Profitability Analysis

What is Profitability Analysis?

Profitability analysis is an essential process where a company evaluates its ability to generate profit. It is part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and plays a crucial role in helping business leaders optimize their projects, plans, and products.

The profitability analysis process systematically analyzes profits derived from its multiple revenue streams. It incorporates qualitative and quantitative analytics to provide a comprehensive view of financial performance.


  • Profit analysis
  • Profitability ratios

Importance of Profitability Analysis

Analyzing profitability is about more than just identifying the bottom line. It provides valuable insights into a company’s overarching financial health and considers customer demographics, geography, and product types that most closely fit your market. It also examines relationships with customers and vendors — you’ll use it to navigate these relationships effectively.

Briefly, here’s a rundown of why you need to prioritize profitability analysis as part of your business strategy:

  • Understanding profit drivers
  • Optimizing product mix
  • Improving decision-making capabilities
  • Staying on top of fixed and variable costs
  • Identifying areas for cost reduction and efficiency improvements
  • Evaluating profit margins for each of your buyer personas
  • Benchmarking against industry standards and competitors
  • Building confidence among investors and stakeholders
  • Identifying areas for growth and expansion
  • Financial planning and budget optimization

Based on the results of your analysis, you may choose to cut costs, increase spending, or streamline processes to maximize profitability. You’ll also use it with other financial analysis models, like cost-volume-profit (CVP) analysis, to forecast future financial outcomes.

How Profitability Analysis is Used in Business

There are several key aspects and methods businesses use in profitability analysis:

Profitability Ratios

These financial metrics gauge the company’s ability to generate revenue relative to costs, assets, and equity over time. The most well-known profitability ratios are gross/net profit margin, operating profit margin, and return on assets/equity.

Customer Profitability Analysis

This approach focuses on transaction data to identify which customers are most and least profitable (using the CAC payback and customer lifetime value metrics) and which specific behaviors lead to those results. It also involves looking at which products and product mixes are most commonly ordered.

Qualitative Analytics

This involves assessing market conditions and customer behavior patterns to identify trends and business cycles for better strategic planning. For example, analysis of customer feedback on products and services can reveal improvement areas that can help you operate more efficiently.

Break-Even Analysis

This is a fundamental method used to determine the point at which a business’s revenues equal its costs, helping to establish the minimum revenue needed to maintain the business. Of course, breaking even is not enough to make a profit. The whole point of a break-even analysis is to determine the number of units you need to sell to become profitable.

Benchmarking Industry Profitability Ratios

Comparing a company’s profitability ratios to industry averages helps business owners understand their competitive position. In general, similar companies in the same industry should achieve similar profitability ratios. For example, the Rule Of 40 states that SaaS companies should have a combined revenue growth rate and profit margin of 40% or more.

Profitability Analysis Methods

In terms of practical application, a profitability analysis typically involves gathering financial statements like profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets, calculating various profitability metrics, and then comparing these results to understand performance better. This also includes understanding what drives profitability and making informed decisions based on this analysis.

Break-Even Analysis

Break-even analysis is a financial calculation used to determine the point at which a business or a new project will be profitable. This is the point where total costs and total revenue are equal, meaning there is no net loss or gain. At the break-even point, the company has covered all its expenses but has not made a profit.

Key aspects of break-even analysis include:

  1. Fixed costs — Costs that do not change with the level of production or sales, such as rent, salaries, and insurance.
  2. Variable costs — Costs that vary directly with the level of production, like raw materials and direct labor.
  3. Revenue per unit — The amount of money you earn for each unit of product sold.

From there, the break-even point calculation is as follows:

Break-Even Point (units) = Fixed Costs / (Price per Unit – Variable Cost per Unit)

Break-even analysis is a fundamental tool for financial planning and management, especially in the early stages of a business or when launching new products. It provides a clear picture of what is needed to be profitable and helps in making informed financial decisions.

Ratio Analysis

Ratio analysis is a financial analysis tool used to evaluate various aspects of a company’s operating and financial performance. It involves calculating and interpreting financial ratios, which are mathematical comparisons of financial statement accounts and categories. You’ll find them on your balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

  • Liquidity ratios measure your business’s ability to meet short-term debts. Examples include the current ratio and the quick ratio.
  • Profitability ratios assess your business’s ability to generate positive earnings relative to its revenue, operating costs, and shareholders’ equity. Common examples include your gross/net profit margin and return on assets/equity.
  • Efficiency ratios evaluate how effectively a company uses its assets and liabilities. Examples include inventory turnover and accounts receivable turnover. They are important for understanding how well a company manages its assets to generate revenue.
  • Solvency ratios measure your ability to meet your long-term obligations and financial leverage. The debt-to-equity ratio and interest coverage ratio are examples of solvency ratios.
  • Valuation ratios are used to assess your company’s market value. Common valuation ratios include the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio and price-to-book ratio.

Investors, creditors, and financial analysts use ratio analysis to make educated decisions that impact the future of the company. Most often, they’ll measure performance over time (trend analysis) or against other companies in the same industry (comparative analysis).

Still, it’s important to use ratio analysis in conjunction with other forms of financial analysis, as ratios alone may not provide a complete picture of a company’s financial health.

Profitability-Related Metrics

Gross Profit Margin

Gross profit margin assesses your financial health and business model by revealing the proportion of money left over from revenues after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS). It’s a key indicator of a company’s production efficiency and pricing strategy.

To calculate the gross profit margin, subtract your COGS from your total revenue and divide this figure by the total revenue. The formula is:

Gross Profit Margin = [(Revenue – COGS) / Revenue] x 100

The result is a percentage that indicates how much of your total revenue is left over for operational and growth expenses after accounting for the cost of goods sold.

Net Profit Margin

Net profit margin calculates how much money a company earns relative to its total revenue. It’s calculated by dividing the net profits (profits after taxes and expense deductions) by the total revenue.

To determine your net profit margin, you’ll need to know all your operating expenses, such as rent, employee salaries, and administrative expenses.

Here’s the formula:

Net Profit Margin = (Net Income / Total Revenue) x 100

While gross profit margin helps you understand what portion of your revenue is left after accounting for COGS, net profit margin gives you a more comprehensive picture by factoring in all other expenses. You’d use the former to evaluate your production efficiency and the latter to assess your overall ability to turn a profit.

Operating Profit Margin

Operating profit margin is another important profitability metric that measures a business’s operating efficiency, taking into account all costs of doing business except for interest and taxes. It reveals how much money is left after subtracting all costs from the total revenue but before accounting for non-operational expenses.

The formula is:

Operating Profit Margin = (Operating Income / Net Sales) x 100

A high operating profit margin means your operations are generating a healthy profit and you have enough leftover to cover other expenses. A low operating profit margin could mean that you’re spending too much on operational costs or that your pricing strategy may be off.

Return on Assets (ROA)

You’ll use ROA to assess the efficiency with which a company uses its assets to generate profit. In other words, it’s an indicator of how much money is generated for every dollar of assets owned.

To calculate ROA, divide your net income by your total assets and multiply the result by 100.

Return on Assets = (Net Income / Total Assets) x 100

When you invest in a new piece of equipment, for example, you can use ROA to evaluate how well the additional profits it generates offset the investment cost.

Return on Equity (ROE)

Return on equity evaluates how well a company uses shareholder investments to generate returns. It’s an important metric for shareholders and investors, as it shows the percentage of profit a company earns relative to its shareholders’ equity.

To calculate ROE, divide your net income by your shareholder equity and multiply the result by 100. Here’s the formula:

Return on Equity = (Net Income / Shareholder Equity) x 100

A high ROE is generally perceived as a good sign, as it means the company is generating healthy returns for its shareholders. However, it’s important to also consider the company’s debt levels when interpreting ROE. It’s possible for a company with a high ROE to also have high levels of debt, which could be risky in the long-term.

Margin Per User

Average margin per user (AMPU) is a subscription metric that SaaS, telecom, and media companies use to measure profitability analysis ratios. It’s calculated by dividing the total operating profit from a specific period by the number of subscribers during that time.

Average Margin Per User (AMPU) = (Operating Revenue – Operating Expenses) / Average Subscribers Over the Period

The idea behind margin per user is simple: your company can afford low total revenue if you’re able to reduce operational costs (thereby improving margins). AMPU can be used to compare profitability across different subscription levels, products, and billing models as well.

Profitability Analysis Steps

1. Define goals and business objectives.

Your first step is to understand what you’re trying to achieve through your profitability analysis. Are you looking to evaluate the performance of a specific product or service? Do you want to assess the overall financial health of your company?

This goes far beyond just looking at numbers. You have to consider how business activities contribute to your bottom line and whether any inefficiencies or issues need to be addressed.

2. Gather financial data and relevant information.

To conduct profitability analysis, you’ll need:

  • Your P&L statement
  • Your company’s balance sheet
  • A competitor’s balance sheet from the same period

You’ll also need to compile business-specific financial information, like product/service costs and sales data (per channel), as well as any relevant non-financial data that may impact profitability.

3. Analyze revenue sources and cost drivers.

Depending on the nature of your business, your revenue drivers will vary. Examples include:

Once you’ve identified your revenue sources, you’ll need to do the same for your costs. Most of the time, this is something related to production/supply chain, product development, or maintenance (e.g., maintaining a SaaS product).

4. Calculate key profitability ratios and metrics.

Using the formulas above, calculate the following:

  • Gross profit margin
  • Net profit margin
  • Operating profit margin
  • Return on assets (ROA)
  • Return on equity (ROE)
  • Margin per user

Then, create a spreadsheet so you can add the results from your analysis. You’ll then be able to compare them to your competitor’s, as well.

5. Interpret results and make informed decisions.

Your FP&A team should be able to interpret the results and provide valuable insights. They’ll be able to identify areas where you can cut costs, improve operational efficiency, and increase profitability. By understanding your financial performance in-depth, you’ll be able to make data-driven decisions that will help your business grow in the long term.

Best Practices for Profitability Analysis

Analyze profitability at least once per quarter.

Monthly profitability analyses are best, and that’s how often you’ll need to look at your data when developing your financial plan. If, for whatever reason, that’s not feasible, then at least aim for quarterly as an absolute must.

Calculate a variety of profitability ratios.

While the gross profit margin, net profit margin, and operating profit margin are all important, don’t rely on just one of them to gauge your company’s profitability. Instead, calculate a variety of ratios and metrics to get a comprehensive view of your financial performance.

And remember: you’re going to use each ratio for different purposes.

  • Want to know how well you’re controlling costs? Look at your gross profit margin.
  • Want to know if your pricing strategy is effective? Look at your net profit margin.
  • Want to see how efficient your production process is? Look at your operating profit margin.

Use other types of financial modeling, too.

Valuation models and break-even analysis can provide valuable insights into your company’s profitability, as well. These models take into consideration various growth scenarios and help you understand the potential impact on your bottom line.

It’s also worth mentioning profitability analyses don’t account for risk. Sometimes, the potential payoff of an investment is somewhat unpredictable (and several years away). The results of a profitability analysis (which is more objective) may not accurately reflect this.

Move beyond apportionment.

Apportionment is when you allocate costs to specific business units or products. For example, you might allocate a certain amount of overhead costs to each product based on how many units were produced.

While this may be the easiest way to do a profitability analysis, it can also be misleading. That’s because apportionment assumes all indirect costs are caused by these units, which may not be entirely accurate.

Instead, consider using activity-based costing to allocate costs based on each product’s specific use of resources. Or, use throughput accounting to determine how product flow affects your bottom line.

Remember that less is sometimes more.

Focusing too heavily on short-term profits could cloud your judgment when it comes to making decisions that will lead to your company’s long-term success. Remember, profitability isn’t just about making money now; it’s also about setting yourself up for future growth and sustainability.

There are several reasons you might focus on a business initiative that isn’t immediately (or ever) profitable.

  • You might use it to gain a competitive advantage
  • It could be necessary to retain valuable customers
  • It may improve efficiency and reduce costs in the long run 
  • Your company might keep it as a part of its identity

People Also Ask

What are the 4 major factors that determine a company’s profitability?

Price, quantity, fixed costs, and variable costs all play a significant role in a company’s profitability. Price refers to how much your product/service costs, while quantity relates to how many units you sell. Fixed costs are expenses that don’t vary based on production levels (e.g., rent, salaries), while variable costs change with production levels (e.g., cost of materials).

What is a good profitability ratio?

Good net profitability ranges from industry to industry. In retail, a solid net profitability ratio is somewhere between 0.5% and 3.5%. But high-quality SaaS companies have much higher profit margins. Net profit is typically negative for these businesses at first, though, meaning they’ll look at gross profit margin (which should be at least 70-80%).