Small businesses don't have to file quarterly business reports with a government agency. But that doesn't mean they're not important.
Quarterly reports give you valuable insights into your company's financial health and guide your decision-making. And you may need them if you're trying to attract investors or borrow money.
What are quarterly reports?
Company quarterly reports are sometimes called quarterly statements or quarterly financial statements. The reports are a collection of financial documents that provide a snapshot of different aspects of your business's financial situation. Publicly traded companies and companies with more than 500 shareholders and more than $10 million in assets must file quarterly reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As the name implies, companies report quarterly earnings four times a year. If your fiscal year is the same as the calendar year, the first quarter is January-March, the second quarter is April-June, the third quarter is July-September, and the fourth quarter is October-December. To get the most out of quarterly financial reports, set up a regular quarterly reporting schedule and schedule the dates for quarterly reports as soon as possible after the end of the quarter.
Why are quarterly reports important?
As a small business owner, you've got a lot on your plate, and it can be hard to find time to keep track of cash flow, inventory, accounts receivable, and profits. Quarterly reports are an opportunity to take a good look at where your business stands today and how it compares to the past.
Quarterly reports show you how the money is coming in, how much there is, and where it's being spent. They help you make smart decisions about staffing, growth, inventory, sales, marketing, and other expenditures. They also help you understand and improve your cash flow.
If you're looking to raise or borrow money, you'll probably be asked for quarterly financials as proof of your company's financial health. Some companies use financial reports as a way of keeping investors in the loop and helping them understand the business's successes, risks, and challenges.
How to write a quarterly report
At a minimum, a quarterly report should include three financial documents.
Also known as a profit and loss statement, this document shows your income and expenses for the quarter. By subtracting expenses from your income, you can see how much profit or loss your business had in the past three months.
A balance sheet shows your company's financial health at a given point in time. It lists your assets, such as cash, buildings and equipment, accounts receivable, and inventory. And it lists your liabilities, such as debts and accounts payable. The difference between your assets and your liabilities is your company's equity.
Cash flow statement
This document uses the income statement and balance sheet information to show you how money is coming into and going out of your business. Understanding the cash flow from your business operations is key to managing payroll and bills.
Your bookkeeper or accounting software should be able to create these documents for you. You may want to include additional information in your quarterly reports, such as the length of time before accounts receivable are collected, and accounts payable are paid, and your net profit margin over time.
Quarterly vs. Annual Reports
While a quarterly financial report documents your company's financial situation over a three-month period, an annual financial report spans an entire fiscal year. As with quarterly reports, small businesses don't need to file annual financial reports with the SEC—although publicly traded companies do.
However, many corporations, LLCs, and other small businesses need to file another annual report with their state. This report updates your company information and keeps it in good standing with the state. Different states have different rules about who has to file an annual report, when they're due, how they're filed, and the fees and taxes due with the report. Consult your state's business filing agency or use an online service to make sure you meet your state's deadlines and requirements.
Quarterly reports can take time to prepare and review, but they're a great tool for managing your cash flow and finances. State annual reports are required for many small businesses. They're among several types of reports you may want to consider as your business grows.
Find out more about Managing Your Business