Tuesday, April 28, 2020

How Small Business Owners Should Use a Profit and Loss Report - Gross Margins

Often you hear that one of the key ways that small business owners keep 'score' of their success is to observe how much cash reserve is generated. To a certain degree, I believe this to be true, but there's a pre-step though. How does one go about creating this cash reserve from business operations. Do we just close our eyes and hope that with each sale made we are able to earn a little profit to cover other operating expenses? If you like living on the edge and dancing around the fire, then by all means, please continue to operate your small business this way. However, if you're operating a small business in order to build a valuable asset, then you must become more calculated and focused in building and growing a cash reserve from business operations. How do you go about doing this, you ask? Glad you asked because that's the topic of today's post. Let's dig in.

I'm Making Sales, But I'm Not Making Any Money???

I've seen this scene far too many times while consulting small business owners. Sales are moderate to robust, but there's hardly no money in the bank in terms of a cash reserve. Why and how did this happen? We've been talking about the importance of learning how to use the profit and loss report to actively manage your small business to become more profitable and sustainable. The section we're talking about today is understanding and putting to use the information from the gross margin section of the profit and loss report. Let's get this idea of looking at this section of the report from a 'backwards perspective' out of our thinking. Here's what I mean. Don't make the mistake of waiting to receive this report a week or month too late because by then it's far too late to do anything about it. Instead, use projections rooted and derived from previous periods to develop a forecast of this section of the profit and loss report because the very existence of your small business depends on it.

Let's Hit the Bull's Eye!!!

Gross margins quite simply let you know if you're making money over and above the cost of sales for the products and / or services that your small business markets and sales. Of course, this assumes that you've done a decent job in understanding the cost of sales for your small business. What is it that makes the gross margin section so important, though? This section of the profit and loss report earns its weight in gold when you apply a minimum standard for achievement based on industry or market norms. Here's what I mean. You don't want to shoot in the dark for setting a minimum standard for gross margins because there's no significant basis to it other than your 'wishful thinking' For example, if you're operating a restaurant, you should know on average that overall gross margins should fall no lower than 50% to 60%. From here, you can continue to get specific with various product and service offerings to really discover the gross margins for each and every offering that your small business provides. Now here come's the magic. Once you've experienced a period of operations and have a pretty good set of data to generate projections (no less than a month factoring in seasonality, if it pertains to your industry) in combination to the minimum standards based on industry or market norms, you can gain a pretty solid picture of the cash reserves you'll be able to generate for up to a month or two. Here's the other key observation of conducting this type of gross margin analysis: you'll understand that you're in control (aside from the macro market factors that you or anybody can't control) of DRIVING THE ACTIVITIES that will manifest the increase in cash reserves by MONITORING GROSS MARGINS. Don't you see it now? By taking an active approach to managing and monitoring the gross margin section of the profit and loss report, you are able to drive both the sales and cost of sales sections with a eagle's eye approach. Remember, the devil is always in the details my friend.

I hope that this series on using a profit and loss report to help your small business become more profitable and sustainable has been more than helpful because we're pushing on to the next section, putting to use the information found in the operating expenses of the profit and loss report. Till then, stay tuned...