Beyond the balance sheet

What should my management accounts look like?

Ercan Demiralay 21/11/2016 4 minute read

Ercan Demiralay FCCA explains how management accounts will change as your business develops and expands.

Regular management accounts are absolutely essential to your business in helping you to monitor performance. But what should they contain? Well, they’re not a legal requirement so there isn’t anything that’s compulsory, but they’re business specific so you can simply include the aspects that are of most interest to you as the owner.

In writing this post we’ve included the Stages Model (courtesy of Shirlaws business coaching) to help you determine where your organisation currently is in the growth lifecycle. Then you can better decipher what to include in your accounts to help gauge progress and drive decision making.

It may seem like a chore to have another set of accounts to focus on, but good, tailored accounts will help drive your business forward. Whether you’re in start up phase or at an advanced growth stage, we have some suggestions for what you might want to be reporting on and when. The sheer fact that you are preparing and reviewing these on a regular basis will set you apart from the competition and allow you to reflect on past decisions while making future ones in a more informed fashion.

What are management accounts?

Management accounts are a set of financial and statistical data which can be used by business owners and key management to make timely and meaningful day-to-day decisions. They can be produced at whatever frequency is required, but tend to be on a monthly or quarterly basis and their purpose is to give you an insight into the financial health of your business.

What should I include in my accounts?

In short, only include what your board or management team need to see to allow for intelligent and educated choices.

Today’s world of tech companies and the internet of free (via freeconomics) have resulted in a lot of collaboration between entrepreneurs. Whilst this mentality is understandable with the aim of budgeting and keeping costs down, you need to understand that your business is unique! Therefore your accounts should reflect this and be tailored to the areas which need to be recorded to achieve your growth targets.

Start by taking a look at the Stages Model (a concept originally developed by Shirlaws) below to help you identify which criteria you may want to include depending on your current lifecycle position. Don’t be afraid to change the criteria you focus on in your accounts as your business grows. What’s important to review now may not be needed in six months time. That’s what’s so great about them; they’re tailored to your needs.

Whether you want to create a budget, analyse your business in segments, or simply see a summary of your accounts, it’s entirely up to you. We have a few examples below of what you may want to include depending on where you’re currently at.

The stages model

If you’re in start up stage or progressing but haven’t yet hit the first brick wall, you may want to create a basic set of accounts as there isn’t an overwhelming amount to analyse or compare. This may include:

  • Cover page
  • Contents page
  • Summary of accounts
  • Profit and Loss
  • Balance Sheet

This will enable you to see the basics of your business and base decisions on your current figures. As your enterprise grows or encounters its first brick wall (where you’re likely to need to make a significant investment), you may want to rethink what is being reported. This is to ensure that the correct performance data is analysed to help inform your decision making.

I want to analyse my growing start up business in more depth, what do I include?

As your business develops, it’s likely to hit the first brick wall of the Stages Model. Inevitably, problems may crop up such as needing an increase in funding; in turn you might decide to start assessing your payables and receivables to get a better idea of the money you have yet to receive, and money to be paid out.

This is when you should start to consider creating a more detailed set of accounts. Other aspects such as a budget would allow you to pinpoint areas where you are spending too much or too little. It may be beneficial to additionally include:

  • Payables
  • Receivables
  • Budget
  • Cashflow

Of course it’s tempting to keep the criteria you’re monitoring the same if your business is growing at a steady pace, or you simply just don’t know what else to include that would be beneficial. But, as your business expands the numbers will alter. It could be useful to focus on various aspects such as specific departments or segments.

My enterprise is at the fast growth stage, what should I report?

A fast growth business typically includes more factors in their accounts to provide a more specific and detailed breakdown of performance. Here's what is likely to be included in the summary:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Shareholders Loans Transactions
  • Accruals and prepayments
  • Segmental/departmental analysis
  • Profit & Loss actual vs last year and/or forecast

By monitoring these aspects, you’re undertaking a deeper understanding of your business, more specifically its strengths and weaknesses. After all to make significant business and investment decisions requires an in depth knowledge of these factors. Remember, knowledge is power!

If your business has scaled the second brick wall and moved into the final phase of expansion, you may find it more beneficial to include just the minimum in your accounts to allow you to focus on the four or five most important criteria in your enterprise.

The issue here being your business is of a significant size whereby you can’t continue to keep adding elements to your accounts. It becomes unproductive and simplification is likely to be the best route forward.

So consider exactly what you need to see on a regular basis based on which phase of growth you’re currently in. Remember, there isn’t anything that you have to include; only the aspects which will help you expand your enterprise. Ultimately using the Stages Model should allow you to determine where your business currently is and ensure you have the most suitable management accounts based on your needs. Bear in mind that it’s not necessarily the length of the document that is important but the content and its usefulness.

Identify funding needs in your management accounts with Wellers

The content of this post is up to date and relevant as at 06/09/2016.

Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.


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