From audits to plaudits: thinking Annual Reports

I’m really liking this year’s annual report by Youth and Family Services, Logan (YFS). They’ve used a poster-style layout that folds down to A5. It includes lots of great photos and a layout that highlights their achievements in 2012-13 without getting bogged down in text about business as usual. Publishing their financial report in a separate document liberated us to be creative with the rest of the report. It was fun working with designer Scott Edgar and YFS staff to come up with something fresh and different.

Over the years I’ve worked on lots of annual reports. My favourites have been for clients who use this “have-to-do” task as an opportunity to position their organisation strategically. For some, that’s been about impressing fundersmall p2s and donors, for others it’s been about demonstrating their corporate partnership credentials or profiling the human impacts of their work to build buy-in from decision makers and their influencers.

 
A section of the 2012-13 YFS Annual Report

For one memorable project, my brief from the Director General of a Queensland Government department was to win an Australian Reporting Award – I hope he still has the trophy somewhere!

Clients say one of the most common uses for annual reports (beyond legislated requirements) is to help potential recruits prepare for job interviews! I’d like to think annual reports can do much more than that. If you know of any great annual reports, let us know.

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Tenant Participation and Engagement Seminar

I had a great day last Tuesday, flying to Sydney to present at the Australasian Housing Institute’s Tenant Participation and Engagement professional practice seminar. It featured a great line-up of speakers on an issue that’s often neglected in the rush for corporate efficiency. As a bonus, the amazing Tony Gilmour from the Housing Action Network quoted from our article on the subject in his opening presentation. Thanks Tony, and thanks Donella and co for putting the day together.

The Dream Client

We like our clients however they come – the more variety, shapes and sizes the better. We have noticed over the years though that clients with certain characteristics tend to get the best results. Some of the secret ingredients are these:

  • They really know what they need. They can spell out why the work’s needed, a very clear objective, what they need delivered by us and by when. This is really whP1040678at gets the cake to rise – worth spending some time to get it right. (See our handy briefing tips)
  • They give us a ball park idea of a realistic budget which means we can work out how to tackle the job in a way that fits the bill. They ask for a quote or proposal and negotiate any reasonable changes which makes sure we are headed in the right direction from the word go.
  • They choose the right person/people to be the project manager and advisor/s. This means things stay on the rails at the client’s end, and the client gives congruent feedback, rather than conflicting advice.
  • They hold the consultant accountable for what they’ve signed up for – although we crack the whip on ourselves so the client doesn’t need to.
  • They have enough time to give prompt feedback on drafts and the layers of approval in the organisation are manageable.
  • They stick to their own brief so the job doesn’t change part way through, which tends to waste the hours available due to re-work, re-drafting etc.
  • They pay promptly for completed work. For small businesses who tend to have low overheads but are watching the cash flow, paying within a couple of weeks is a fair deal.

For busy clients who have rarely used consultants, we often help them wrangle the consultancy if they want us to. For example, we can write the brief with them, help them to sharpen their objective if it is still fuzzy, provide a simple example of a contract to modify if they don’t have their own and so on.

Stay tuned for a new post on The Dream Consultant! We’ve learnt a bit about the dream consultant over the years – we’re not perfect, but we have been dismayed to see some clients very poorly served by consultants who overcharged and under-delivered.