It provides management with an opportunity to praise employee innovation, quality, teamwork, and commitment, all of which are critical components in overall business success.
Some companies provide only this minimum amount of information.
Seeing a successful project or initiative profiled in the annual report gives reinforcement to the employees responsible for the success. Customers are reducing their number of suppliers, and one evaluation criterion is financial strength.
It makes a comparison of the most recent year with prior years. The stockholder with five shares might be as careful and discriminating a reader of an annual report as the financial analyst representing a firm owning one million shares.
Some of these letters may run a dozen or more pages and include photographs of the CEO in different poses some even expound on topics that, while perhaps of only tangential interest to stockholders and other readers, are of importance to the CEO.
In some respects, annual reports are like fashions. It allowed companies to produce a summary annual report, rather than the traditional report with audited statements and footnotes. Many companies also want to be sure, however, that their targeted audiences are going to read and understand the message.
In many ways the annual report serves as an advertisement for the company, a reality that is reflected in the fact that leading business magazines now present awards to company reports deemed to be of particular merit.
Since its use was approved, however, the summary annual report has not gained widespread support. Companies also use milestone anniversaries—including industry as well as company anniversaries—in their annual reports.
Employees The annual report serves many purposes with employees. So, like other shareholders, these employees can use the annual report to help gauge their investment in the company. Such a profile serves two purposes.
Audited statements of income, financial position, cash flow, and notes to the statements providing details for various line items. In recent years, companies have also chosen to make their annual reports available in a variety of electronic media that lend themselves to creative, visually interesting treatments.
At its most basic, an annual report includes: A key to a successful annual report is not getting caught up in a trend, and instead deciding what works best for conveying the message.
In addition, particular events or economic conditions of a given year may be incorporated into the themes advanced in an annual report. The objective is to present the company as a proactive member of the community.
In addition, an annual report can also be used as a vehicle to relate those company successes—a new contract, a new product, cost-saving initiatives, new applications of products, expansions into new geographies—that have an impact on its work force.
Financial Summary Most companies will include a five- six- ten- or eleven-year summary of financial data. Financial data are still included, but in a condensed form in a supporting role.
Companies meet this requirement in many ways. Companies seek warm welcomes in new communities including tax breaks and other incentives. For these companies, the primary purpose of an annual report is simply to meet legal requirements.
They want committed and capable suppliers that are going to be around for the long term. A review of this section provides readers with at least a basic understanding of what the company does. A company would much rather be known for its sponsorship of a benefit charity event than for poisoning a local river, whatever its other attributes.
With this in mind, many medium-sized and large companies devote large sums of money to making their annual reports as attractive and informative as possible. It discusses sales, profit margins, operating income, and net income.
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