Discover how to write a business report with this professional and insightful step-by-step guide.
It can be tough to know where to start if you’ve been asked to write a business report. From determining the report’s purpose to making a list of appendices, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed as you try to decide what relevant information to include in the report writing process. When your supervisor trusts you to put together a business report, they trust you to participate in the company’s decision-making processes.
Both formal and informal reports in business are used to help the business make an informed decision about the following steps to move the company forward. While writing business documents is a key part of many jobs, it can be tough to know what your boss or supervisor wants when they ask you for a business report. Here, we’ll go over the structure of an entire report, taking you from the title page at the beginning of the report to the additional information (also known as appendices) that you’ll be expected to include at the end. Let’s dive in.
- Materials Needed
- Step 1. Understand The Purpose of a Business Report
- Step 2. Determine The Type of Report
- Step 3. Develop The Main Points
- Step 4. Create Subsections
- Step 5. Create Your Title Page
- Step 6. Create An Executive Summary
- Step 7. Develop Your Table of Contents
- Step 8. Write the Introduction
- Step 9. Create the Body Text
- Step 10. Wrap It Up With a Conclusion
- Step 11. Make Recommendations
- Step 12. List Your References
- Step 13. Add the Appendices Section
- Step 14. Proofread Your Report
- Step 15. Present Your Work
- Step 16. Receive Feedback Openly
- Business Communication Tips and Tricks
- Company data that relates to the purpose of your report
- A copy of a report completed by a colleague, allowing you to follow your company’s preferred format
- Your computer
- A notepad for jotting down ideas
Step 1. Understand The Purpose of a Business Report
A business report has a specific purpose: to help inform future decisions within a company. Some business reports are urgent and require employees to report on information in their department so that data can be gathered and used to solve a crisis. Other business reports are less urgent and may be used to determine the direction a company should take over the coming year. You’ll be expected to follow the standard business report form when you write a business report.
This differs from an academic research report or narrative writing format. A business report is a formal report that has well-defined sections. If it’s your first time writing business reports at your job, it can be wise to check in with your supervisor before you get started to ensure that your company uses the standard business report format.
You may also find it helpful to check in with your supervisor regularly to ensure that you’re on the right track. Outlining one section at a time can help you get started in the right direction, and your supervisor will be able to provide you with guidance to ensure that you’re working to provide your company with the information it needs to move forward.
Step 2. Determine The Type of Report
While business reports follow the same general format, there are different types of business reports, and it’s key that you know which type of report your company expects from you. All types of business reports provide information that can help drive the company forward; understanding the type of report your supervisor expects can ensure that you’re providing the information necessary to develop a solution to the problem your report is working to help solve. Different types of business reports include:
- Research report: Different from an academic research report, a business research report is commonly used when a company or organization is working to develop a new product or service. While one employee may be the point person for a business research report, typically, many people are involved in putting the work together. For example, scientists, researchers, and analysts may work as a team to get the information necessary to help a company decide whether to move forward with a product, service, or other new offerings. The information in the research report is heavily detailed and typically provides quantitative and qualitative information. Both analytical and informational reports are typically used in the process of developing a research report.
- Analytical Report: When a company decides how to move forward with a decision, an analytical report can help. An analytical report focuses on solving a specific problem and offers information that describes both the background of the problem and the current situation within the company. An analytical report may also offer possible outcomes for different solutions to the problem, helping the company to predict how its situation might change depending on how they choose to move forward with the problem-solving process. This business report is profoundly detailed and can take time to develop. However, analytical reports are often requested in a time crunch, as they’re used to solve immediate problems requiring essential decisions.
- Explanatory Report: Sometimes, it can be challenging for management-level professionals to understand the nitty-gritty details of a company, especially when detailed research is involved. An explanatory report may explain research or other findings that can help to inform future decisions. If you’re writing an explanatory report, it’s critical to know your audience so that you don’t over or under-explain complicated concepts.
- Progress Report: Many projects within companies take years to complete, and providing a progress report can be a way to show management how things are moving along. This type of report may not contain data or other findings (depending on the project phase); instead, it serves as a way to update an audience or a supervisor on how something is moving forward. When a project is taking place, progress reports may be expected regularly.
- Informational Report: This type of business report provides the audience with non-biased, objective information that dives into information about a company. This information is purely fact-based and may include data like company statistics (the amount of money the company brought in during the previous fiscal year, the number of employees in the company, etc.).
Step 3. Develop The Main Points
When you’re asked to write a business report, working with your supervisor to understand the report’s purpose is essential. Without clear direction, you may spend time gathering information that isn’t helpful to the company. Going over a clear framework for your report before you dig into the data can help ensure that you’re providing your company with the information it needs to move forward. After you understand the purpose of your business report, you’ll want to develop your main points.
You’ll be able to flesh these out at a later time, but at first, it’s critical to develop an outline that lets you get started with your research. Once you have your outline developed, you’ll know whether you need to set up interviews with people in other departments of your company, research on your own, look up information on how your company performed in recent years, and more. Researching before you begin writing the report can also help you find if there are any holes in your outline.
If you discover that you’re struggling to find the information you need to complete your report, reach out to your supervisor to determine your next steps. It’s best to do this sooner rather than later so you can work together to change the direction of your report if necessary.
Step 4. Create Subsections
Your business report will be split into subheadings that break down the report in a way that’s easy to understand. In steps 5-13, we’ll review each section you need to include in your report.
Step 5. Create Your Title Page
Your business report should start with a crisp, clean title page. If you’re not sure how your company typically formats the title page of their business reports, ask your supervisor for a previously submitted report to use as a reference. Typically, most title pages include the title of the business report, the person (or people) who wrote the report, and when the report was written. You may also want to include the audience for the report on the title page. Be sure to center the information on the title page, and don’t use any unusual fonts or unnecessary formatting. Keep it clean and simple.
Step 6. Create An Executive Summary
The executive summary section of your business report will tell your readers what they’re about to get into as they continue through the body of the report. Your executive summary should be short enough that it doesn’t give away everything in your report but long enough that the reader can get the basics of the report without having to read the entire thing.
Think of your executive summary like the elevator pitch of your report: you have 30 seconds to get your main points across. Remember, any information not fully explained in your executive summary will be expanded later in your report, so there’s no need to cram in every last detail. There’s no appropriate executive summary length set in stone, as the proper length for this part of the report depends mainly on the report’s length as a whole.
Step 7. Develop Your Table of Contents
Your table of contents should start on a new page and clearly outline what’s to come in your report. You’ll want to list each subhead of the report. You may also want to list smaller sections as well. Include page numbers in your table of contents rather than just listing the sections in order. This can help get your audience to follow when you’re giving your business report presentation.
Step 8. Write the Introduction
Here, you’ll be able to give your audience a more detailed idea of what to expect from your report. Be careful not to restate what you said in your executive summary. In the introduction, you may want to delve into why the business report was necessary in the first place. Talking about the problem the report aims to solve can help your audience get into the right headspace to appreciate the research that’s about to be described in the body of your report.
Remember that an introduction in a business report differs from an introduction in a narrative piece of writing. There’s no need to hook your readers in to keep them interested. Keep it smart and formal, and don’t wax poetic (unless that makes sense within your company culture).
Step 9. Create the Body Text
Here, you’ll be able to dig into the meat of your research or findings. You don’t want to skimp out on this part of the report–go into as much detail as possible. Don’t worry about giving too much information or boring your audience. Those who do not have time to read through the body of your business report can read the executive summary or the conclusion to get the necessary information.
The body of your report is where you get the chance to dig into the details of the research or work you’ve completed. The body of your business report will likely include charts and graphs. Be sure to label each chart or graph with information that explains the details to the reader. If you include images in the body section, include a caption for each photo. When writing the body section, keep your audience in mind. If you know you’re writing for an audience without a technical background and about a technical topic, explain the jargon and unfamiliar terms so your readers can keep up with your writing.
Step 10. Wrap It Up With a Conclusion
Similarly to the executive summary section of your business report, your conclusion will go over what you’ve discussed in the report and remind readers of what they need to know. You may want to highlight important points or go over surprising findings. But, again, keep your conclusion short and sweet.
Step 11. Make Recommendations
Here, you’ll talk about how the company can use the information you’ve provided to solve the problem the report aims this section; you may want to discuss several possible courses of action that the company could take, along with the potential outcomes and ramifications of each action. Suppose you do not work in the department responsible for making the decision associated with your report.
In that case, you may want to work with your department colleagues to get feedback on whether they think your recommendations could be helpful for the company. Finally, in this section, be sure to provide clear next action steps that the company can take to move forward based on the information in your report.
Step 12. List Your References
Many business reports use research conducted by other companies to support their findings. If you use research conducted by others, be sure to attribute the research source in your references section correctly. In addition, you’ll want to include information that tells your audience how they can learn more about your preferences (such as the book or website where you found the information cited in your report).
Step 13. Add the Appendices Section
In this section of your business report, you’ll include any extra information that will make it easier for your reader to understand your writing. This may include transcripts from interviews that you used to gather information for your report and a glossary explaining terms you used to describe your research or financial information used in your report. If you don’t need to provide additional information to your audience, you don’t need to include an appendices section.
Step 14. Proofread Your Report
Before you turn in your business report, it’s key that you give yourself plenty of time to proofread it. If you’re working on a tight deadline, you may be tempted to give your report to your supervisor as soon as it’s complete. While quick work is often appreciated, it can be wise to give yourself a night to sleep on your work, read it over in the morning, and make any necessary corrections before handing it to your boss. You’ll be surprised at how many awkward phrases and other errors pop out when you have a set of fresh eyes on your work.
Suppose the information in your report is not confidential. In that case, you may want to ask a coworker or another colleague in your industry to read over your report before you submit it. This can help you find errors you wouldn’t have otherwise considered and may give insight into how you can add to your report to make it more complete before you turn it in.
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Step 15. Present Your Work
You will probably do more than just hand in your report to your supervisor. Most companies will ask that you provide your report to a group of executives as you discuss your findings. You must know your report inside and out and can refer your audience to specific sections of the report to answer their questions. In addition to preparing your business report, you may also want to prepare a visual aid (such as a PowerPoint presentation) to help illustrate your points.
For example, you can pull direct quotes from your report for your slides, helping your audience to follow along as they page through your report. At the end of your presentation, you’ll want to leave time for questions. Knowing your report well can help give you the confidence you need to stand before a board of executives as they ask you to delve deeper into your findings. If you feel nervous about giving a business presentation regarding your report, it can be helpful to practice in front of a friend or a coworker before you walk into the boardroom.
Step 16. Receive Feedback Openly
There’s no doubt about it: it can be nerve-wracking to write your first business report, and it can be especially scary when your boss calls you in to discuss their thoughts on your report. However, do your best to listen with an open mind, and be sure to take notes on how you can create an even better report next time. It’s essential not to take constructive criticism personally regarding business reports, as each company and supervisor has preferences. Instead, note what your supervisor would like you to change next time and move forward.
Business Communication Tips and Tricks
1. Be Clear On Your Message
You must know precisely what information you’re trying to convey or what problem you’re working to solve in your business report.
2. Start Easy
There’s no need to get started with your business report’s executive summary or introduction. If you’re unsure where to start, give yourself a break–start with what you know. Begin by writing about the research you’ve already done or the recommendation you already have for the company, and flesh out your report from there.
3. Aim to be Concise
All of the information in your business report should stay focused, on track, and feel purposeful to your reader. When you proofread your business report, constantly ask yourself whether the information you’ve written is taking the reader where they need to go.
4. Know Your Audience
If you’re writing for a group of board members with a financial stake in your company but don’t understand the day-to-day details of what you do, you’ll need to write differently than if you were writing for a group of your direct supervisors. But, again, understanding your audience is key to writing a report that’s readable and helpful.
5. Keep It Simple
When you come across jargon and tech language in your business report, ask yourself if there’s another word you could use to make the report easier for your reader to understand. If there’s an easier way to say something, go with that option.
Looking for more on this topic? Check out our guide including 14 creative business ideas!
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