, but it’s extremely taxing and can easily lead to burn out. Instead, invest in a virtual CFO who can encourage you and remind you that there is someone else taking on some of the burden.
Find a virtual CFO that works for you; the one who helps you understand your business and the one who knows how to push it forward based on your needs and your goals. We’d love to hear from you and offer a free consultation. Reach out if you’d like to discuss your business and how working with a virtual CFO could help you.
Today was all about being effective in reporting! We talked about reports, how they can benefit your business, and how to identify what reports you actually need to review and how often. We discussed how we can best use the data and information provided in your reports to not only see how successful your business is running compared to your goals, but also how to use the data from your reports to see how you measure up to industry standards and trends. We shared with you some of the ways we, as virtual CFOs, provide service to our clients as advisors and wrapped up by talking about the benefits of a virtual CFO partnership. We absolutely love what we do because we find joy in seeing our clients succeed.