The power of the annual report

The power of the annual report

Annual reports can be dry, boring documents that fulfill a basic function: provide a record of an organization’s situation, a year at a time.

Yearly summaries can also help us demonstrate accountability, learn from our mistakes, celebrate successes, and build confidence.

Norfolk County Annual Report

Annual Report

One of my final tasks as Director of Tourism and Economic Development in Norfolk County was the assembly of the Department’s 2019 Annual Report. I’m proud of what our team accomplished over 18 years. It was an honour to contribute to a community I have known my whole life, and lived in since returning to raise a family in the 1990s.

Do you prepare an annual report for your business or organization? If you don’t, consider giving it a go. Here’s why.

Demonstrate transparency and accountability

The publication of an annual report tells others that your operation is open to scrutiny. In plain black-and-white (preferably with some colour), you detail your successes and failures for all to read about. There’s no hiding. Show you have confidence in your abilities by reporting on them.

Measure, manage, learn, grow

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker

Management educator Peter Drucker said: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” An annual report forces you to compare your goals with your outcomes, your budget with your actuals. If you have no metrics to report on, now is the time to start. Measuring success allows you to manage adjustments to your go-forward plan. Or as Drucker put it: “A crisis that recurs a second time is a crisis that must not ever occur again.”

Record the moment

Memory is a tricky thing, frequently unreliable. Time passes quickly. Before you know it, another year will pass. Take the time to record the highlights of each year, so you can look back with accuracy when you need to.

Celebrate success, discourage BS

An annual report lets you celebrate the successes of your owners, management, staff and customers, and share the glory with your partners and collaborators. But remember that people smell bullsh*t. If there was no progress on an objective, don’t use buzzwords to prop things up.  Example: Disruption in the sector was impactful and resulted in a pivot to new synergies. That’s B.S.! (Check out The Atlantic magazine article, “Corporate buzzwords are how workers pretend to be adults“.)

A powerful document

An annual report has incredible power. It can building confidence in your organization, show how accountable you are, force you to reflect, learn and improve. These are basic strategic elements that should be revisited by all organizations and leaders on a regular basis.

Don’t know where to start? Just sit down and write.





Sustainable Tourism: Treading lightly on the Earth

“Tread lightly on the Earth.” Strange words, perhaps, from someone who sells beer.

Charlotteville Beer

Charlotteville Brewing Co. Beer

But these are enlightened, welcome words in a community that supports environmental sustainability. The fact a tourism business operator is saying them speaks volumes about their maturity and foresight.

“We are seizing on sustainability, which is at the core of our business philosophy,” said Melanie Doerksen of Charlotteville Brewing Co., which recently won the Sustainable Tourism Award from the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation.

Sustainability philosophy

Charlotteville Brewing Co.’s sustainability philosophy includes:

  • Utilizing re-purposed materials
  • Growing raw ingredients organically or purchasing organic
  • Recycling grain stock used on-site as livestock feed
  • Recycling water
  • Paying personnel a living wage so they too can prosper
  • Striving for zero waste
  • Serving artisanal food and drink that’s as sustainable as it is delicious
Melanie Doerksen, Charlotteville Brewing, Photo: Jim Byers

Melanie Doerksen, Charlotteville Brewing Co. Photo: Jim Byers

Charlotteville’s Melanie Doerksen also told the Simcoe Reformer newspaper. “We’re trying to tread lightly on the Earth and show the community how you can own a sustainable business and make a profit at the same time.”

Fortuitously, at the same award ceremony, Doerksen was named Norfolk County Entrepreneur of the Year.

While business owners are leveraging the power of sustainable tourism in their day-to-day operations, elected officials are also taking risks, by staring down multinational companies.

Politicians are catching up

Bonaire cruiseships

Cruise ships docked at Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

One of those politicians is Edison Rijna, Governor of Bonaire. This tiny Dutch Caribbean island is world renowned as a scuba-diving destination. A few years ago, Bonaire started to welcome cruise ships at 75 cents per person. The economic impact has been minimal, and the residents worry about the negative impact of big ships so close to a pristine marine environment. The divers hate the cruise ships — and now others are agreeing. In an interview in Trouw newspaper in the Netherlands, Rijna firmly supports a sustainable tourism model.

“We are prostituting our island”, he said. “I once spoke to an American from such a mass cruise on the quay in Kralendijk. He had paid $ 279 for a week. Unbelievable right? ‘Yes’, he said, ‘for that money I have a week vacation, here and there I buy a souvenir, I walk through the city and I eat and drink myself full on board for seven days’.”

“What are the benefits for us?” Rijna asked. “We don’t want people like that on Bonaire.”

The Governor would rather see efforts focused on smaller, specialized ships with a different audience, such as sailing cruises.

How can a tourism business benefit from sustainability?

  • Aim for consumers who can afford a higher price point
  • Focus on experiences that enlighten and educate
  • Rejig price points to generate bigger sales to a smaller customer base
  • Don’t compromise your philosophy, ever

Want to work on a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for your business? Contact me to discuss.



Learning moments at the Agriculture Economic Development Forum

Kudos to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and the communities of Leamington and Kingsville for hosting the 2019 Agriculture Economic Development Forum recently. There was lots to learn about on-farm diversification, automation, financing, urban agriculture, gleaning and more. Check out our learning moments at