It's hard to make finance interesting. Whether you're an accountant or not, long lists of numbers aren't most people's' idea of a good read. However, these are perhaps the most important part of running an effective business.
So how do you write a finance report that will engage the people it needs to, while also communicating all the information you need it to?
Here's six ways to write a finance report that rocks:
1. Use summaries to your advantage
Your finance report should include everything to facilitate decision-making at the very top end of the business. The information in the document will help determine the short and long-term goals of the company, as well as elements like shareholder values. To ensure you're communicating the most important parts of the finance report, summarize each section. This means people can not only easily navigate the document, but they can read as much or as little as they feel they need to know on each part.
2. Make comparisons
Decision makers will want to know how the latest information compares to the estimates that were in place, as well as the previous quarter or what the company recorded the same time last year. You should ensure you are clear and as transparent as possible, only interpreting data where you have the expertise to do so.
3. Include graphics for key takeaways
Using a lot of numbers can make anyone's head hurt so use simple graphics to communicate trends or stand-out statistics more effectively. You might want to stick to bar or line charts or use different colors to highlight the importance of certain numbers.
4. Bring it back to goals
Decision makers will want to know how the numbers you're showing them affect the overall business objectives. If you can match up the figures to the goals that they affect, you'll make your report much more accessible. It may also be prudent to highlight how the latest numbers could affect the long-term estimates related to company objectives.
5. Focus on quality
You want to prioritize the information you put into the document so don't be afraid to link to other reports so that people can do additional reading on the subject if they need to, but your main document shouldn’t be cluttered by irrelevant figures. It's important that all of the numbers can be viewed in perspective with the relevant time context given and other details that may affect the data's significance.
The report should be as jargon-free as possible. Use simple and straightforward language that everyone can understand. This also encourages you to be concise and present the most-important information with complete transparency.