- Published financial statements are the public revelation of whether strategies have worked or not. Financial statements reveal what strategies have delivered - growth in net assets and cash generation and how they have delivered through levels of revenue, margins obtained and costs incurred.
- Scope for being creative is more and more limited. Accounting standards, while principles based, are more and more prescriptive as regards accounting treatments and thus creativity is severely restricted.
- The content of the published accounts, with the requirements to disclose where there are risks, where judgements and estimates have to be made and strategic goals have to be disclosed, affords executives a great opportunity to review and link their apparent objectives and supporting strategies to the reality of the numbers.
- Published accounts let you see what competitors or your benchmark 'heroes' have done.
- The need for a published strategic report should be seen in a positive light - it helps us to understand our businesses.
Revision and learning pointers
Review your own company accounts - do the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow numbers tie in with what you understand of the business?
Look at competitors, suppliers or other accounts. Since most of us have to shop, supermarket chain accounts are ones that you may be able to relate to - look at how these competitors have performed over the last few years.
Review your company's published accounting policies - do these tie in with your own detailed internal accounting practices?
Look at your company's strategic report, or objectives, visions, mission statements and strategies. Do these tie in with life within the company, as you know it?
Have a look at the 2012 H J Heinz accounts: heinz.com/ AR_2012/growing_ketchup_globally.html. Another year of steady results and cash generation (p 33 Income statement and p 38 cash flow statement).
One thing to note is the restructuring of debts (Balance sheet p 35) -fewer short-term debts and more long-term debts with related cash flows in the statements of cash flows (p 38, under financing activities).