Measure What Matters: Why Profit Margins Matter in Small Business

Last Updated: 

June 23, 2023

Profit margins are a measure of business performance. They help you manage your business, understand your competition and prioritise resources. Profit margins can be calculated for both large businesses and small ones. 

But as a part of the equation that determines profitability - profitability equals revenue minus expenses - profits are only part of the story when it comes to profit margins and small businesses. That's why it's important for you to understand how profit margins work in order to measure their impact on your business success.

Key takeaways on the importance of profit margins

  1. Profit margins reflect business efficiency: Monitoring and improving profit margins is crucial for small businesses as it indicates how effectively they are managing costs and generating revenue.
  2. Sustainability and growth: Healthy profit margins ensure the financial stability and long-term growth of a small business, enabling reinvestment, expansion, and resilience during challenging times.
  3. Identifying profitability drivers: Analysing profit margins helps identify which products, services, or customer segments are the most profitable, allowing businesses to focus on those areas for further growth.
  4. Cost management and optimisation: Monitoring profit margins highlights opportunities to streamline operations, reduce expenses, negotiate better deals with suppliers, and improve overall profitability.
  5. Pricing strategies: Profit margins guide pricing decisions by considering both costs and market demand, ensuring products or services are priced competitively while maintaining profitability.
  6. Benchmarking and performance evaluation: Comparing profit margins with industry standards and competitors provides insights into a company's performance, helping identify areas for improvement.
  7. Cash flow and financial stability: Healthy profit margins contribute to positive cash flow, providing the necessary resources for day-to-day operations, investment, and business expansion.
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Profit margins are a measure of business performance

Profit margins are a measure of business performance. They're calculated by dividing net profits by sales revenue, which gives you the percentage of profit that each dollar brings in. For example, if your company earned $1 million in revenue last year and had $800k in net profits for the same period, then its profit margin would be 80%.

In general, higher profit margins mean better performance and lower risk for investors, but this isn't always true: sometimes low-margin businesses can generate more value than high-margin ones because they offer unique products or services that customers aren't willing to pay extra money for (think designer jeans versus Walmart jeans).

Profit margins help you manage your business

Profit margins are an important indicator of how well your business is performing. They help you understand what is working and what isn't, so that you can make better decisions about where to invest your time and money.

Profit margins also give you a view into how competitive your industry is, which can be useful when deciding whether or not to enter it as a new entrant.

Profit margins help you understand your competition

Knowing your competition can be helpful in several ways. First, it allows you to understand the market you're working in. The more familiar you are with what other businesses are doing, the better able you will be to manage your own business and make informed decisions about how best to grow it. Second, knowing what products or services other companies offer can help shape what products or services your company offers as well. If there are already several similar businesses in town selling widgets at $10 each, but none selling them for less than $5 per unit (and none offering any additional value), then maybe it makes sense for yours not only not sell them at $5 each but also find some way of making them unique so that customers will want those instead!

Profit margins can help you manage resources and priorities

Profit margins are an essential tool for any business owner. They help you understand how your business is performing, and they can help you make decisions about your business. The more profit a company makes, the more money there is to invest in growth and expansion.

A high profit margin means that a company has been able to charge more than it costs to produce its products or services, and this is great news! It means that the company has room left over after paying all its bills; this extra cash can be used by owners as they see fit (by reinvesting it into their businesses), or by giving employees raises or bonuses if they want them too!

Profit margins measure how effectively your company is operating

Profit margins are an important metric for small businesses, because they measure how effectively your company is operating, from sales to production to support services. Profit margin can help you understand your competition and manage resources and priorities.

Profit Margin = (Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold) / Revenue

In other words: The amount of money left over after paying for all of the expenses related to producing or selling a product or service.

FAQs on the importance of profit margins

Curious about the significance of profit margins in small business operations? Below are answers to frequently asked questions that shed light on why profit margins matter and how they impact the success and growth of small businesses.

What is a profit margin, and how is it calculated for a small business?

In simple terms, a profit margin is the percentage of revenue remaining after all expenses are paid. It's calculated by dividing net profit by revenue:

  • $30,000 profit / $100,000 revenue = 30% profit margin
  • Or expressed as a fraction:

1/3 = 0.333... or 33%

Why are profit margins important for small businesses?

Profit margins are a measure of business performance, and they're important because they help you manage your company. You can use profit margins to understand how effectively your firm is operating.

  • Profit margins tell you whether or not your company is making money from its products or services. If the gross profit margin (the difference between revenue and cost of goods sold) for a product line is low, then there may be too much competition in that market segment; if it's high, there might not be enough competition to give customers choices when buying products like yours.
  • Profit margins also provide insight into how well-positioned your organisation is compared with its competitors, and whether or not those competitors are likely to put pressure on prices in response to increased demand or decreased supply due to natural disasters such as floods which could impact manufacturing capacity at a time when consumers need more goods than usual because other businesses have been damaged by flooding too!
  • If you're struggling to work out the profit margins for your business, then your business coach or mentor should be able to help. Alternatively speak to a competent accountant.

How can small businesses improve their profit margins?

In order to improve your profit margins, you can:

  • Reduce costs. This includes reducing the cost of goods sold through better purchasing and inventory management. You may also want to reduce employee expenses by hiring more efficiently, or improving productivity through automation or technology.
  • Increase sales volume. This can be done by increasing the price of your products and services, but it's also possible by offering additional value-added services that customers are willing to pay for (such as installation). You could also try cross-selling additional products or services at checkout, for example, asking if they'd like their purchase gift wrapped before sending them on their way with a smile!
  • Improve product mix (upsells). Upselling is when you offer customers an upgrade option on top of what they're already buying, for example, upgrading from milk chocolate bars into dark chocolate bars after they've already made their initial purchase decision at checkout stands in supermarkets around America every day!

What are some common challenges that affect profit margins in small businesses?

For many small businesses, the biggest challenge to profit margins is the cost of goods sold (COGS). This refers to the cost of materials and labor used to create your product or service. If you sell custom-made items, this includes all materials used in their production; if you sell ready-to-wear clothing, COGS includes fabric costs plus labor costs such as cutting and sewing.

Another common challenge affecting profit margins is employee salaries, particularly when starting up a new business or expanding into new markets where competition for qualified staff can be fierce. While there are ways you can reduce these expenses (for example by hiring part-time employees instead), it's important not to cut corners too deeply here, you'll want people who know what they're doing!

How do profit margins impact a small business's ability to secure financing or attract investors?

  • Profit margins are a measure of business performance. They help you understand how effectively your company is operating, and can be used to manage resources and priorities, as well as plan for growth.
  • When you're looking for financing or investors, it's important that your profit margins are strong enough to indicate that the business will be able to pay back loans or generate investment returns on its own.


Profit margins are one of the most important measures of business performance. They can help you understand what your competition is doing, manage resources and priorities, and even secure financing or attract investors. In short, profit margins are essential for any company, and especially so for small businesses that don't have much room for error when it comes to making money!

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