Successful companies share some best practices that can serve as great lessons for us in our personal relationships.

Annual Reports

An annual report is a public companies’ report card for share holders with details about financial position and initiatives for the future.  It takes time to prepare annual reports and key executives typically make short statements about the state of the company that set the stage for the report that follows.

The annual report is a public document.  Certainly it’s written with the slant of encouraging investors and reinforcing to employees the company’s strong position.  Whatever the motivation behind the annual report, there are two key reasons this is an excellent exercise.

First, the annual report is a clear and concise summary of where the company is financially.

Second, the annual report is available to the public.

These two elements mean that the company is held accountable for clearly communicating its results.  Accountability is a crucial element of success, whether it’s business or personal.

Imagine if you had to issue an annual report on the financials and overall state of your marriage.  Now imagine that you would have to share that document with everybody you know.

Financial concerns are one of the primary stressors in a marriage.  Many couples don’t review their actual financial status on a consistent basis together.  With the real financial data you have the opportunity to make decisions based on facts rather than emotion.  Completing an annual report with details of how much money went where paints a clear picture of reality.  Several years of annual reports give you an easy reference to chart progress or lack of progress toward your joint financial goals.

If you knew you would have to show your annual report to your family and friends, would you make some different decisions along the way?  If you had to write down how you spent every dollar, would you buy the $3.19 latte five days a week ($797.50 per year!).

Do you have a realistic idea of you and your spouse’s spending habits?  Do you know where your hard earned money is going?

A company cannot operate long without justifying expenses and employees are familiar with the necessary evil of filling out expense reports.  What would happen if you had to fill out an expense report at home?  You cannot make decisions about future goals without the real financial data.  A smart company doesn’t buy new equipment because it wants it.  A smart company buys the equipment when the costs can be justified.

As Americans we’ve grown up with beliefs about money and a discomfort talking about it with others.  It’s a cultural thing.  Monica Francois-Marcel, Principal with Language and Culture Worldwide in Chicago said, “US society teaches us to see the world through a lens that says how much money we have, and how we spend it, is an indicator of our success and effectiveness as people. Though we may know it’s not that simple, and  that money is only part of the equation, the construct of money as a primary performance measurement is reinforced often by our parents, our schools, the media, and philosophies such as ‘living the American dream’.” Companies and non-profits are scrutinized for financial decisions by those who have a vested interest in the entities’ success.  Would you live beyond your means if you had to wear your financial report card on your T-shirt for the world to see?

A marriage needs to operate the same way.  You can’t just put an addition on to the house of take a vacation or buy designer coffee every day just because you want it.   You need to analyze the numbers together as a couple to determine together what is important.   Perhaps a slush fund for each partner to spend as they wish is appropriate.  Perhaps savings is the #1 goal.  Whatever the target, the key is you won’t get there unless you track your progress and make necessary adjustments.  Most people won’t bother to track their progress unless someone else was holding them accountable.

People have a different level of motivation when they are being held accountable with others.  People do what they are held accountable for.

Perhaps the answer is not full disclosure with friends and family.  Perhaps you share this idea with 1 or 2 other people who you know will look at your annual report on your marriage and hold you accountable for moving forward and will challenge decisions you made along the way.

There is something very powerful about a public declaration of a goal.  There is also tremendous power in making public the results of the past, knowing you’ll have to reveal results again next year and it wouldn’t look good to slip back.

Annual reports are not just about the numbers.  There is a “state of the union” type message from the C-Suite about the overall feel, accomplishments and vision of the organization.  What if you had to write a “state of the union” address and broadcast it to everyone you know?

Merit Gest teaches people how to become Possibility Thinkers at conferences around the globe.  To book Merit for your next event, please call 720-980-1286, or visit


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