How to Make a Financial Quarterly Report

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Comparative data helps put financial reports into better perspective.
Comparative data helps put financial reports into better perspective. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Quarterly financial reports show a business’s performance during a three-month period, and often a comparison to other three-month periods as well. Combining a variety of common financial documents is an effective way to prepare the most helpful quarterly report.

Confirm The Purpose

Before you begin preparing a quarterly financial report, determine who wants the information and why. It might be an internal document provided to partners, managers or the owner to keep these stakeholders informed about the performance of the business. It might be a public record for investors or board members. The person or persons requesting the document might want to use it to manage the business, or just want data for an audit to spot any potential irregularities. Knowing the goals for the report will help you determine how you want to present the data in the document.

Collect Your Data

Gather all of the data you will need to prepare the report. Depending on the size of the business, you might only need a checkbook and credit card statement, or you might have to track down or generate a variety of documents and reports. These can include a general ledger, cash flow statements, balance sheets, accounts receivable and payables reports, profit and loss statements and budgets. You might need to create new documents for the report, such as a budget variance analysis, balance sheet and receivables aging report. Verify that each document you plan to include was correctly updated on the final day of the quarter.

Determine Your Sections

Decide how you want to present your information. You might start with a cover page, contents page, executive summary and sections that correspond to the various financial reports you’ll cover. You might add a final summary that includes explanations of the data and recommendations. Your report should include the company’s annual budget and the actual reports you mention, either in their sections or at the end in an appendix after your summary.

Add Comparisons

As you present the information for each of your sections, such as cash flow and receivables, include comparisons to other quarters. To make the report more meaningful, compare the company’s financial performance during the quarter covered by the report to the previous quarter, and to the same quarter the previous year. This will allow you to show how the company’s finances have improved or faltered during the past six months. Address any seasonal anomalies that affect the business.

Start With An Executive Summary

An executive summary provides a broad, bottom-line announcement for the quarter with details provided in the rest of the document. Data for an executive summary might include:

  • Starting and ending bank balance
  • Starting and ending assets and liabilities totals and company net worth
  • Quarterly income
  • Quarterly expenses
  • Quarterly sales
  • Quarterly profits
  • Comparison to previous quarter
  • Comparison to previous year’s same quarter

Don’t include the reports or details from which you pulled this information. You will address these in your subsequent sections. Also, do not include recommendations -- save those for your closing summary.

Provide a Summary

Summarize the data to provide a picture that explains anything the financials don’t reveal on their face. For example, your report might show that the company’s sales decreased in quarter two as compared to quarter one, but significantly increased compared to quarter two of the previous year. You could provide insight as to why sales increased year-over-year, such as pointing out that you began selling online, a competitor went out of business or a particular product began selling better. You might include projections for the upcoming quarter or fiscal year in your summary.

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