Why companies succeed

3 keys to building a healthy business

By Steven M. Briton

Businesses fail for many complicated reasons, including dysfunctional management, insufficient capital, too rapid growth or an inability to respond to changing markets. On the other hand, why businesses succeed is often easily explained.

Regardless of size and sector, most healthy companies share the following three characteristics: 1) strong revenues, 2) low production costs, and 3) low operating expenses. Here’s how to achieve these characteristics.

Revenue paving the way

To determine how much revenue your company needs to be profitable, perform a profitability breakeven analysis (see the “Crunching the numbers” sidebar below this article). The results provide a baseline for setting revenue goals.

If you calculate your profitability breakeven point and find you may fall short, review your sales and determine where you can make changes. For example, you may need to invest more in research and development (R&D) or focus more on prospective customers.

Production costs in check

For most companies, labor is their biggest production cost, particularly when benefits and taxes are factored into the equation. You need to ask whether your labor force increases the value of products or services enough to offset its high cost. If not, consider such solutions as providing more training or better incentives, improving production processes, or investing in more modern facilities. To keep materials costs in check, use cost management software. It can help you evaluate materials purchases, measure optimal ordering quantities, and reduce waste.

Finally, keep an eye on production overhead. Many businesses mistakenly allocate production overhead costs based on sales volume. Say, for example, a product accounts for 25 percent of sales volume, yet it uses 50 percent of plant space. Production overhead makes it less profitable than its sales numbers would suggest. When production overhead costs are too high relative to a product’s sales price, take action. You might need to increase the price of the product, find better production methods, or even discontinue the product.

Toward leaner operations

Operating expenses — costs you incur to run your business that aren’t directly attributable to production — also should be minimized. For example, compensation takes a big bite out of your operations budget, so monitor staffing needs relative to sales and adjust staffing levels when necessary. And while you can’t eliminate marketing expenditures, you can review your sales levels relative to them and ensure you’re getting bang for your buck.

Also, regularly revisit your R&D budget and the progress that you’re making toward established goals. Are you squandering resources on projects unlikely to come to fruition? It may be time to redeploy resources.

Establish a foundation

A company with strong revenues, low production costs and minimal operating expenses can still fail due to poor management decisions and other pitfalls. But if you’re trying to build the foundation for a healthy, long-lived business, start by focusing on these three keys.

1607_OPE_FS_Why Companies Succeed2_author-Steven M BrillionSteven M. Brillion, CPA, serves as partner – managing director of growth and development at Warady & Davis, LLP (W&D). W&D is a top-20 Chicago certified public accounting & consulting firm that provides a full range of audit, accounting, tax and consulting services and solutions to privately held businesses, owners, high-net-worth individuals and their families. W&D serves clients in a wide variety of industries located in the state of Illinois, throughout the United States and their interests abroad. Client revenues may range from start-up enterprises to more than $500 million in annual revenue. For more information, Brillion may be reached at sbrillion@waradydavis.com. To learn more about W&D, call (847) 267-9600 or visit www.waradydavis.com.

Crunching the numbers

Every business should regularly perform profitability breakeven analyses. At its most basic, the formula is:

If your operating expense is $500,000 and your interest expense is $50,000, a gross profit margin of 25 percent would require $2.2 million in sales for you to breakeven. Your accounting software should be able to calculate more sophisticated analysis based on various scenarios.