If “I’ll have the annual report to you in the morning” makes you cringe with dread, you’re not alone.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Reports can be interesting treasure troves of valuable information. They just need to be packaged in a more visually appealing way, with high-quality graphs and infographics telling the story instead of paragraphs upon paragraphs of words.
If you want to revamp your annual report into a work of art and an essential tool in your business arsenal, all you need is a template.
Let’s investigate annual reports: what they should include, and the benefits of an effective one. In the end, we’ll throw in some annual report templates we like, too.
What is an annual report?
An annual report is a business report written to give an all-encompassing breakdown of the organization’s activities from the past year. The document lays out the company’s financial and operational data to paint a picture of its stability and whether it’s poised for growth. A professional annual report is typically sent to shareholders to keep them informed.
Items to include in your annual report
While the layout may vary slightly across companies and industries, most modern annual reports include a few common sections, including:
Letter from the leadership team (or CEO)
The C-suite’s comments and thoughts should be included in every annual report. These can include an introduction from the CEO, thank you messages to those who have been instrumental in key company happenings during the previous year, and a broad company overview.
The CEO will most likely include successes and mention the challenges of the preceding year, along with the solutions put in place (or planned) to address the obstacles. This part of the annual report should cover external factors, such as market conditions or recessions, that affected the company’s performance in the previous year.
This section gets further into the meat and potatoes of the annual report, painting a picture of major company accomplishments. It’s helpful to stick to the past year's most significant wins to maintain stakeholder focus on the most critical areas.
The performance highlights section helps current and potential stakeholders feel good about investing in the company.
The company’s financials share vital information and key metrics about its performance in black and white terms:
Cash flow statements from the prior fiscal year
It’s wise to lean heavily on graphs and pie charts for data presentation in this section. Since this is arguably one of the most important portions of the report, it should be as easy to digest and absorb as possible.
OKRs and milestones
The annual report should include a section outlining the company’s main objectives for the previous year, along with information about milestones and whether they were met. For example, were the sales forecasts in line with reality? Did the previous year's project costs stay under the cost estimations? All the information should tie back to the larger company objectives and be easy for the reader to see the connections.
While the annual report focuses on the prior year of business, it’s also a tool to showcase the company’s future plans and objectives. In addition, planning and projections demonstrate the organization’s long-term strategy for staying profitable and viable.
This section is multipurpose. It should include future sales projections, an outline of the company’s future goals, planned implementations of new equipment or project software tools, and details about the business strategy that will make them successful. There should be information about the organization’s industry and market, as well as the company itself.
What are the different types of annual reports?
Depending on the size and type of the company and whether it’s privately or publicly owned, there may be different pieces of information to convey within the annual business report. Here are four of the most common ones.
1. Income statements
Income statements showcase the company’s profits or losses from the previous year. The report details how much they made (revenue) and how much they spent (expenses).
Income statements can be created for any time span, which helps pinpoint seasonal and other market-driven conditions. Breaking them down by month is helpful within an annual report, as it makes the data more digestible for the reader.
Income statements impart valuable evidence of how well the company generates revenue from its expenses.
2. Auditor’s report
An auditor’s report is usually submitted along with the annual report. For example, some financial information contained in the report may need to be confirmed by an external third party. Auditors review this information and confirm that the company collected it in accordance with proper accounting rules. They also ensure the data is accurately presented.
This information uses a standard report layout:
Responsibilities: Outlines who is responsible for what
Scope of review: Explains how auditors reviewed the information
Opinion: States whether or not the auditor feels that the information in the annual report accurately represents the company
3. Corporate governance information
Think of this report as the answer to the “who” question some stakeholders ask.
Corporate governance information typically lists the C-suite and members of the board of directors, along with their titles and qualifications. There may also be a section that explains the process for choosing and removing officers from service.
Detail varies in this section. Some reports only go as far as what’s mentioned above, while others share additional information such as each individual’s salary, bonus structure, and how many shares of stock they receive.
4. Key financial statements
Numbers are a foundational element for annual reports, whether they’re covering the world’s largest corporation or smallest nonprofit.
The information shared in this section should offer up a thorough picture of how the company operated in the previous year — and how well they’re set up to handle the future. This includes the company’s balance sheet, profit-and-loss statement, equity, and cash flow statement.
The report’s graphic design is pivotal for making this section as powerful as possible. Charts and graphs (accompanied by short written explanations) with clear fonts help the audience understand otherwise complex information without overwhelming them.
Benefits of a good annual report
There have been many discussions about whether an annual report is still a helpful business tool or an outdated dinosaur. While it does demand considerable resources to build, a solid annual report offers organizations numerous wide-reaching benefits.
Gives the company a mirror on performance
While most annual reports are built for external use (like shareholders, for example), they’re also an impactful tool for the company’s internal functions.
Are there inefficiencies that are draining money away from the bottom line? Do project management costs need to be more closely managed? An annual report highlights what was done well the previous year, and what must be improved upon. It’s an in-your-face, indisputable measuring stick. A well-designed annual report can be a game plan for the company’s future.
From a good annual report, leaders can see:
Where the money goes
What actions lead to the most revenue
Where money may be wasted
What types of problems must be addressed
Bridges the gap between stakeholders and leaders
The C-suite doesn’t have many opportunities to communicate with present and future shareholders. The annual report gives them an open line to that audience. The “Letter from the CEO” section provides the company a chance to thank its stakeholders. The body of the report serves as a mouthpiece for everything from the company’s past successes to future plans.
Annual reports break down barriers, mitigate confusion, and offer assurance to shareholders that they’ve made a wise, secure investment.
Sets a long-range tone
Annual reports convey information about the previous year, but they’re also powerful communication tools for building a picture of where the company is headed in the future. Done well, the report can connect the audience to future plans and gain their buy-in.
Provides a single source of truth
As mentioned above, annual reports are just as valuable a tool for company employees as they are for shareholders and other interested parties.
The depth of information contained in an annual report is a priceless resource to tap into throughout the year. From company messaging to high-quality photography to branded design elements, components of the report can be used in other reporting, outward-facing client material, and PowerPoint presentations about the company and its offerings.
Annual report design templates to use
Compiling the information required for an annual report is a time-consuming endeavor. Wrangling it into a slick, professional-looking end product shouldn’t be. Save time and headaches by using an annual report template.
Choosing the right corporate annual report template is a big responsibility. You want one that imparts the information well but is also eye-catching and customizable with plenty of functionality.
There are many annual report templates available online — some better than others in terms of design and ease of use. The template you choose for your team ultimately depends on personal preference and branding, but here are five great templates to get you started.
1. Envato Elements Annual Report
This template is for a modern, clean, minimalist annual report filled with functionality.
Add any information, from charts to photos, by quickly dropping them into the report.
Edit the 24-page layout right in Adobe InDesign.
Access free fonts.
2. Freepiker Annual Report Brochure
Freepiker offers a solid annual report template that can be used by a wide range of industries and company sizes.
Choose from 12 different page layout templates.
Drag-and-drop images for easy customization and branding.
Easily and quickly edit colors and texts with the editing tool.
3. Free Microsoft Template
For those Microsoft enthusiasts, this free annual report template is perfect for you.
Use the included text tutorial to easily pick up how to use the template.
Customize the annual report quickly to your expectations.
4. Venngage Modern Report
If clean lines and a sleek design are what you’re after with your annual report, this template gives you all that and some robust benefits to boot.
Choose from a pre-set color palette or customize your own for a cohesive, professional, on-brand appearance.
Pick the perfect font from hundreds of available typography choices.
Upload files and convert them into charts for a more visually appealing, easy-to-understand story.
5. Envato Elements Abstract Annual Report Brochure
Break out of the norm with this template. Containing powerful angles and bold lines, your annual report will be a stunning document that nobody will think is boring.
Change the main color throughout the entire document with one click.
Choose from 16 pages of vertically designed layouts.
Place text and images on separate layers for better rendering.
Looking for more templates to simplify your team’s projects? Check out Teamwork's full suite of free templates here.
Create better annual reports with Teamwork
Annual reports are valuable assets, regardless of a company’s size or industry. Built and used correctly, they can inform current shareholders, entice future shareholders, be a resource for sales and marketing, and create a better relationship with all parties and leadership.
Using an annual report template is one of the most seamless ways to simplify report creation while developing a professional, engaging, and informative finished product.
Is your company looking for new ways to increase efficiency and maximize revenue? Let Teamwork assist you in planning, managing, and reviewing your projects for clients.. Our rich product offerings and long list of integrations help Teamwork fit seamlessly into your tech stack. Get started today for free!