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Reporting the financials

Using a cloud-based accounting solution gives businesses access to key financial data, but data is only one part of an effective financial report. It is also important to present complex information in a format that is easy to understand, use visuals such as graphs and charts effectively, and structure persuasive arguments and conclusions.

Writing a financial report can be a time consuming process, demanding research and collaboration with colleagues. However, it is a key element in good decision making and a valuable document when seeking investment or a continuation of existing funding.

The three most common forms of financial report are:

  • Income statement
  • Cash flow
  • Balance sheet

Mind your language

Financial reports are not just a record of what has happened in the business – they can also be used to make predictions for the future and give the reader an insight into where the business wants to go.

Start with an outline of what you are going to include in the report and make sure there is agreement on the format before you start writing. Decide on style issues such as how dates are written and the use of hyphens and other punctuation and be consistent in their use.

Don’t be tempted to unleash your inner author here. If the reader thinks you are waffling they will either assume you are trying to deflect attention from the numbers or simply stop reading. Annual reports offer more scope for storytelling and we will discuss the mechanics of annual report writing in a future blog.

The right image

There are few things more likely to make you stop reading a document than large tables full of numbers and symbols. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a carefully constructed graph can distill a large amount of data into a format that is easy to understand.

Colour coding can be used to highlight important trends within financial data or draw attention to specific information. There are plenty of templates available online and it is worth choosing one and using it across all your reports.

It might be appropriate to use stock images to break up the text, but don’t get too funky with the layout. Anything that distracts the reader from the key information should be avoided and you don’t want to waste time and money on design that doesn’t make the report more readable.

State your case

The data available from a cloud based accounting package such as Big Red Cloud will form the backbone of your report, but these documents are about more than just numbers.

A good financial report will convey a message, so decide what that message is before you start. Don’t expect the first draft to be perfect – you need to allow time for additions and changes, but don’t get side-tracked by requests to include irrelevant details.

Finally, make sure you provide a strong summary. Not every reader will go through the whole document, so an accurate summary will give them the key information quickly.