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Periodic financial reporting - who to, how often and how?

A bit of a background. We're a privately held company with no outside board members or investors that require periodic reporting. We're also a small finance team of three, with limited resources, but we're now in tens of millions of dollars in revenue, so the financial reporting is becoming crucial in our decision making process. In the past, I used to have monthly meetings with the two most senior people in the Company where I would go over the monthly results, talk about forecasts, key financial decisions, etc. But over time other leadership in the company wanted to be included so the meeting grew to 14-16 people in the room, and given the size of this group, it's no longer as effective as it used to be, especially when it comes to having a discussion about issues. So the question is, as a CFO/Controller/VPofF team - how do you update the leadership in your company? How often do you meet and who's included in the meeting? Do you do a slidedeck that you present from or do you prepare a written report that gets distributed electronically? I'm looking for new ideas and methods as we strive to improve this process and any input is greatly appreciated.

Answers

Topic Expert
Charley Kyd
Title: Founder
Company: ExcelUser
(Founder, ExcelUser) |

I assume that Excel plays a key part of your professional tool set. So let me address your issues from that perspective...

I would NOT do a slide deck of your data. That adds to your work and offers no apparent benefits to your managers. Instead, print your reports from Excel, and add images of charts or small tables to slides only to illustrate text in your slides.

One-page, chart-rich reports (dashboards) at the company level and at the department level can quickly show the past trends and current status of key measures. These reports can quickly answer the question, "How'd we do?", which leaves more time to answer the question, "What're we gonna do about it?"

For updates and problem reporting, can you replace many of your meetings with one- or two-page written reports, perhaps illustrated with images of small charts and/or tables?

The advantages are that they take less time to create and read than holding meetings would; you can reference them as necessary in the future; and the reports give your managers time to think about issues prior to meetings held to discuss them.

The key disadvantage is that some managers won't read them.

Anonymous
(VP of Finance) |

Charley - thanks for suggestions. I have tried what you're describing and have found that preparing written reports was not beneficial for us. First, I'm not sure how many people have actually read them. Second, even if they did read the reports, I got no feedback or actionable items out of it. Third, with written reports I usually put way more information than I would put in the deck, but more information is not always better, especially with people who don't have a background in finance or data analysis.

Slide deck helped us focus on few of the key KPIs rather than present a big number of them.

Topic Expert
Charley Kyd
Title: Founder
Company: ExcelUser
(Founder, ExcelUser) |

Anonymous - The problem I've seen with slide decks is that they can turn into a standard delivery tool for Excel reporting...which can increase the Finance department's workload considerably, with no benefit to the managers. So guard against that risk.

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