Many business owners aspire to grow their company and see size as a factor of success. However, as a business grows one area that can easily suffer is the profit margin; and this is a core marker of a successful enterprise. Falling profit with rising sales might seem counter intuitive but a business in the process of scaling ignores this probability at their peril. A helpful saying summarises this view:
Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.
A new client came to my colleague last year for assistance. The business they had founded some years ago had grown significantly, turnover had more than doubled in 18 months and all was looking good for continued growth. However, they were not happy, as they’d seen their profit fall over this period. In effect, they employed more people, serviced more clients and worked harder but for less return. This might have been acceptable if it was a planned and brief stage in growth but all they could see is the industry demanding their margin of profit to shrink further. [What happened next is not part of this post but if you want to know what Andrew did to assist in changing this dilemma contact him direct!]
Profit can fall as a business grows for a number of factors. Outside forces such as an increasingly competitive market can demand a fall in price just as your sales rise. External factors and their impact may / may not be out of your control, but internal ones are not. It is easy for a business to find the price of growth means their business model does not look so good at a greater scale.
Let’s consider three key areas that costs rise too easily and profits can start to fall unnoticed:
1. Decision Making.
Can you answer some fundamental, but crucial, questions about the numbers in your business? For instance:
When and where does the business make a profit?
Which of your products or services are loss leaders (and why)?
Who are your most profitable customers?
If you feel these questions are too simple, try stopping right now and writing out the answer for your business. You will not have every fact in mind but if you cannot begin to sketch an answer within a few minutes you might want to go back and double check the data!
2. Cost control.
How well can you understand the different cost elements in your business model? For instance, can you explain:
If / how an extra sale effects your costs?
Which costs vary with each sale and which ones are fixed?
What expenses in your business are directly related to your product or service and which ones are indirect?
Though each business will have their own answers, essentially all costs can be divided in four areas: variable or fixed costs; direct or indirect costs. Each one needs slightly different monitoring and therefore expectations of control.
3. Costs Do Not Make Prices.
Costs are the easy part of managing a business compared to setting the right price. Too high a price and you are afraid of scaring off customers; setting it too low and you are undervaluing the business.
Though cost can be a guide to calculating the price you might need to earn, they have no bearing on the value a customer places on a product or service.
Think about the different sizes of a coffee in those well-known high street chains. Often you get a choice of a small, medium or large drink. The customer pays more for the largest coffee because it is just that - much larger - and it is only marginally more expensive than the other sizes. Yet the cost of producing it is almost exactly the same. It is the same shop with the same business rates, same lights, same furniture, same barista, same coffee machine, same tap for the water, same portion of coffee, etc. This means a coffee shop will want you to buy the big cup as it looks good value to you (the customer) AND it will make more profit for them (the seller).
So, my question is, how do you understand the value to the customer of your product or service? Will they pay only £1 for something that costs £5 to make, or would they value it as a good price at £10?
The three fundamental issues above target the core knowledge a business owner needs to make good decisions about the current needs and future aspirations. The role of leading a business is dynamic as the context, opportunities and challenges change all the time. However, if you understand profit and cost within your business you can respond better to the change.
If you want to explore your answers further to make sure your business grows in a secure manner contact our team on 0161 2804567.