Small Business Guides
What business reporting can tell you
7 min read
Reporting can help business owners identify problems, find opportunities and adapt to market conditions. We spoke to WorkflowMax, a job management software company, to find out how business reporting can work for your business.
Business reporting gives you insight
The day-to-day running of any business is time consuming. It leaves owners with little free time to step back and see the bigger picture.
This is a problem. When you're focused on the daily issues, it's hard to get a good feel for where your business is going. As a result:
- Small problems can escalate if they aren't caught quickly.
- Opportunities are missed if there's no time to look at them.
- Changing market conditions can catch you unawares if you aren't prepared.
Chirag Ahuja, Marketing Manager at WorkflowMax, says business reporting can give you fast, accurate insight into your business. It helps you spot problems quickly, find opportunities and adapt to changes in your market.
Let your data work for you
Your business generates lots of data. Every sale, every purchase and every transaction creates data. Business reporting helps you use this data intelligently.
Reports based on your data can tell you where your business is now – and where it's going. Cloud-based reporting software is especially powerful. It can connect to your online accounting software and extract all the useful data.
Some businesses only generate reports once a year – for their financial records. Yet good reporting software will give you accurate reports all year round.
This is ideal if you're planning a big investment and want to apply for funding. But there's much more to business reporting than that.
10 things business reports can tell you
Cloud-based business reporting software can tell you many things about your business. Here are 10 of them.
- Identify your key staff members
Find out how much revenue you make from each employee. This will help you identify your most profitable staff members. It will also help you decide whether some team members need extra training.
- Identify your most profitable products or services
Margins for products and services vary greatly. It's not always easy to see which ones are the biggest. Reporting software will help you take all factors into account.
- Identify late payers
A simple report can show you all outstanding payments. And it will show you client details, so you can quickly chase late payers.
- Improve your cashflow
See which jobs are ready for billing – so you don't waste time waiting to invoice. You can also find out the net profitability for each job.
- Filter clients by different criteria
Sort by region, job type, company size, field of operation – even the CEO's favourite football team! Use this information to improve your advertising and marketing campaigns.
- See your work-in-progress
By looking at what you're working on now, you can plan for the future. Then you can take on the right amount of work – not too little, not too much.
- Track your sales trends
Sales will vary over the weeks and months – sometimes up, sometimes down. Does this variation stay the same from one year to the next? If so, you may be able to adjust your marketing and staffing budgets accordingly.
- Understand how your employees work
Analyse your team's day-to-day work travel. This can tell you how much time they spend in the field instead of the office. The results might mean you need to spend more money on mobile tools, less on desktop computers.
- Learn about staff habits and patterns
Timesheets will tell you whether some staff are working more hours than others. Who takes the least amount of time to finish certain types of job? This data can improve efficiency by helping you give your staff better training.
- Create custom reports
With the right report, you can mine your business data for almost any information you can imagine. Compare different years, jobs, staff, clients, job types and much more. As long as your data is accurate and accessible, reporting opens up a whole world of information.
Business reporting the easy way
Reports are all about data. Without accurate data, there's no way to produce accurate reports.
Business data used to be hard to process. It was often stored in paper files, spreadsheets and documents in various file formats. Manual admin and recording systems made this even more complicated.
So it's not surprising that few companies were able to generate useful reports. And those that did often had dedicated members of staff doing the work.
But times are changing. Almost any business application you need is now available in the cloud. That means it's online, so you can access it from anywhere and at any time – using a tablet, laptop or smartphone.
So a lot of your business data can now be stored online. This makes reporting much easier. Cloud-based business reporting applications can process your data quickly and accurately. And you don't need to employ a specialist to do it.
Find the best reporting software
There are lots of business reporting tools available. How do you find the one that's best for you? Here are three main points to look out for:
- Ease of use
If it isn't easy to use, you probably won't use it! Reporting software should be simple and straightforward, giving you the information you need quickly.
Reporting software needs to connect to as many of your business applications as possible. That means it should be compatible with your accounting, inventory management and POS software. The more data you can 'feed' it, the more accurate the reports will be.
Do you want a detailed report or an overview? Do you want to process sales by month or by customer? Or by month and by customer? Good reporting software will be flexible enough to give you the reports you want.
10 ways to use business reports
Once you have accurate reports, you'll be able to improve your business in all sorts of ways. Here are 10 ideas.
With accurate costs you can create an accurate budget. That means you won't over spend or under spend in important areas.
Once you've identified your biggest selling products or services, you can act on that knowledge. Optimise your lineup to get the best revenue.
Which markets and areas of operation are best for you? Find out where your most profitable clients are based, then improve your marketing in those areas.
Identify your best workers, improve training plans and set some realistic goals for the future.
- Client engagement
Generate reports of jobs completed for a client, or number of hours worked. Use these reports at client meetings to enhance your business relationship.
- Invoice chasing
Accurate reports showing invoice ageing will help you keep on top of late-paying clients. This is a good way to get your money faster.
- Finding patterns
Compare jobs and clients on a monthly and yearly basis. This will help you identify busy times and quiet times, so you can budget for them.
- Managing stock
Once you know how product sales vary on a seasonal basis, you can improve inventory management so you never buy too little – or too much.
- Applying for funding
Accurate financial reports are more likely to convince a bank or other lender to invest in your business.
- Seeing the big picture
You can find out which jobs are in progress, and at what stage, at any time. This enables you to stay on track. It lets you see what's really happening in your business.
Reports help you run your business intelligently
Every business owner wants to run their business as efficiently and successfully as possible. Business reporting helps you do that, by turning your data into valuable information.
It used to be difficult to produce useful, accurate reports. But with the online tools available today, it's much easier. You can create valuable reports based on your company's data – in just a few minutes.
Nobody can predict the future. But with accurate reporting, you can see the status of your business at a glance, and compare it with previous years. That will help you prepare for whatever lies ahead.