Business Development

Can anything be more important than Reporting?

Well not really, as no company would get very far if it didn’t report PAYE, VAT or year end accounts. But what about where it’s not compulsory, such as management accounts? Judging by the absence of such from most businesses it looks like they don’t matter. This is a pity because if you can measure it you can improve it, assuming you want to?

"We have been working with BookCheck since 2019 and there were two keys reasons for Young Bristol making the move; namely their professionalism and their Advanced Reporting system. The quality, detail and flexibility of their system allowed us to customise the reports to meet our ever changing business needs. The clarity of the reports now ensures I can robustly and confidently report on the charity's finances to the Trustee Board as well as potential funders." Lee Williams, CEO, Young Bristol.

Just about all of our clients have monthly, a few quarterly, management accounts. Before the days of Xero we searched for a method of linking Sage to Excel, rather than ODBC links which are tricky or keying data which is time consuming and risks errors. We wanted a template that we could run automatically to produce a smashing looking report in Excel. It took us a full 10 years of false trails when in 2010 we discovered the software solution. It was a huge breakthrough at the time and we called it BAR - BookCheck Advanced Reporting. 

Since then BAR has been our tried and tested brilliant method of producing 100% tailored accounts – to specific client requirements. They’re all different. Some are 4 pages, others are 40. Some are split 20 ways by P&L. Some have graphs and bar charts. When the reporting is client designed the magic is that there is a much greater likelihood that the information will be understood and therefore used. That’s rather important.

Then along came Xero. At first we used the same software and it sort of worked, however we had technical issues like the slowness of data transfer and some data not being available for reporting. It was too imperfect so we looked once again for specific software to help. It was another long journey. After 2 years we found a good solution, we migrated, learned and trained. We converted reports and settled down. But then, guess what? The software company was bought by a huge business which decided to close down our tool. Once again we started a search and once again we’ve found an excellent solution. It’s not easy to use for most folk but we had the skills to master it and it’s really powerful.

This may not sound that impressive but what we’ve developed is literally world leading in the methodology. Many finance departments produce in Excel but not in the secure, automated way that we report, which saves time and minimises data errors. So we’re pretty proud of our achievement which under the bonnet is almost unknown to our clients in how we do it – it’s the results which score for them.

The moral of the story - first report and then do it the best way. By the way, just check first that the data is sound.

 

This entry was posted in Business Development, Management Accounts by Caroline

How does good quality Management Information (MI) aid decision making?

For an organisation that combines outsourced bookkeeping with management accounts, you would expect us to be “fans” of what good quality MI or what we would call management accounts, can do for a business. 
 
We have heard MI compared with the devices connected to a modern car being serviced – the type which gives the mechanic an immediate picture of a raft of key statistics. We are biased of course, but we believe that MI does more than that - it gives information that enables you to make decisions that you wouldn’t otherwise achieve. 
 
 
So how does it work?
 
MI is different for every business as each is unique. Different industries, routes to market, organisational structures, stage in the development of the business can all require different information. That being said, there are a number of measures that will exist in pretty much every MI, these are:
 
• A monthly profit and loss and balance sheet
• The gross margin percentage. This is the gross profit (sales less direct costs) divided by the sales value, excluding VAT
• Sales information, broken down by product/service and distribution channel, usually shown against target and in the context of the past year’s performance
• Detailed information about costs and overheads usually shown in the context of budgets
• Performance against a bespoke set of key performance indicators
 
What kind of decisions can this help you make?
 
 
Decisions that can enhance your profitability.
 
• Possibly for the first time you will have a true understanding of which products and services and routes to market are making you the most profit. On the back of this you are likely to change your business strategy to optimise your sales mix to generate the most profit. You might withdraw certain products or services or prioritise one route to market over another. 
 
• With products, services or distribution routes that are least profitable you can focus on costs in these areas, with the aim of reducing them and making them proportionate. A common issue for service related business is inadvertently over servicing, where you deliver a level of service that is not proportionate to the return that you make. Banks are a prime example of this whereas they now focus on customers serving themselves e.g. ATMs, online banking, online statements etc. You can even see the same dynamic with the likes of McDonalds and their large tablet like touch screens where you self order, cutting the number of staff required in the restaurant.
 
• Where the market will stand it, you can look to increase prices to bolster the worst performing products, services or distribution routes and improve the profitability of everything else. 
 
 
Smarter operational decisions
 
 
• Sales Managers or Directors love the information because it allows them to structure sales incentive schemes that are proportionate and drive the behaviours that bring the best possible business mix from a profit perspective. Gone are the days when hitting the target is enough, they can now hit the target with the most profitable products.
 
• Marketing Managers or Directors who can find themselves under increasing pressure to demonstrate return on investment and justify budgets, can direct their marketing to focus on generating leads for the most profitable products, services or distribution routes.
 
• Procurement Managers love the information as it can help enable them to manage stock levels smarter and reduce the possibility of getting stuck with stocks of unprofitable products.
 
• Finance Managers/Directors and MDs love the information for lots of reasons, but one of the most important, perhaps only behind understanding profitability and managing cashflow, is visibility of debtor days. This visibility can help allocate appropriate resource to following up outstanding amounts, reviews of payment terms and even ceasing doing business with particular customers if they cannot be persuaded to change their behaviours.
 
• All of this highlights the importance of ensuring that the right people in your business receive the precious MI. We feel it also justifies one of our favourite phrases – “Measure what you want to Improve”.
 
• IT Managers or Directors love this kind of information as it gives them a basis to prioritise their long “to do” lists for development. 
 
 
If this has sparked your interest and you would like information of this kind that could enhance your business then maybe we should talk?