Establishing small business profitability Featured

10:09am EDT December 22, 2004
There are several elements within a small business environment that should be analyzed and reviewed to establish potential profitability as compared to current performance.

Financial statement review

In a review, three to five years of financial statements should be analyzed and categorized. Compare the performance of each category within the chart of accounts over the financial review time period. Categories should include types of revenue, variable or direct costs, indirect overhead, general and administrative overhead, debt service and leases.

Break down each dollar amount into a percentage of revenue to determine operational variances within each line item. Review individual circumstances that contribute to variances and their impact on company profitability. Combine the best-performing percentages to establish the business's optimal financial performance.

Quantifying financial impact

The financial impact of a business owner's management practices should be reviewed.

* Accounts receivable. Lack of consistent monitoring and specific collection procedures lead to reduced cash flow, restricted access to product and increased borrowing. By reducing the accounts receivable collection cycle, a business is able to increase the amount of cash flow on an annual basis, reduce borrowing and increase profitability.

* Inventory analysis. In the case of a stocking distribution company, inventory is one of the single largest assets the company has. The management of this asset plays a significant role in the success or failure of the business. Excess inventory on hand reduces profitability due to handling costs, breakage, shrinkage, reduced cash flow and increased borrowing.

* Sales and margin mix. The gross margin mix of the individual revenue categories determines the overall margin available to the business for indirect overhead, administrative overhead and profit. If the product revenue mix is skewed toward low margin products or services, then the revenue stream will not compensate for reduced margins. Increased sales could actually lead to decreased profitability.

* Break-even pricing.Break-even is the point of revenue generation that has covered the associated variable costs and produced enough gross margin to cover the company's indirect and administrative overhead. Utilize break-even pricing to understand and create a pricing structure that allows for new product introduction and customer development, and takes into consideration the inherent competitive advantage of additional gross margin without the burden of overhead.

* Labor incentives. Increase labor productivity by developing and implementing excess profit-based incentive programs, performance job descriptions and management information systems. Average employee productivity can be increased, and the reduced overtime, reduced warranty, scrap and waste expenses and additional capacity will increase profitability.

* Reducing variable or direct costs. A business can reduce material costs by negotiating better terms or pricing, consolidating purchases, utilizing buying groups, committing to one supplier for annual purchases and reducing theft, waste and warranty work.

Benchmarking

Review the performance gaps between your business and peers within the industry. Identify gaps in profitability, productivity, costs and financial ratios. That information should be combined with the problem costs associated with the lack of appropriate and consistent systems and controls, in addition to procedures that must be embraced and implemented to achieve desired company profitability.

Each business is unique and should take into account special considerations when establishing its viability.

Mike Rudd (mike.rudd@ipa-iba.com) is director of client services for International Profit Associates. IPA's 1,700 employees offer consulting services to businesses throughout the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Canada. Reach him at (847) 808-5590 or at www.ipa-iba.com.