This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
From keeping tabs on your cash flow to maintaining financial documents, there’s a lot to monitor when you’re a business owner. To stay on top of things, it’s critical to track this information and data, but you can’t stop there.
To find useful insight into how your business is performing, you need to go a step further and analyze all this data. By doing so, you can figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and what you need to change to grow and improve.
Whether you need deeper insights into your sales trends or an assessment of your financial operations, business reports can help you evaluate a particular issue or set of circumstances that relate to your business’s performance. So any business owner or decision maker can (and should) know what goes into writing a report.
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Why are business reports important?
Business reports make it easier to analyze your core business and evaluate its overall health. With the right software, business reports give you a simple way to identify issues or successes so you can fix those problems or encourage results. Not only that, but they give you an indication of whether you’re meeting your goals. With that information, you can strategically plan for the future.
How to structure a business report
There is a wide range of business report types you may want to write for your business. Below are a few structural elements you may want to consider when creating a business report:
- Title: Give your document a title that describes what is in the report. This is also an opportunity to add other details like author name and date.
- Table of contents: A table of contents or a list of sections is a good way to share a quick preview of what’s to come for longer reports.
- Summary or abstract: Offer a quick summary of what the report is about. You can add in a few highlights of findings, data collection methods, and recommendations here.
- Introduction: The introduction is a good place to explain the question you were trying to answer when creating this report.
- Body: This is the section of the report where the bulk of your data, analysis, and methodology could live.
- Conclusion: Based on the above section of the research and data you just shared, describe how you have arrived at this conclusion.
- Recommendations: Based on the research you have done and the data you’ve collected, what are your recommendations moving forward?
- References: List your sources in this section
- Appendices: The appendix section can be a place to house any supporting material such as raw data or interviews conducted.
How to write a business report
When it comes to writing a business report, prepare to compile research and break up the contents of the document by section. If the report has multiple sections, consider including a summary or abstract at the start of the report. Traditionally, bullet points, headings, and subheadings are also good tools to organize a report in order to make it easier to read. In addition to visual cues like bullets, consider using data visualizations or dashboards to illustrate trends. Think about what you want to communicate through the report and the audience you intend on sharing it with.
What goes into a business report?
A business report really needs one thing: data. That data should be focused on a specific part of your business and, ideally, be visualized in a way that makes it easy to understand what is happening.
You might already be familiar with writing and utilizing business reports. While business reports may seem formal, regardless of your business size, they can be useful if you need to share the data with other people within your company. The data you share can help forecast future business decisions, identifying opportunities for improvement or capitalizing on high-performing areas.
Whether you need to write up something more formal or you’re just reviewing data for your own purposes, here are a few steps to get the most out of your business reports:
Identify the issue: It’s helpful if you go into your reporting tool knowing what you want to figure out — whether its sales or inventory or employee performance.
Example: Sales seem to be slower than they usually are at this time of year.
Explore the issue: Once you’ve decided what you want to explore, start looking at that data from every possible angle. The more ways you look at the data, the more insights you might be able to glean.
Example: We’re seeing a 10% drop in sales from last year. The data shows that while we’ve had a similar number of transactions, the average transaction size has dropped.
Inform recommendations: Once you have an idea of what’s happening with your business, you need to decide how you can either fix the issue or encourage similar results. In some cases, you might even recommend doing nothing.
Example: We should market a promotion that rewards larger transaction sizes, such as $20 off $100.
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3 categories of must-have business reports
You can create a business report for any part of your business, but here are three types that are particularly useful:
Sales are the lifeblood of your business. Sales reports can help you analyze trends in sales volume over time to make sure your business is healthy. You can create these at any time to see if you need to adjust your sales strategy. Some examples of common sales reports are the sales summary, sales trends, and item sales reports. If you use Square to process payments, you can download a variety of sales reports from your Square Dashboard. Reports available for download include sales summaries, sales trends, labor versus sales reports, item sales, category sales, and more.
Conducting inventory audits and managing stock are day-to-day functions for many businesses. If inventory reports are updated regularly, they give you an up-to-date analysis of the inventory you have on hand. They come in handy for understanding restocking needs, helping with the reconciliation process, and determining future inventory needs.
Some examples of inventory reports are inventory ranking reports, which rank products in descending order by gross margin generated, and inventory hit reports, which rank products based on sales volume.
As a business owner, your most valuable resource is your team. Payroll reports allow you to view all paycheck details, employee totals, employee pay stubs or the company totals for a selected time period. Additionally, if you use Square Payroll, you can view your Payroll Protection Program (PPP) report to help calculate your average monthly payroll and make it easier to apply for these loans.
In addition to these reports, you may need to compile other business reports to help give employees a better picture of the business. These reports may include annual reports to show what your company accomplished in the past year, marketing reports, social media reports, and more.
Creating business reports with Square
You have a lot to juggle as a business owner, and finding the time to create these reports can be a challenge. The good news is, you can save time — and still get the information you need — by outsourcing business reports to your point of sale.
Square Point of Sale (POS) comes with numerous reporting options so you can generate important insights to improve your business while the software does the work. Whether you need updated sales trends or you’re looking for information on your employees, you can pull that directly from your online Dashboard or from Sales Reports in your Square Point of Sale app. Learn more about how Square compares with Shopify and other POS systems.
Here’s a look at some of the POS reports and Payroll reports available with Square:
|Sales Summary||A general overview of sales from a given time period. Includes itemization metrics like gross sales, refunds, net sales, discounts, tips, and taxes.|
|Sales Trends||Compares your daily, weekly, and yearly gross sales.|
|Payment Methods||A summary of the total collected and any associated fees from credit, debit, and gift cards (or other tender types).|
|Employee Sales||Shows sales per employee, tips, average sale size, and revenue per labor hour.|
|Item Sales||Shows details for all items sold including gross sales, net sales, SKUs, discounts, and total sold. With advanced reporting you can see item sales by device, employee, or payment method.|
|Category Sales||An overview of top-grossing categories and the number of items sold within each category.|
|Discounts||A list of the most-used discounts and total discount amounts collected.|
|Payroll Reports||Payroll reports allow you to select a custom time period and download an .xls file showing either all paycheck details, the employee totals, employee paystubs, or the company totals.|
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