How to talk finance to your board
Not all businesses have, or need, boards but if you do then how you talk to your board is a key part of getting the most value from the relationship.
1. Make sure first you are aligned with your board as to what success looks like
Before you can work out how, you need to know what you should be talking to the board about.
The financials you report on should tell the story of the strategy and goals of the organisation.
So first you need to make sure that there is an agreed, documented framework for this. At a minimum you need to get this signed off every year but for earlier stage, faster moving businesses it may be more frequent.
2. Define the metrics that demonstrate you are on track towards your goals
You need to ask yourself what are the key metrics which show progress against those goals.
There will be traditional financial metrics such as revenue and costs vs budget. However other key metrics are needed
- How are you measuring the activities that you need to execute in order to meet your financial targets
- Sales pipeline
- Recruitment of sales leads
- Marketing plan and execution
- Hiring plans and headcount to effectively run your business
- Effectiveness of spend eg.
- Revenue per salesperson or location
- Product or service line margin
- Quality of revenue
- If your business objectives are to reduce client concentration, achieving your budgeted revenue through growing your existing clients rather than new clients does not align with your goals
- Similarly if you want to increase sales in higher margin products you will need to provide this level of commentary in reporting to the board.
3. Consider the makeup of the board and their areas of focus. Non-exec and advisory boards are usually brought in because of their specific experience or expertise so make sure you’re
a) utilising this experience and asking their advice and
b) addressing their hot buttons in your board communications.
4. Consistency, summary and visualisation
There’s a lot of information you can communicate but the information you should communicate to the board will be at a much higher level than what you use to make your day to day decisions. However, remember that your board is not as involved in the day to day operations as you are, so ensure clarity isn’t lost as you do this.
Presenting the information consistently can really help the board quickly understand information. If reports are presented in a consistent order and with a consistent level of detail, bonus points for visual representation of data ie. graphs and charts. Make it easy for them to see the information you are trying to convey.
There are some great reporting tools in the market which link directly to your accounting system and produce professional documents in seconds so you can spend time on the commentary and discussion in the meeting itself.
5. Agree actions and next steps
Whilst the discussion in the meeting might be illuminating change only comes with accountability and action. To this end agree actions and responsibilities in the meeting and report back on them at the next board meeting.