In this article I talk about the importance of using Control Totals and One Set of Data as 2 concepts that make sure you get your figures right. I use the case study based on Sales Reporting but ofcourse these concepts can be applied to help improve any reporting which involves mutiple sources of the data.
My client had a history of bad bookkeeping and being able to trust the figures was stressful and distracting him from growing his business. He had a number of investment decisions he needed to make. Not being able to rely on the Sales reporting in particular, gave him have no confidence that there was good financial control in the business. This led to a reluctance by him to commit to his investment decisions.
An MD, however brilliant he is, is always fearful of the words,
“The sales reporting was wrong, actually we did much worse than we thought.”
Stabilise the Figures.
My first objective was to stabilise and control the correct reporting of the key sales figures in the business.
What should have been an easy task was turning out to be a real headache!
This business was growing quickly and it was all hands to deck. A great vibrant atmosphere to work in where all focus was on growing the sales.
Hence, there was not much enthusiasm from the operational side to make sure that the processes were set up correctly. This is where your finance resource should come into its own. Not as a resource to hinder growth. One who works on the underlying processes which deliver financial control, so that the operational team can use their talents to help grow the business.
Your Sales Reporting is your most important number to know.
The most important set of figures for a Business is the Sales or Turnover figure. Only once we know the Sales figure can we work on Gross Margin, Overheads and so on. It should be the simplest figure to find.
Yet it appeared that several people were keeping a record of “Sales” as they knew it. Trying to find a control figure to check against was giving me different results.
For the Accounts department, sales were the total of sales invoices and credit notes dated with the current month invoice date.
For the Sales Manager; Sales were the total value of orders completed in the month.
For the Inventory Manager; Sales were the Sales value of despatches in the month.
The importance of Control Totals?
The value of having a sales control total to balance back to, gives you the confidence to absolutely know that all your hard work is being recouped. Accurate, timely invoicing of the customer is the output from this. When you rely on different sets of sales reporting, this can lead to never really knowing if you have picked up everything. Have you missed someone, under invoiced the amount or mispriced?
One Set of Data is a powerful way to make this happen.
One Set of Data brings Financial Control into your Business
Finding a control figure will ensure that you can reconcile all the different sets of figures you keep to this one Control Point. It will also highlight to you what the different sets of sales reporting are and how they may be incorrect for purpose.
For example, in the case above, the Sales Manager’s figures were used to compute sales commission. This figure never incorporated any credit notes that were subsequently requested on faulty or cancelled orders. This led to the over payment of Sales commission.
Furthermore, the sales figures would be incorrect where part orders were sent out. In this instance, the sales figures were not included until the full amount of the sales were fulfilled. Cash flow was impacted due to not invoicing part orders. This led to delayed invoicing by waiting until the full order had been sent.
Accurate Sales Reporting is the first step in the Sales Target Setting Process
Reliable Sales figures allow you to evaluate the performance of your Sales team against targets. Where there is a mistrust of the figures, you cannot even start this process.
Be Proactive with your Process Improvements
One Set of Data and Control Totals can be applied to any part of your business. They will save you resource time as well as drastically improve financial control. Process improvements can be found by Identifying these key data collections and reporting points. By working on these you will be able reduce duplication,stabilise the figures and reduce any adverse finacial impacts from poor reporting.
Most Managing Directors of growing businesses are brilliant, that’s how they have grown their business!
Lets not let this brilliance become tarnished when worry and lack of confidence in the figures, forces us to make decisions based on incorrect information.
If you found this article useful and what to know more about how I help small business in the Bristol area do contact me on Hayley@betternumbers.co.uk