Economics and Business: Putting it together

Extended writing piece: The Business Report

Students can be directed to investigate a business in several ways including:

  • interviewing an owner or manager of a business
  • researching information about a business online (e.g. company website, newspaper articles about the business)
  • posing questions to a guest speaker from a business who has been invited to the class
  • analysing case study material that has been provided by the teacher.

Following this investigation, students can produce a business report to discuss their findings.

The content of business reports varies depending on the purpose of the report. In general, business reports have one of two purposes:

  1. To explain how the business operates and to analyse its current position concerning its main goals
  2. To do the above, PLUS provides recommendations to help the business better achieve its main goals.

Either way, a business report largely follows a structure whereby students need to determine and write the following:

  • Executive summary
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Findings
  • Conclusions and Recommendations (if included)
  • References.

Suggested techniques for each section are outlined below. Where relevant, links to strategies explained elsewhere are noted, demonstrating how the strategies in the Toolkit can be used in several ways across several lessons.

Before students commence writing the introduction to their business report, instruct them that the report should be technical, specific and objective. Each of these is outlined below with links to strategies discussed in the Toolkit).

Each of the following sections of the report should have headings in the report.

Executive summary

An executive summary is a brief outline of the main points of the business report. It should be 1-2 paragraphs long and written in the third person, present tense. It should include:

  • an overview explaining what the report is about
  • a description of the methods or data that was collected
  • a statement outlining the findings
  • a brief conclusion and any recommendations.

Although the executive summary is the first section of a business report, it should be written last as it provides an overall outline of the entire report. Also, some text from other sections of the report may be reproduced here.

Sentence starters to assist with the writing of the executive summary include:

  • This report is about
  • The purpose of this report / This report analyses
  • Data was collected / Research was conducted
  • The report found
  • The report recommends

For example

This report is about business XYZ. The purpose of the report is to determine employee satisfaction. Staff interviews were conducted and found that 70% of staff were happy or very happy working for the company. The report recommends that the business maintains its current practices.

Table of contents

A table of contents lists the headings of each section of the report along with the page number on which each section begins. The headings in the table of contents should match the headings used in the report.

If the report is short (that is, only a few pages), a table of contents is probably not necessary.

Introduction

This is a brief overview of the business that is the focus of the report. It is written in the third person and the present tense.

Some sentence starters to assist students with the Introduction are given below:

  • This report is based on (name the business in the report)
  • The business produces/provides/sells (briefly outline products/services the business sells, details of the market, size of the business, any notable competitors)
  • The main goals of the business are (briefly state two or three of the primary objectives of the business)
  • The purpose of this report is to (briefly state why the report is being produced, e.g. to explain a business' current position concerning its main goals; to provide recommendations for how the business can better achieve its goals).
  • This report will discuss (summarise what the body of the report will analyse and explain, e.g. information about how the business is staffed, products it has developed, how it markets its products to customers, how it operates, how well it is performing financially.)

For example:

This report is based on XYZ Pty Ltd. The business sells Australian food products, including organic produce. The main goals of the business are to improve the level of satisfaction of their staff, increase their share of the food market in Australia and overseas and increase their profit by 10% in the next year. The purpose of this report is to explain how XYZ Pty Ltd operates, evaluate how effective it is in achieving its main goals and to recommend strategies to enable it to do so. This report will discuss how XYZ Pty Ltd:

  • staffs its business
  • operates to sell its products
  • markets its business.

Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations

Findings, explanations and conclusions about how the business operates and the analysis of the business' current position are written in the third person, present tense.

Recommendations are written in the third person, conditional future tense (e.g. will, can, may, should, would, could).

The advice below focuses on the content of business reports that include recommendations. For business reports that don't include recommendations, the recommendations would be omitted.

A sub-heading should be created for each area discussed in the report, for example

  • Staffing the Business
  • Business Operations
  • Marketing the Business.

The discussion for each area would include:

  • An explanation of what the business is currently doing in this area
    • For example, under Marketing the Business, students might describe how the business conducts market research on its target customers and how it promotes its products in Australia and overseas.
  • An analysis of how well the actions in the area help the business to achieve its main goals
    • For example, under Marketing the Business, students might provide information from an interview with the business owner or manager that explains the business only sells its products to a relatively small number of customers in a limited geographical area.
  • Recommendations on how the business can improve its performance in this area taking into consideration the costs and benefits of implementing the recommendation.
    • Access the section on graphic organisers in Drawing visual representations of economic and business concepts for an approach to communicating a cost-benefit analysis.  
    • As an example, under Marketing the Business, students might discuss costs such as financial outlay and implementation time and benefits such as increased customer awareness of the business and the ability to communicate with customers via social media for the recommendation to increase the business' online marketing. 

Credible, reliable data and evidence (e.g. from case study material, online sources, interviews, guest speaker notes) should be used strategically to support explanations in the report.

Access the Reading written language in Economics and Business and Reading and interpreting data in Economics and Business web pages for ways to support students to select appropriate data and evidence to support their explanations and recommendations.

Access the strategies in Recommendations with explanations to support students' writing of the Body of the business report.

Conclusion

The conclusion provides a summary of the findings from the investigation that students conducted into the business. It is written in the present tense.

A possible format for a conclusion to a business report is:

  1. Restate the purpose of the business report
  2. Summarise key findings of an investigation into the business based on data and evidence collected
  3. Explain what analysis of data and evidence suggest about how the business operates
  4. *Briefly state recommendations that respond to analysis (depending on the report type) and their potential impact.

For example:

Restate the purpose of the business report

This report explains how XYZ Pty Ltd operates, analyses how effective it is in achieving its main goals and provides recommendations to help it to achieve these.

Summarise key findings of an investigation into the business based on data and evidence collected

Profit fell last year (as seen in business' annual report), the business owner stated in an interview that XYZ's sales are limited to a small number of customers, a newspaper article recently reported that some staff at XYZ are dissatisfied with their working conditions.

Explain what analysis of data and evidence suggest about how the business operates

Main goals are not being met as XYZ's product range is too limited and not attractive compared to its competitors, not enough customers are aware of XYZ's products and the expectations of staff are not being met.

Briefly state recommendations that respond to analysis (depending on the report type) and their potential impact

There will be financial costs for the business to train staff, expand their product range and use social media to market to more customers. However, well-trained staff are more likely to be satisfied at work and by introducing new products and increasing customer awareness of XYZ Pty Ltd, more customers are likely to purchase its products. This should lead to more market share and profit.

Full example

This report explains how XYZ Pty Ltd operates, analyses how effective it is in achieving its main goals and provides recommendations to help it to achieve these. Profit fell last year (as seen in business' annual report), the business owner stated in an interview that XYZ's sales are limited to a small number of customers, a newspaper article recently reported that some staff at XYZ are dissatisfied with their working conditions. Main goals are not being met as XYZ's product range is too limited and not attractive compared to its competitors, not enough customers are aware of XYZ's products and the expectations of staff are not being met. There will be financial costs for the business to train staff, expand their product range and use social media to market to more customers. However, well-trained staff are more likely to be satisfied at work and by introducing new products and increasing customer awareness of XYZ Pty Ltd, more customers are likely to purchase its products. This should lead to more market share and profit.

References

This section acknowledges any resources used to research or to collect information for the report. The following information about the published source should be provided in the References section:

  • the author(s)' name(s)
  • the title
  • the name and location of the publishing company
  • the date of publication
  • page number(s) referred to
  • the date the source was accessed (for online sources)

Curriculum links for the above example of a business report: VCEBB015, VCEBB024, VCEBC014, VCEBE019, VCEBN018, VCEBN027, VCEBE028.