Now is the time to create your company’s annual report (if you haven’t started already).
What is an Annual Report?
An annual report is a thorough report on a company’s activities during the preceding year. It includes information about the company’s accomplishments, developments, marketing efforts, sales, financial performance, strengths, weaknesses, growth, and more. It also analyzes trends and changes in the industry.
Why Create an Annual Report?
Annual reports are often used to communicate with shareholders, stakeholders, prospective clients, and the community about the company. They can be used to inform, persuade and influence.
Annual reports can help to do any of the following:
- Achieve accreditation
- Acquire future funding
- Form new partnerships
- Enhance public relations efforts
- Introduce a company to prospects
- Persuade and influence investors, donors, and supporters
- Support current funding
They can be used as marketing tools by highlighting a company’s many positive attributes, and generating ideas for marketing avenues.
Plus the process of creating an annual report, and later seeing it on paper, gives you an opportunity to really look at all areas of your business. It allows you to see the big picture as well as the many important details. Therefore, it is a great planning tool.
Who Needs Annual Reports?
Annual reports are staples for large corporations and nonprofit organizations; however, small and mid-sized businesses can benefit from producing them as well.
Again, for many of the reasons mentioned above, annual reports can be great communication, marketing, and planning tools.
What to Include in Your Annual Report
In preparing your annual report, it is important to stay focused on its purpose (which may be to inform, persuade, promote/market, influence, justify, etc.). It may have some, many, or all of these purposes.
Annual reports’ functions can be quite different from company to company, as well as for large corporations versus small or mid-sized businesses or nonprofit organizations. Knowing the purpose of your company’s annual report will help to determine what to include in it.
An annual report can highlight a company’s accomplishments, celebrate achievements, and recognize the contributions of key team members. It can pinpoint actions that require improvement, and serve as a guide for what to work on the next year.
While the contents of annual reports vary, most will include an executive summary, letter from the CEO/president/owner/director, marketing and sales information, financial statements, and lists of key players. They may also include any of the following:
- Chairman of the Board letter (regarding company developments, actions, goals that were and were not met, and industry trends and changes)
- Reports from the following: Chairman, CEO/President, CFO, Auditor
- Mission statement
- Financial statements: auditor’s report on the financial statements; balance sheet; statement of retained earnings; income statement; notes to financial statements; accounting policies; stock price (when relevant)
- Management analysis
- Sales and Marketing sections
- List of directors and officers
- Corporate profile
- Trends, developments and updates
- Strategies for future success
- Industry articles
Preparing Your Annual Report
Purpose: Determine and understand the purpose of your annual report. Decide what elements fit into that purpose, and which are not necessary. Always make sure to comply with regulatory requirements (if applicable).
Don’t procrastinate: Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on an annual report. It can be a very time-consuming process.
Who and when: Decide who will complete each section, and by when. Delegate tasks, if necessary. Make sure everyone involved is on the same page, and understands the purpose of the report. Create and meet timelines for having sections completed.
Put it together: Gather all needed information. Write summaries. Arrange the report in the appropriate format. Edit, edit, edit! Then, proofread some more! Decide on the appropriate layout and design for your report, whether you will have a graphic designer product it for you, if you will produce it in house, etc. Choose images and graphic components, make it cohesive with your brand, design and produce the report.
What to do with it: Once your annual report is completed, you will distribute it as necessary. In addition to giving copies of it to designated recipients, you might wish to also post it on your website. Also, be sure to refer to it as a guide for future planning (i.e., business improvement, marketing strategy, sales ideas, etc.).
Next steps: Finally, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to immediately start planning ahead for next year’s annual report. Ideally, annual report planning and compilation takes place all year. You can do this by keeping a file, and making and keeping notes for various sections.
One last note: Smaller and mid-sized businesses might wish to create a mini annual report – one that doesn’t need all of the components of a larger one. It makes for a great marketing tool to include on your website, in sales/marketing materials, in your press kit, and in new client packets.