If a business gets investment it WILL, almost certainly, be required to complete a monthly summary...
This should only take an hour or so a month and is something that we consider to be essential, both to the success of the business in the long term and to keeping investors informed (even if you own 100% of a company you still have an ‘investment hat’).
The discipline and process of producing a monthly summary forces reflection and planning and puts the brain ‘in a different place’ – something that can be hard do to when you are knee deep in the muck and bullets of the ‘real’ world.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ template for monthly summaries; what follows is a format that I use myself. They work best if there is peer pressure and a bit of ‘stick’ as, all too frequently, summaries get put in the ‘important but not urgent’ box in the Eisenhower grid and are missed/forgotten/skipped. If you have a mentor or are part of one of the many incubators that banks or others are creating you should pair up with someone and hold each other to account if a summary isn’t produced on time. With one of our mentoring clients the ‘stick’ is a cheque for a charity of my choice if the summary isn’t delivered by the 7th of the following month! So far I haven’t had to demand that cheque.
Monthly Updates/Summaries/Reports are 1 to 2 pages of narrative (mainly bullet points) and an additional sheet of KPIs - So three sheets max:
- What were the stated priorities in the last report (and what happened)
- Other Significant Events (including as needed – don’t report if nothing significant has occurred)
- Markets & Competition
- Top 3 (or so) Priority Items for the current period and progress intended during the period
- Issues and Opportunities (Summary only – if input/advice required then more info and/or a formal briefing sheet will probably be needed)
- An underlying question while preparing Monthly Summaries (particularly for issues and opportunities) is “What has happened in the last 30 days to influence our view of the future?”.
KPIs should be a mix of forward looking and rear-view indicators. (P & L is rear, the forecast P & L is forward – what else is ‘forward’ in your business?). Some of the KPIs will be captured weekly (e.g. outbound sales calls, visits, quotations issued etc.) and just included in the Monthly Report others are normally only captured monthly (e.g. Management Accounts)
Monthly summaries and KPI sheets are an iterative process – if something doesn’t work, change it. If an indicator is no longer driving the business, then don’t waste money collecting it – use the resource to collect something that does drive future performance.