In any business, there is endless paperwork involved. It would be a lot easier to get through it all if it were simple, concise, and to-the-point. If you’re wondering how to go about doing that, this list would help.
Make the purpose clear
Write your title such that it stands out clearly and can be read easily.
A short description consisting of a few sentences would be good. This description would tell readers what the report is about and what’s in it for them. Talk about how the information in the report can be utilised for their benefit as well.
If you have a tag line – which would be a plus point – draw attention to it by using colour, font, or other available visual tools.
Easy navigation is key for quick understanding
Visual guides used right would help greatly in allowing readers to pick up the main points of the report. Text, graphics and images act as distinct navigation signals. These would make identifying the key points in the report easier for the readers and help them be efficient by allowing them to zero in on what’s most important to them.
Headings and subheadings are must-haves in reports. They should be easily attention-grabbing, and should act as markers for clear differentiation between different sections of the report. Having adequate spacing around them would also be easier on the eyes.
Stick to a format. If your first bold heading indicates one distinct section of a report, make sure your following headings are synonymous with defining each of the other sections as well.
This uniformity would give a logical, simple structure to the report that makes it easy to peruse.
Consistency is key, and it applies to not just headings, but other visual elements used in the report as well. Font size, colour, bullet points, etc.
Ensure that your page numbers, footers and references are in the same place on every page throughout your report.
Visuals, visuals, visuals
When I say visuals, they don’t have to be bright and loud and all over your report. Colour is definitely a key factor here but your photos, charts, graphs, and any other nuggets of design would heighten the interest aspect of your work.
It is important that these are clear, well-spaced, and add value to your content. Doing so would go a long way in helping the audience understand what they’re looking at better.
Not only are valid visuals a great way to increase your report’s appeal, they also help in reinforcing your message and purpose. For instance, an image of a prototype being tested would add value to a report about that prototype.
When it comes to maintaining an excellent record-keeping system, there’s a whole other set of factors that come into play. I can’t list them all (this article would become a lot longer than intended) but here are what I feel some of the more essential ones.
Capture the information
Once the idea is out there, capture it. Open up an excel sheet or google doc which would start storing all these bits of information, little or big, and keep updating it.
This doesn’t just have to be limited to ideas. The finances can be kept track of in the same way. Revenues, personal expenses, business expenses, miscellaneous transactions; these are all essentials that fall under the capturing process.
Discipline and consistency are required in this process, but over time, it’s one of the most useful habits you can develop when it comes to business.
There’s no need to feel the pressure of utilising the information you have right away. Keep collecting it for, who knows, a rainy day in the future. The habit definitely doesn’t hurt anyone.
Just make sure the information you capture is detailed so that when the time comes for it to be used, you don’t have any missing details that would render it invalid. The date, product, transaction amount are some examples of the details.
Save what you record
It would be a sheer waste of hard work and consistent effort if your gathered information isn’t saved on a platform or software somewhere. Saving what you’ve recorded is giving it a potential purpose.
This matters especially when it comes to your finances. Your copy of them could always be cross-checked with the bookkeeper’s so that the final information you have is as accurate as possible. It would be ideal do to this on a monthly basis, along with a review of the content.
Check, double check, triple check
Just logging all the information is of no use if it isn’t accurate and right. Set a regular time for you to go through whatever you’ve captured so you can make sure everything is correct.
The vetting could be done fortnightly, twice a month; up to you. Sticking to the schedule once you’ve set it up, however, is vital. Only after you’ve done the vetting and ensured it’s all in order can the information be considered valuable.
I’ve talked about recording the details, but let me take this chance to emphasise on its importance. The nature of the transaction, the product, its purpose, the time of the transaction; these are crucial for the record to be accurate.
Take action based on what you see
There’s no need to if everything seems to be in order. But if you do see something that needs fixing, fix it yourself or by someone else. Get the work done.
Craft your to-do list in order of priority, starting with the most urgent one. If you see your expenses creeping up on your earnings, or worse, surpassing them, act.
Make changes and accommodate your needs around the spending cut you’re going to incorporate. It’s important that these changes don’t have a negative effect on your profits.
Collect your debts on time, and take the necessary action to make that happen. Dragging it out will be a downfall for you, not the other party.
There are a lot more tips out there for effective business record-keeping and reporting, but for me, these six capture the essence of what a company needs fundamentally.
If you have more of your own, that’s great. If your company is at a stage where there’s room for experimenting – or even better, it’s encouraged – then no harm in trying these out, I’d say.
This list of logical, tested-and-proven steps might just help your company get the strong foundation it’s looking for.