The Paralyzing Problems of Poor Financial Reporting
Misclassified expenses and un-segregated revenue streams result in poor financial reports that can halt a company’s progress in its tracks
It’s hard to make informed decisions about a company’s future based on poorly- structured financial reports. Yet many small to mid-sized companies rely on reports beset with serious problems. No wonder these firms aren’t growing.
One common problem with financial reports is that the reporting system is capturing a variety of product or service revenue streams in one account. Without those streams being segregated, the CEO doesn’t know what areas of the business are doing the best and worst jobs of generating critical revenues.
Another all-too-frequent issue is misclassification of expense categories into overhead, rather than cost of goods sold. As a result, companies get a read on gross profit and gross margin that is simply not accurate.
For example, if a company wants to launch a new marketing program, officers will attempt to determine how many additional sales the program will have to generate to justify its cost. If they don’t have an accurate read on gross margin, they will make a decision based on skewed sales numbers. That could result in the marketing program being over or under-funded.
These financial reporting issues are very prevalent, and are present in four out of every five companies I counsel. The problems exist for two reasons.
First, company officials don’t know how to distinguish between direct costs to produce sales and those line items that should go into the category called “overhead.” Second, despite their desire to place all transactions in the right categories, the companies do a poor job of coding, or classifying, transactions.
Unless the company addresses these reporting issues, the CEO will face the same problems month in and month out.
He or she must take a stance and rectify the reporting problems. If the CEO is smart, he’s going to say, “We have a direct cost of generating these sales dollars in overhead. They should be in cost of goods sold.”
The result of poor financial reporting is wasted time. The company wastes time pulling financial statements together, and again wastes time being forced to pull information out of the accounting system into a format that can be used. Precious hours and days that could be used to concentrate on building profitable sales growth go down the drain. In this case, wasted time truly is wasted money.
In the preceding paragraphs, I’ve discussed the surprising prevalence of poor financial reporting, and the negative outcomes that result. In my next blog, I will address steps chief executive officers can take to meet the problem head on.