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									        Chapter 5 —



      The executive report is probably the most common type of report in business,
      and thus you need to practice doing them. Obviously, all such reports need to
      be tailored to the particular situation, organisation and executive style; thus
      this chapter is like a template for a ‘typical’ executive report. Unless
      otherwise instructed, assume you are a consultant writing a report to the senior
      executives. In addition, many executive report assignments are based on
      established case studies, hence the reference to ‘cases’ in this chapter.

      It is not always necessary to do every single section. Therefore, you must use
      this chapter as a guide and use those sections that are relevant to the
      case/problem/opportunity you are dealing with. Please also note that we are
      giving you this guide for the rest of your career, not only for your assignments
      whilst at university. As such, it can be tailored to each assignment.

      Please also note that in business, essays are seldom written for executives.
      executive reports are very focused, to-the-point, with many headings and sub-
      headings. The writing style is a combination of brief statements, tables, lists,
      bullet points, brief explanations and short linking paragraphs. None of that ‘as
      the sun slithered over the horizon, …’ essay-type writing. This does not mean
      it has to be boring. Executive reports must also hold the attention and interest
      of the reader.

      There is another crucial point to make here. In an executive report you do not
      lecture to the reader on the theory behind the report. In other words, you use
      the theory to deal with the organisation’s problems/opportunities.

      If there are questions within or at the end of a case, you must include them
      within the executive report structure. Please also note that in case studies
      supplied to you, you must deal with it on the facts of the case then, not now.
      It is often helpful to consult Web sites and other sources, but you must still
      tackle the case as it is given to you.

      Let us now look at the main sections of the executive report.

      Executive Summary

      This is usually no longer than 1-2 pages. It is written for the CEO, Board
      members or any very busy executive who might well read no more than this
      executive summary. Thus it should be self-contained and complete as a
      summary of the key points. In this section you state what you see as the one
      or two main problems or opportunities, and your key recommendation (while
      telling the reader that the details are in the main body of the report). Do not
      tell these busy executives about the organisation’s history and other
      background details they would already know.

                 Table of contents

                 This section simply shows the reader what is in the report and where they can
                 find it. It is particularly important in a very long report.

                 Brief Introduction and problem/opportunity statement

                 Keep this brief, and do not give too many details well known to the readers.
                 The problem/opportunity statement is focused on the main ones you have
                 found, not a repeat of your SWOT analysis.


                 This section is your protection, your ‘insurance policy’. Here you make it
                 clear that you have had to make some important assumptions. For example,
                 you can not foresee the future so you must assume that there will not be any
                 unforeseeable significant environmental disruption.

                 In addition, in case studies you have to assume that the details given to you in
                 the case are true. (Obviously in real-life, you need to cross-check certain
                 crucial facts and opinions.)

                 Situation analysis

                 This covers all your analysis, and must include both internal and external
                 analysis. The situation analysis has the task of both clarifying your thinking
                 and also becoming the backbone of your recommendations later. Remember
                 to consider the case wearing the ‘hat’ of the CEO, and then the ‘hats’ of each
                 functional department and other key stakeholders.

SWOT Analysis    The SWOT Analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses internal to the business, and
                 the Opportunities and Threats external to the business) is probably the most
                 common strategic analysis tool. If you do a very thorough SWOT analysis,
                 you will make the best start possible to a situation analysis. Some students
                 confuse the internal (SW) with the external (OT). Be careful not to do this as
                 putting something in the wrong category will mislead you. In addition,
                 remember that elements of some characteristic of a business may be a strength
                 whereas other elements of the same characteristic may be a weakness. For
                 example, an autocratic all-powerful leader is probably a strength in terms of
                 purposefulness and speed of decision-making, yet a weakness in terms of
                 participative management.

                 Unless you know a business and its organisation extremely well, and are able
                 to involve several people in the SWOT analysis, there is no point in using
                 weighting and scoring systems. However, do the most comprehensive SWOT
                 analysis possible.

  Industry and   The 2 main tools used here are ‘Porter’s 5 forces’ and the ‘Key Industry
   Competition   Success Factors’ analysis. The ‘Porter’s 5 forces’ model tells us whether the
      Analysis   industry is an attractive one to be in, and where within the five industry forces
                 the organisation needs to improve. The ‘Key Industry Success factors’
                 analysis is focused on determining what are those factors in that particular
                 industry which are essential for success. Students often confuse them with
                 identifying the organisation’s strengths, but this (KISF) analysis tool is
                 focused on the industry itself.

                    This step looks closely within the organisation itself. Depending on the
       Company      problem/opportunity, it would look at such things as morale, leadership and
        Analysis    culture as well as each of the main functional departments. Financial ratio
                    analysis fits in here (see other guides for more details on the ‘how to’ side).
                    Obviously you do the ratios you can do from the figures given; you are not
                    expected to do ratios in a case without the relevant financials available. More
                    importantly, you must give a clear picture of the firm’s financial health across
                    the 4 main areas (wherever possible) of liquidity, profitability, debt and

  Stakeholder       In this section you analyse the impact on the situation of any key stakeholders
     Analysis       you have not covered so far (e.g. environmental and other pressure groups, the
                    local community, etc).

     Portfolio      This tool (i.e. B.C.G, G.E.) is only used if the organisation has a portfolio of
     Analysis       SBUs or products and the analysis will help with the specific
                    problems/opportunities faced.

        Macro-      This tool is best left until last and is done on an exception basis (or it can end
 environmental      up being too big and unfocused). For example, do not tell the reader that there
       Analysis     are 18 million people in Australia unless this is crucial to the business in the
    (Economic,      case.
       Political,   Note:   Remember to use your analysis in your decision-making and
Technological,              recommendations that follow. Some students just do it because it is
   Geographic,              required, and then ignore it in the rest of the report.

                    Statement of alternative options

                    Here it is important to show that you have identified all likely alternative
                    options, from closing down; selling up; leaving it as it is; expanding products
                    and markets; mergers; alliances; technologies; staffing; costing, etc. You
                    cannot just tell the reader your recommendations without showing that you
                    have considered the alternative options.

  Reasons for       Each contending option needs to be rationally rejected to complete the process
  rejecting the     of giving yourself and the reader maximum confidence in your
 other options      recommendations.

                    Recommendations (in detail)

                    Employers and paying clients are predominantly interested in your
                    recommendations and thus this should be as detailed as possible. Justify your
                    decisions in case the reader needs convincing.

                    Recommendations should cover the main problems/opportunities identified at:
                    a) the corporate level, and b) each of the functional levels.

   ‘Sustainable     Right at the beginning you should have a heading entitled ‘Sustainable
    Competitive     Competitive Advantage’. Although stated in the singular, it is really a
  & Action Plan’
       collection of interlocking key decisions that together will give the business a
       winning SCA. You must show that you have done a good job of this.

       Also within this section is the heading ‘Implementation and Action Plan’. No
       set of recommendations are worth anything if they are not implemented.
       Consider here the firm’s people, culture, physical and financial resources.
       Who will champion the changes? With what? What likely opposition will
       there be, and what will be done about that? If possible, provide some action
       plan examples (i.e. Who is to do what, by when.) and recommend that a
       detailed action plan be put into place.

       Appendices (for example,                                         ratio   calculations,   industry
       statistics, exhibits, maps)

       Remember that what goes in here is up to you; you are not to put in
       unnecessary, irrelevant or unobtainable appendices. It depends on the report
       you are writing.


       In an assignment case study, the source of the case study might be the only
       item in here. You might also have used the Internet or other sources to get a
       ‘feel of the industry and business’, and those should be added as well
       (accepting that case study assignments, unless otherwise stated, are marked on
       the case as given to you, and as at the date of the case). Obviously, if you
       were writing an extensive executive report for a client, you might have an
       equally extensive reference list. This ‘guide to a typical executive report’ is
       given to you for all the executive reports you will write or read throughout
       your career, not just for your assignments at university.

       Financial performance measures and the use of financial ratios


       An understanding of financial performance measures and ratios is essential for
       strategic management. It is a pre-requisite to:

       •         Identify and state the current position of the entity.

       •         Assessing the likely impact of proposed strategies and planned
                 objectives upon entity survival and profitability.

       The following summation provides a brief overview of finance and financial
       performance measure to enable the non-accounting practitioner to interpret
       and understand historic and proforma financial statements.

Transactions    All transactions of a business entity (that is assets acquired, liabilities
 measured in    incurred, sales made) are measured in monetary terms, and all transactions
   monetary     result in changes to the asset structure, liabilities, or owners’ equity within the
      terms     individual account items.

                It is possible to calculate the effects of every individual transaction upon
                assets, liabilities and owners’ equity. However, in practice, it is only
                necessary to record and aggregate similar categories of transactions (such as
                sales) for a given period of time, and to report upon the impact of the sum of
                these transactions at the end of a period.

                These periodic summaries form:

                •     a trading report, which is a ‘Statement of Financial Performance’ for the
                      period – usually monthly and/or quarterly and/or annually.

                •     a balance sheet, which is a ‘Statement of Financial Position’ of the
                      entity at the end of the reporting period.

                A comparison of the current balance sheet with the balance sheet at the end of
                the previous trading period will show the differences in asset, liability and
                owners’ equity accounts primarily, but not exclusively, caused by current
                period transactions – summarised in the trading report.

                However, the above summarised financial statements contain financial data
                which are relatively meaningless until they are related and compared with
                each other.

                For instance:

  Profit as a   •     A net profit before tax of $100,000 of itself is meaningless. However,
 percentage           if we relate this financial figure to sales in the same time period of
                      $1,000,000, we can say that the net profit earned on sales was 10%.
                      This percentage figure can then be compared with the same ratio of net
                      profit/sales for previous years for the same company, and with other
                      companies within the same industry. The former comparison enables
                      management to identify favourable and unfavourable trends within their
                      company, whereas the latter comparison is made between the company
                      and the performance of other companies within the same industry for
                      the same time period.

                •     Similarly, a net profit before tax of $100,000 is meaningless until
                      related to the amount of equity capital invested in the business. If
                      equity capital (or shareholders’ funds) is $500,000 we can say that the
                      pre-tax return on equity funds is $100,000/$500,000 = 20%. Is this an
                      adequate return?

                      What returns on equity capital has the company generated in previous

                      What returns on equity capital is being generated by other companies
                      within the industry?

                These relationships (ratios) of financial data can be related and compared to

                   •     favourable and unfavourable performance trends within a business; and

                   •     entity performance relative to the industry performance, providing
                         industry data is available.

    Financial      Ratios also convert a large mass of financial data into a meaningful set of
       Ratios      information for strategic management planning, performance monitoring and
                   control purposes.

                   However, there are no absolute or ideal ratio measures. They are merely
                   pointers or indicators to performance improvement, avoidance of loss or
                   financial failure, and may be used as a basis for assessing the financial impact
                   of proposed strategies and objectives upon the entity.

                   There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers in ratio analysis, merely pointers or
                   indicators which, when analysed individually or in concert with other ratio
                   information, show where management action is required.

                   When comparing changes in ratios from period to period, care must be taken
                   in interpretation. For instance, a change may primarily be due to a change in
                   accounting methods rather than in performance. However, dynamic analysis
                   (i.e. comparing changes in a ratio from period to period) does provide
                   indicators for business audits and performance improvement, the latter being
                   beneficial when followed through by management.

                   Inter-firm Comparisons (IFCs)

                   As previously discussed, it is possible (through use of financial ratios) to
                   compare and contrast the performance of one entity within an industry with
                   that of another within the same industry. It is also possible to compare and
                   contrast the performance of one firm with that of the whole industry, or a large
                   sample or particular segment of that industry. However, these comparisons
                   may suffer from one or more of the following limitations:

                   1.    Different accounting methods may be used by individual firms making
                         up the industry sample, or by the firm being compared.

                   2.    The industry figures may be biased by one or a few very large firms
                         within the sample.

                   3.    Conversely, an industry mean may be misleading for a small or large
                         firm being compared with the mean. Ratios may vary for different sizes
                         of firms.

                   4.    The companies within the industry sample may span across more than
                         one industry classification.

                   5.    The industry figures may be relevant for a different financial period,
                         and could possibly be out-of-date.

                   A summary of the most commonly used financial
                   performance measures

No standard set    There is no exclusive or standard set of ratios and performance measures. A
       of ratios   number of different relationships can be developed and measured, depending

upon the information needs of management. For instance, personnel
management measures are usually not included within the commonly
recognised financial ratios (e.g. the percentage of lost time through industrial
accidents and sick leave, etc. compared with total paid hours).

Other measures may include the percentage of export sales to total sales, or
the percentage of reject parts to total parts produced, or the percentage of late
deliveries to total deliveries. There is no constraint on the types of ratios that
management may require for planning and control purposes.

The more common financial ratios may be grouped or categorised into
liquidity, activity, debt/equity, coverage, profitability and other ratios. The
relevance or significance of each ratio within each category will vary
depending upon the financial structure of the firm and the nature of the
industry. In particular, relevance will depend upon whether the entity:

1.    Produces and sell products.

2.    Purchases finished products for resale.

3.    Provides personal or professional services.

4.    Provides other services or infrastructure, such as a building or civil
      engineering project.

Liquidity ratios

Liquidity ratios are designed to measure or predict the ability of an entity to
meet its maturing financial obligations (liabilities due for payment) out of its
‘current’ or most liquid assets.

It is important to note that businesses do not fail in the short-term because they
are unprofitable; they fail because they run out of cash (i.e. cash outflow
commitments exceed cash inflows). Thus profitable businesses and growing
businesses in particular, may fail through a liquidity crisis or poor cash

              Current Ratio =                    Current Assets
                                                Current Liabilities

                Liquid Ratio =            (Current Assets – Inventory)
                                               Current Liabilities

        Cash position Ratio =           (Cash + Short-term Investments)
                                               Current Liabilities

Although the above ratio measures are helpful and meaningful to prospective
lenders and investors, they should also be supported by a detailed cashflow

Activity (working capital) ratios

Activity ratios are designed to measure efficiency in the use of ‘working
capital’ and point to improvements in working capital management.

           Inventory Turnover
           (Stock Turnover)         =                 Cost of Goods Sold
                                         Average of opening and closing inventory at cost


                                     =                        Sales
                                                  Average Inventory at selling price

           Accounts Receivable
           Turnover                  =                      Credit Sales
                                               Average of opening and closing debtors

           Accounts Payable
           Turnover                  =                    Credit Purchases
                                               Average of opening and closing creditors

           Debt: equity ratios

           Debt: Equity ratios show how the assets of the business are financed. That is,
           the ratio illustrates the proportion financed by debt, and the proportion
           financed by owners’ equity by means of contributed capital and reserves.

                      Debt : Total Assets =          (Current + Non Current Liabilities)
                                                                Total Assets

                     Equity : Total Assets =          Owners’ or Shareholders’ Equity
                                                               Total Assets

           (Total Assets = Debt Finance + Equity Funds)

                       Debt : Equity Ratio =                  Total Liabilities
                                                      Owners’ or Shareholders’ Equity

Level of   A highly geared company has greater risk of financial failure than a low
gearing    geared company, because interest payable on loan funds must be met from the
           cashflows as and when the debt falls due. The firm has a legal obligation to
           meet interest payments and eventual payment of loan funds when they become
           due for payment, whereas a firm financed by equity capital is under no
           obligation to pay a dividend or to return capital to the equity holder.

           Thus a highly geared company is more vulnerable in times of an economic or
           industry downturn affecting cashflows.

           It follows that entities within declining or volatile industries, where cashflows
           are uneven or irregular, should gear conservatively.

Coverage ratios

Coverage ratios measure the capacity of an entity to meet its short and long
term debt financing commitments.

     Interest (Times Earned)
          (Coverage Ratio) =     (Net Profit Before Tax + Interest Payments)
                                              Interest Payments

          Burden Coverage
 (Fixed Charge Coverage) =      (Net Profit Before Tax + Interest Payments +
                                              Lease Payments)
                                  (Interest Payments + Lease Payments)

        Long Term Finance :
             Fixed Assets =        (Non-Current Liabilities + Equity Funds)
                                               Fixed Assets

Long Term Solvency Ratio =                      Total Liabilities
                                    Net Profit Before Tax + Depreciation +
                                          Prepayments – Accruals

Profitability and return ratios

Measure the performance, return for risk, and overall effectiveness of the

        Break Even Sales =                       Fixed Expense
                                                Gross Profit Ratio

     Margin of Safety Above
               Break Even =           (Total Sales – Break Even Sales)
                                                 Total Sales

         Gross Profit Ratio =                     Gross Profit

            Expense Ratio =                     Period Expenses

           Net Profit Ratio =      Net Profit       OR
                                  Before Tax               Net Profit After Tax
                                    Sales                        Sales

     Return on Total Assets
                 (ROTA) =        (Net Profit Before Tax + Interest Payments)
                                                 Total Assets

Return on Owners’ Equity or
      Net Assets (RONA) =          Net Profit       OR    Net Profit Before Tax
                                  Before Tax
                                    Sales                 Owners’ Equity Funds

Cash Return on Total Assets
                (CROTA) =       (Net Profit After Tax + Interest + Depreciation)
                                                  Total Assets

 Cash Return on Net Assets
               (CRONA) =         (Net Profit After Tax + Depreciation Expense)
                                                   Net Assets or Owners’ Equity

    Economic Value Added        Net Profit After Tax + Interest + Expense
                 (EVA) =        Adjustments – The Cost of Capital (WACC)

    Fixed Asset Turnover =                Sales
                                       Fixed Assets

     Total Asset Turnover =               Sales
                                       Total Assets

     Sales Per Employee =                 Sales
                                     Total Number of

Gross Profit Per Employee =            Gross Profit
                                     Total Number of

    Earnings Before Interest
   and TAX (EBIT) : Sales =                 EBIT

         EBIT : Total Assets              EBIT
  (Return on Total Assets) =           Total Assets

Other ratios (earnings and retained profits)
       Net Profit After Tax :
    Drawings or Dividends =                   Net Profit After Tax
                                             Drawings or Dividends

       Earnings per Share =                 Net Profit After Tax
                                      Number of Ordinary Shares Issues

     Price : Earnings Ratio =              Share Price at Balance Date
                                               Earnings Per Share

            Earnings Yield =                  Earnings Per Share
                                           Share Price at Balance Date

            Dividend Yield =                 Total Period Dividends
                                           Share Price at Balance Date

          Retained Earnings:
              Total Assets =    Retained Earnings for the Period
                                               Total Assets

  Sustainable Growth Rate =            Retained Earnings for the Period
                                 Total Assets/(Asset Turnover Ratio * 1/Equity

       Improving profitability

       Relative to sales demand, there are a number of ways to improve profitability:

       •          For a given level of sales volume:

                  -          reduce the level of overhead expenses or the variable cost of
                             manufacturing products; and

                  -          reduce the value of inventory required to meet sales demand and
                             capital required to fund credit sales. Action taken to reduce
                             working capital will have a twofold positive effect. It will reduce
                             interest expenses and thus increase profits. It will also reduce the
                             total level of assets being funded and thus increase the financial
                             return on assets used.

       •          If sales volume is growing:

                  -          reduce the variable cost of each product manufactured;

                  -          ensure that overhead expenses increase at a slower rate than gross
                             profits generated from increased sales; and

                  -          ensure that non-current and working capital assets will be
                             contained and the return on assets used will be higher.

       Reducing the risk of financial failure

       A number of failure prediction models, and discriminant functions, have been
       developed over the past twenty years. Most claim a predictive reliability of
       80% or more. Although research is continuing in the area of predictive
       modelling, there is sufficient commonality between models to show that low
       risk businesses:

       •          forecast and manage their cashflows and working capital;

       •          maintain adequate liquid assets to meet their maturing financial

       •          maintain a “reasonable” ratio of debt to equity funding; and

       •          generate acceptable returns on funds (assets) invested in the business.

       The question is, ‘What is adequate, reasonable and acceptable?’ There is no
       clear answer to this question which would apply in all situations, to all
       industries and firms within an industry.

       One approach to determining what is adequate, reasonable and acceptable
       resides within industry ratios (Inter-Firm Comparisons) which give an insight
       into how a particular industry views its relevant liquidity, activity, risk and
       return ratios.

Diagnosing problems and improving performance

Identified       Check the Following Ratios or Factors

High Stock       Stockturn Ratio.
Levels:          Stock (Inventory) Control Systems & Methods.
                 Percentage of Scrap, Rejects or Damaged Stock.
                 Unfavourable Variances to Standard Cost.
                 Slow & Obsolete Stock.
                 Stock Shrinkages & Losses Not Accounted For.
High Debtor      Accounts Receivable Turnover & Control Methods.
Levels:          Use of Aged Debtor Statements & Controls (Days
                 Bad or Doubtful Debts Not Accounted For.
Cashflow         Cashflow Projections & Seasonality Factors.
Crises:          Current Ratio (Current Assets/Current Liabilities).
                 Liquid Ratio (Current Assets – Inventory)/Current
                 Cash Ratio (Cash + Marketable Investments)/Current
                 Accounts Receivable Ratio.
                 Accounts Payable Ratio.
                 Stockturn Ratio.
                 Excessive Drawings & Dividend Payments.
                 Repayment or Refinancing of Liabilities.
                 Gearing & Degree of Risk in the Capital Structure.
                 Total Asset Turnover Ratio.
                 Expenses to Sales Ratio.
Poor Cost        Requisitioning & Payment Authority.
Control:         Budget -vs- Actual Expenditure.
                 Expenses to Sales Ratio.
                 Sales Turnover per Employee.
                 Variances to Standard Cost.
                 Control Over Discretionary Expenditure.
                 Unfavourable Trends in Ratios.
Poor             Costing System & Pricing Policies or Structure.
Profitability:   Do Cost, Volume, Profit Sensitivity Analysis.
                 When were Selling Prices last increased?
                 Opportunities to Increase Selling Prices.
                 Gross Profit Ratio & Trends.
                 Net Profit Ratios & Trends.
                 Earnings Before Interest & Tax/Total Tangible Assets.
                 Working Capital Turnover : Frequency per annum.
                 Total Asset Turnover : Frequency per annum.
                 Break Even Sales.
                 Margin of Safety above Break Even Point.
                 Excessive Investment in Fixed Assets.
Financial        Debt : Equity Ratio.
Structure:       Times Interest Earned.
                 Fixed Assets / (Owners’ Equity + Long Term Debt).
                 Quick Asset Ratio.

Identified         Check the Following Ratios or Factors
                   Internal Financing Ratio = Funds Generated / Total Funds.
                   Long Term Debt Coverage Ratio.
Asset Structure:   Fixed Assets / Total Assets.
                   Inventory / Total Assets.
                   Fixed Assets / (Owners’ Equity + Long Term Debt).
                   Inventory Turnover.

Diagnosing problems and improving performance

Unfavourable        Probable Causes
Declining Sales     Decline in demand may be due to:
Turnover            Customers being alienated.
                    Products in decline stage of life cycle.
                    Low market acceptance of products due to quality or
                    reliability problems.
                    High prices relative to competitors or substitute products.
                    Decline in population and/or income in the geographic
                    Insufficient promotion or outlets for products.
Declining Gross     May be due to:
Profit Margin On    Direct costs or manufacturing expenses increasing at a
Sales               faster rate than sales.
                    Significant changes in the mix of product items sold.
                    Failure to recover cost increases plus an average profit
                    margin on cost increases.
Declining Net       May be due to:
Profit              All or some of the causes listed in 2 above.
                    Fixed overhead expenses increasing at a faster rate then
                    increases in sales.
                    Fixed overhead expenses declining at a slower rate than
                    decline in sales.
                    A lack of management control over expenses.
Decline in Asset    Due to one or more of :
Turnover Ratio      Inventory and debtors increasing at a faster rate than sales,
                    or declining at a slower rate than sales.
                    Acquisition of non-current (fixed) assets or a decline in
Decline in Rate     Due to one or more of:
of Return on        The causes outlined in 1 to 4 above.
Decline in          Due to:
Working Capital     Inventories increasing at a faster rate, or declining at a
Turnover            slower rate than sales.
                    Ditto debtors.

      Chapter summary

      •        Executive reports are probably the most common type of business

      •        This chapter is a guide/template only; not all sections will be needed for
               all reports

      •        Executive reports are very focussed, to-the-point documents

      •        Headings and sub-headings are used to structure the report

      •        Executive reports are frequently about diagnosing problems and
               improving performance.


      Windschuttle, K & Elliott, E 1999, Writing, researching, communicating:
      communication skills for the information age, 3rd edn, Irwin/McGraw Hill,


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