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How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with External Stakeholders

How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with External Stakeholders

Presenting financial information in an easily digestible format is essential when communicating with external stakeholders such as lenders, investors, and other strategic partners. These communications are vital to the long-term success of a business; however, it can be a struggle for many small and mid-size businesses. To help, below are three keys to successfully communicating the financial state of your business with external stakeholders.

#1 Be Concise

The easier it is for an external stakeholder to interpret results, the easier it will be for the company to achieve its desires from that stakeholder.

  • Banks. If you’re seeking a line of credit from a bank, it is important to distill the financial results of the company into a simple format that shows them they should lend to you. They want to know you have the cash to pay your bills. They want to know you have proven you can collect from customers. They want to see profitability that is consistent and stable. If any of these things require explanation, provide it.
  • Investors. Investors want to understand why and how your business can generate a return for them and provide comfort that their capital is reasonably safe.
  • Strategic Partners. A key strategic partner will want an understanding that they can commit resources to work with you in a manner that will be fruitful.

These stakeholders do not want to weed through a book. Furthermore, simply exporting your income statement and balance sheet directly from your accounting software is not enough. Summary narratives, graphs, charts, and reports can be very effective as they will enable the stakeholder to better interpret the financials of the business, as opposed to allowing them to develop their own conclusions.

At the same time, you do not want to show too much or too little financial information. Voluminous information will likely go unread. While not providing enough information can result in the investor or lender making incorrect assumptions about the business. If more detail is sought, it can be provided.

By making it easier to understand your business on paper, you are far more likely to get the answer that you want.

Case Study: How we improved investor reporting for a biotech client to increase board meeting efficiency.

#2 Clearly State Objectives

What is the business is trying to accomplish with the external stakeholder? You will have a higher rate of success if you anticipate and address the stakeholder’s questions upfront.

For banks, you need to clearly communicate why the money is being sought from the bank. What are the uses of the funds? For example, oftentimes an expansion won’t just require capital to purchase equipment, but could also necessitate additional staff, office space, etc.

The same applies to investors. Can an investor interpret in a quick read the high-level goal(s) the business is trying to achieve? Also, what are the risks involved for the business?

It is also best to take objections off the table proactively. If new competition is coming to the market, what is your plan to combat it? If opening a new market, what makes you think you can be successful there? Laying out potential obstacles tells the stakeholder that you have thought about them and gives them confidence in your business.

#3 Be Honest and Direct

This can often be the toughest of all. No one likes to share bad news. Far too many businesses choose not to communicate at all when this happens; however, when things are not going as well as planned, this is perhaps the most important time to communicate with external stakeholders. Don’t hide a bad quarter; explain what happened and what you are doing about it. Again, this demonstrates that you have a handle on the business and that there is no cause for undue worry. Every business will experience some hard times, but having your key allies informed and confident in your abilities will greatly enhance your ability to weather the storm.

We Can Help

Presenting financial information in an easily digestible format is essential in communicating with external and internal stakeholders. If you’re seeking an increased line of credit, looking for potential investors or strategic partners, or want to improve your internal reporting to management and/or board members, Signature Analytics can help. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our CFOs.

How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with Internal Stakeholders

How to Effectively Communicate Your Company’s Financials with Internal Stakeholders

Clear, concise and regular reporting of financial information to all the internal stakeholders of your business is a vital, yet often overlooked, component of long-term business success. These internal stakeholders can include your management team and board of directors.

Financial Reports: The Roadmap to Reaching Your Destination

When taking a family road trip, one of the first things you do is use a map to layout the journey, locate markers along the way, identify where the destination is and how long it will take to get there. Clear, concise and timely reporting of usable financial information to internal stakeholders operates like a roadmap, but for your business for role clarity.

When putting together this “roadmap” for your business and communicating that information with internal stakeholders, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. It is essential to report information on key operating metrics and not only report on items that can be interpreted from the income statement. For example, the balance sheet and statement of cash flows can also provide important information to internal stakeholders, such as: How much cash is tied up in receivables? Have you taken on new debt? What about inventory?
  2. Ideally, your business should have some sort of stakeholder management dashboard that summarizes all these key internal and external metrics in one place. It should also include metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are unique to your business effort.
  3. Financial information and reports should not be viewed in isolation. Rather, the information should be compared to prior periods to understand influence trends.
  4. The owners of each metric should be able to explain the results that have occurred so internal stakeholders can understand what the results actually mean. Has inventory grown because of a new product line? Has cash increased because the company is now using a line of credit? Is employees utilization lower because the company is hiring in advance of customer growth?
  5. Communicating financial information in an organized and easy to understand method—such as using pictures and graphs instead of a list of numbers, and showing trends to help managers visualize projections—can help increase credibility with board individuals (internally or externally) and improve meeting productivity. Take a look at a recent case study.

The combination of all these will allow the CEO and other internal stakeholders to have greater confidence in their decision-making process and enable them to make those decisions based on dispassionate financial analysis rather than a “gut feeling”.

We Can Help

Presenting timely financial information in an easily digestible format is essential in communicating with internal stakeholders. If you need professional-looking reports prepared to increase your credibility and improve meeting productivity with internal stakeholders, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our CFOs.

What Fiat Can Teach Businesses About the Importance of Knowing Profit Margins

What Fiat Can Teach Businesses About the Importance of Knowing Profit Margins

“Don’t buy a Fiat 500e electric car” says the company’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne. According to Mr. Marchionne, it has nothing to do with the quality and price of the car, but rather the cost associated with producing the car – specifically the battery – and its impact on the product’s profit margin. The chief executive admitted at a recent appearance, “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000.”

As a business owner, it is easy to see if you are profitable, just take a look at your company’s net income; however, that number alone does not provide a complete picture. Fiat is a perfect example. Overall, the company is profitable; however, when you look at the profit margins for their individual products, they are actually losing money on one of their product offerings.

For a more accurate measure of how your company is doing, it is imperative to calculate your profit margins by product line.

Calculating Profit Margins

Profit margin is an accounting measure designed to calculate your profit as a percentage of sales. It can be used to evaluate your business as a whole or for each individual product line.

Why is this useful? The two main reasons are 1) to compare your profit margins on a monthly and/or yearly basis and 2) to establish your position against other companies in your industry.

To calculate gross profit margin, divide your gross profit, which is sales minus cost of goods sold, by sales.

Gross Profit Margin = Gross Profit (Sales – COGS) / Sales

Analyzing Profit Margins by Product Line to Increase Profitability

Let’s assume your company has $10,000 in sales for the month and your gross profit for that same month is $5,000. That would mean your company’s gross profit margin is 50%.

Some business owners may see these numbers and think “we’re doing great” and they might be; however, by taking a closer look at the company’s profit margins by individual product line, they may be able to identify opportunities to increase profitability even more.

Using the same example above, let’s assume that Product A generated $7,000 in sales for the month and had a gross profit of $3,000. Product B generated $3,000 in sales and had a gross profit of $2,000. In this example, the gross profit margin for Product A would be 42.9% and for Product B would be 66.7%.

Product A:
$3,000 Gross Profit / $7,000 Sales = 42.9% Gross Profit Margin

 

Product B:
$2,000 Gross Profit / $3,000 Sales = 66.7% Gross Profit Margin

Using this information, a company could consider adjusting their pricing and distribution strategies to increase their overall profits. One way to achieve this would be to increase the price or reduce the cost of goods sold for Product A to improve the gross profit margins for that product line. Alternatively, the company could adjust their promotional efforts to focus more on selling Product B since the margins are greater.

Referring back to the Fiat example, the company is unable to increase the price for their electric vehicle because the market will not bear it. They should eventually be able to reduce the manufacturing costs of the car battery, but that will take time. So for now, it seems that Fiat is taking the alternate approach and focusing their promotional efforts on their other product lines.

Improve Your Company’s Profitability

At Signature Analytics, we work with our clients’ management teams to properly identify and understand the profit margins of their business. This is accomplished by producing a detailed understanding of the cost structure and related sales price associated with each product line and revenue stream of the company. This profit analysis can also be shared with company investors and banking relationships to enhance investor relations and participation.

In addition to profit margin analysis, we can provide accurate forecasts and budgets that enable our clients to properly project EBITDA growth and allow for better cash management strategies. All of these accounting and financial reports – profit margin analysis, forecasts, and budgets – empower our clients with the financial information they need to make informed business decisions that help to increase overall margins and improve profitability.

Want to learn more about all the ways Signature Analytics can help improve your company’s profitability? Contact us for a free consultation.

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Client Increases Profit Margins After Receiving Custom Margin Analysis

Client Increases Profit Margins After Receiving Custom Margin Analysis

Signature Analytics was engaged by a rapidly growing San Diego brewery which, at the time, did not have an internal accounting function. The brewery’s management team spent the majority of their time on the operations of the business, so it was not possible to make maintaining proper account records a priority; however, they recognized that it was critical to have accurate financial information to make proper business decisions. So they reached out to Signature Analytics to provide outsourced accounting services.

Within a one month period, the Signature Analytics team was able to update all of the accounting records for the previous months which had been neglected. Our accounting team also set up a monthly close process which included proper reconciliation of all bank and balance sheet accounts, the implementation of a system to track inventory, and ensured proper Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and accrual basis of accounting. Additionally, we established monthly meetings with brewery management to review historical performance and discuss future activity and projections. Communications with the Brewery’s management were ongoing and imperative, allowing the engagement to maintain flexibility and drive effectiveness.

While these procedures were exactly what the management team expected of Signature Analytics, we knew there was more that we could do to assist with the most crucial business decisions. During the month that the accounting information was updated and while we learned about the business, the Signature Analytics team noted that more focus should be placed on the gross profit margins of the brewery’s products. Once the data was properly structured and accurate, a seasoned CFO put together a custom margin analysis and was able to identify several opportunities for improvement. The insights from this analysis enabled the Brewery to properly evaluate profits and increase margins.

In addition to getting the Brewery’s accounting records in order and providing a custom margin analysis, the Signature Analytics team prepared a 13-week cash flow forecast to assist with cash management and the payment of bills. This analysis helped the management team better understand each of the inflows and outflows the Brewery experienced and identify areas where they could improve the business financially.

Although we were initially engaged to only provide monthly accounting maintenance and bookkeeping services, the Brewery’s management team quickly recognized the value of Signature Analytics’ proactive approach to outsourced accounting services. Having a full accounting team on an as-needed basis was a perfect fit for the Brewery’s needs and the additional financial analysis and reports we provided allowed the Management team to get a better understanding of their business. This enabled them to confidently make business decisions based on the accurate financial information they were provided, ultimately improving profitability for the Brewery.

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