In any profession, you will need to compose and submit business reports. These are reports that cover a wide range of company-related subjects, from trying to decide the best course of action for the company to monitoring how well or poorly the firm is doing. It might seem like a monotonous task, but it is critical for the success of your company.
Whether you are a seasoned writer who needs a bit of a refresher or someone who just found out the importance of business reports, we're here to help! Who knows? Maybe you have the entrepreneurial skills to craft one of the most fantastic business your team or investors have ever read.
This step-by-step guide will help you get started and offer you plenty of tips which you can incorporate into your business writing.
Here is how to write a business report.
1. Create a plan
A team of professionals within your organisation will read your business report, so you should treat it with the same finesse and dedication as you would an office project. It's essential to create a plan on what to write before you begin gathering information and performing research. Indeed, you must have a blueprint in your mind of what you wish to accomplish.
By taking this simple step, you'll have a clear idea of what you are going to write. If you refrain from doing so, you will have a complicated, tedious and lengthy report on your hands.
2. Determine your objective
The next step is to determine what your goal is with your business report. What is its purpose? Are you trying to inform the management of quarterly sales numbers? Or are you trying to justify investing more in business intelligence tools and 5G technology?
Every piece of business writing requires a goal you wish to achieve. You may not have the knack of a scribe, but you can still use the power of language to fulfil your aims.
3. Identify your audience
Typically, when tasked with these reports, you'll have an idea of who will read them. In the beginning stages, you need to identify your audience and then tailor the overall structure to those individuals.
Whether it is senior management or a venture capitalist, your business reports need to be composed based on the audience.
Here are some considerations when writing for a particular audience:
- Remain gender-neutral and refrain from making assumptions about race, gender and culture.
- Do not add jokes to your writing since this is a formal setting.
- Use jargon and keywords that your readers will be familiar with.
- Ask questions about your audience, such as how much background information they will need, how much research they expect you to have and what they wish to learn from you.
Indeed, not everyone is the same, but you can inform your choice of content and style by acknowledging who this is primarily intended for at work.
4. Choose the type of report
Not every business report is the same. This may not seem like common knowledge when you're cutting your teeth in the industry, but you will eventually come across formats suited for different occasions or particular templates meant for a specific audience.
So, types are there to consider? Here are a few of them:
- Justification report: This report presents an idea to decision-makers in your firm.
- Investigative report: You highlight the problem in your organisation and identify a specific course of action.
- Compliance report: Outline compliance information to a governing institution to show that your business is abiding by rules, regulations and laws.
- Feasibility report: Is a recommendation feasible? A feasibility report explores a proposal and determines if the concept will work.
- Research studies report: A research studies report presents an in-depth examination of a problem or an issue that is prevalent within the office.
- Periodic report: A periodic report serves as a tool to improve the business' policies, procedures or products every week, month or quarter. This kind of report is great because it is consistent monitoring of the enterprise.
- Yardstick report: How many potential solutions are there for a specific situation? Better yet, which is the best course of action? A yardstick report considers these answers and concludes by presenting the best alternative.
- Situational report: A rundown of a specific situation, such as information shared at an industry conference or how your business responded to a crisis in a community.
5. Determine the in-house format
Every firm, particularly the established ones, will have their formats for business reports. Why not you?
The best way to come up with the right format is to take the time to go through your company handbook or inquire with the experts in your business about their formats of choice.
By using the regular industry-wide format, you can ensure that your business report conforms to the organisation's standards and you can appear even more professional than you are right now.
6. Draft a business report template
When you start composing a report, it can help to draft a template, which can then be reused for future business documents. This can also save you time in the future.
Here are aspects you should include in your draft:
- Title page: Title of the report, author's name and the date.
- Business summary: A section to highlight the significant findings of the report. It should be brief and used mostly in long reports.
- Introduction: A statement for informing the purpose of your writing and outlining what you have achieved.
- Findings: The primary body of the text that shares ideas, information, statistics, opinions, judgments and other relevant data. The findings should be separated into paragraphs with subheadings.
- Conclusion: What did you find? What are your recommendations? Are you appraising the situation? Your conclusion is critical to the success of the report.
- Bibliography: A list of all your sources and cited works that were used to complete the project.
- Glossary: A glossary of terms might be suitable if a business report is being extended to others unfamiliar with the characteristics of the industry.
7. Write an introduction and summary
We covered this briefly above but writing an introduction for your report is an important addition since it addresses its objective, offers background information on the topic and defines and summarises the primary argument.
The next thing is a summary. The summary essentially condenses the main points of your report. It should always be the last thing you write so that you can refer to all the information you put together throughout the report.
It will also be prudent to determine if an abstract is suitable for your report. Essentially, an abstract is a short but powerful statement that describes a larger body of work, and it could be a vital addition to your report.
8. Produce a table of contents
In formal business writing, a table of contents helps the reader navigate through long and intricate pieces of work. Usually, it comes right after the title page.
Your table of contents should list the section headings of your report as well as their pages. To ensure consistency and that the page numbers on your list are correct, leave this to write for last.
9. Insert infographics and visuals
Imagine reading a 100-page business report full of words; even the most dedicated industry veteran would find this monotonous and dry unless the entire report was full of humorous insights. But your comedy should not be included in your business writing.
Therefore, the next best thing is inserting infographics that will act as a visual aid for crucial data or recommendations. Most experts would agree that colourful graphs and charts are usually the go-to sources for visuals.
10. Proofread your business report
Did you take a moment to proofread your business report? This is essential since you do not want your 100-page magnum opus to be littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It would be a terrible look for you.
So, take the time to do a thorough proofread and consider incorporating these tips into your report:
- Avoid wordy sentences, slang and five-dollar terminology (see below).
- Use relevant industry jargon and technical terms but refrain from overusing these buzzwords.
- Choose passive writing instead of active writing for your business report.
- Ask a colleague to review the final document.
- Run a check through Grammarly.
Who enjoys editing and proofreading? After spending the last few days writing this report, the last thing you want to do is comb through dozens of pages searching for writing errors. That said, it is worth putting in the extra effort to ensure your report is nice and polished.
11. Use concise language
Business writing is different from academic writing. The former relies more on the principle of 'time is money,' while the latter focuses more on expanding the minutest of points.
Business writing requires getting to the nitty-gritty as soon as you can. Although you should incorporate formal language and precise terminology in your overall report, you should still attempt not to be so, well, dull.
At the same time, it should be noted that you must always follow your own standards. So, if your office prefers to adhere to the elements of academic writing, then that is what you must do.
12. Package your report
Finally, the best thing you can do for your thoroughly researched and well-written business report is this cherry on top: polished packaging. What better way to present your complete writing to your team or clients than by inserting it in a nice-looking folder, organising the report in a binder or printing your genius on fine paper? You want to look as sharp as possible, and how you choose to package your report will put you, and your firm, in a positive spotlight.
Remember, you will mostly work solo when producing these documents, which does require you to tap into your entrepreneurial spirit and fall back on your wits.
Are business reports a superfluous task in your private enterprise? For the folks penning them, it can seem like an exhausting endeavour that takes way too much time, energy and resources. There is a method to this madness, though.
The entire point of business reports is to find justification in certain corporate decisions or to learn the best way to compete in a segment of the marketplace. These documents are meant to organise your thoughts, facts and discoveries into a giant report. It would never work if you just jotted down random findings on a cocktail napkin and presented it to the boss, clients or shareholders.
So, take pride in your business report, do not try to emulate Tolstoy and have fun – if you can!
Have you got any other tips that'll make the process of writing a business report any easier? Share them with us in the comments section below!