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.
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
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.