My top 7 favourite (and sometimes overlooked) features in Spotlight Reporting

Since I’ve been working at Spotlight for a number of years now, I thought it was well overdue to share some of our clients' favourite, and sometimes even overlooked features.

So, here they are!

1. Executive Summary

The Spotlight Executive Summary is a great mix of automated smarts to do some heavy lifting, combined with the flexibility to get your point across—quickly. Users who see the Auto Text and Tags features for the first time quickly realise how much unnecessary time is spent copy/pasting data into MS Word and PowerPoint.

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Another handy feature is the ability to create your own headers and insert your own images—even screenshots from other applications. In any case, when customising your Executive Summary, it’s a good idea to make as much applicable for other clients as possible. This way you can use all your hard work for your next client, saving you time, getting more reports with customised summaries out the door quickly and in turn generating more advisory revenue for your firm.

Over time, firms invest in these executive summaries but use the ‘tags’ to customise these even further.

2. Templates

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First off, Spotlight gets you going with a range of templates. From here though you can quickly add/remove pages, customise your P&Ls, add and edit charts, and select from over 150 standard graphs or customise your own.

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Once done, save these by clicking on the save template button. Remember, you may have many pages in a template report pack, but can scale back the pages you want to run for your meeting by deselecting pages.

You may have a separate template for face to face catch ups, and another cut down template to use for the months when no actual meeting takes place. A user I know has a board report pack, and another, more detailed board pack for that scrutinising board member who happens to be an accountant as well.

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Next time, all you need to do is import the most up to date reconciled data, add your own observations in the executive plan (which should be largely complete due to auto tags), revise and update any actions plans, commentary, and get prepared for your meeting.

Firms who are using templates in these ways are increasing the total number of clients within the firm who are receiving good quality reports and forecasts and thereby accelerating their advisory revenue growth.

3. Google Analytics integration

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Google Analytics is a great free tool to measure website traffic and performance. Metrics such as popular pages, new Vs returning visits, unique visits, time on site and others are useful leading indicators of sales—the assumption being, the more traffic you receive, the more likely some of these visits will convert into sales.

It’s also useful to compare results (lagging indicators) of your marketing efforts by tracking metrics such as social network referrals and the originating source of your traffic.

Clicking on “Add Another Data Source” allows you to bring in Google Analytics.

Don’t worry about having this perfect, just presenting it visually and bringing these metrics into your meetings will:

  1. Be a great conversation starter during meetings,
  2. Reframe your client’s perception of you as resource to discuss financial performance (not just compliance), and
  3. Be a great starting point for budget setting or revising their current budget. These conversations can be taken even further for cash flow scenario analyses around specific sales campaigns and revised marketing budgets.

4. Forecasting: Drivers and Scenarios

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Spotlight Forecasting allows the input of custom drivers. Some examples might be:

  • Staff category * Staff category salary
  • Widget * Cost Price (supplier A)
  • Fridays per month * Avg Friday cover price * Avg Friday cover numbers

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I always advise to not invite your clients into Spotlight, but the drivers grid is one area where you could share screen and go through their drivers over the next 12 months before you start building out the forecast at a subsequent meeting.

Without drivers, you’ll still have one foot in those dirty little spreadsheets, opening up the can of macro error worms that you were trying to avoid in the first place. Drivers, combined with Spotlight’s dynamic rules allows you to have a much more accurate forecast, and give you confidence in your data.

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For an added twist, you can also quickly create a new scenario and swap out a driver for another one, to compare and show to your client. Finally, you can export your updated scenario back to the Budget Manager in your accounting file, completing the circle.

5. Forecast comparison pages

These are the last three pages in your Spotlight Forecast Report. They allow you to show figures from your budget, forecast and scenarios side-by-side, on a single page.

  • How did our original forecast compare to actuals?
  • Are we ready to hire more staff?
  • What if we refinance?
  • What if we lose our largest client?
  • What if sales suddenly dropped due to a new COVID strain?
  • Can we afford a new product launch? A new premises?
  • Can I take out some equity of the business?

Once you’ve created your master forecast, it’s a snap to create a scenario. Importantly, it allows you to show your client the cash position of a financial decision before it has been made. Providing these services really elevates the practice to that of a trusted advisor, it’s where businesses perceive the most value, and it’s the high margin (and high fee!) services for your firm.

(check out more favourite forecasting features here)

6. Non Financial Data

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There are many buttons and levers you can push (and pull) to drive financial performance. Some of this operational data is not sitting in your accounting file, but it’s sitting in other applications, spreadsheets, or in business owner’s heads. Reporting on this non financial data (and any lead indicators of revenue) will really get your client interested and excited to attend your meetings.

Spotlight has a range of industry templates that rely on non financial data, so make sure you get your hands on this data wherever possible and include these in your management reports to get conversations firing. Once you’ve worked these into your templates and meetings, you can even start setting some goals and KPIs. Note: if you’re getting into these areas, make sure you set up a separate meeting for KPI setting and monitoring, and charging accordingly.

7. KPIs

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The customise data grid is where you can put in some KPIs and targets. These figures can be manually entered, or calculated automatically from your accounting data. Having discussions around these KPIs and targets is a great point to set some action items for your next meeting. I’ll often notice that firms might not have these in their first meetings with clients. A KPI, or the need to report and track on one, is often uncovered during meetings. Don’t be afraid to ask your client about what’s important to them, what’s keeping them up, and what influences financial performance for them. From there, you can agree to set some KPIs and targets and agree on the next meeting data.

Hint: using the action plans in your Spotlight reports to help keep your client accountable!

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