Profit Margins: Why You Need an Annual Review

by Erika Napoletano

Annual review of profit margins PNC Cash Flow Challenges

Making money is fun—when your small business is maximizing its potential. If your company is planning to have a financially spectacular new business year, you should be no stranger to keeping your books and year-end reporting by now. Assessing your profit margins is key, and an annual review is a perfect time to look over those numbers.

The annual review should include knowing your production, inventory, and fulfillment costs, as well as how your business can stay competitive. A savvy small business should always be looking for leaks in the plan, and finding ways to close them down.

Production Costs

Your year-end reporting should be able to tell you what your production costs are for each product and service you offer. When you're reviewing production costs with an eye on profit margins, there are key factors to consider.

One of these factors is vendor-related costs. If you're outsourcing production of any items, a thorough invoice-level review is necessary to see where a vendor might have changed your costs. For example, they might have lowered your per-unit cost, yet increased your shipping fees. You can't find the holes unless you look.

You should also consider your own costs. If your company performs any production or manufacturing in-house, an annual review is a good time to examine worker wages, hiring, overtime, materials costs, and other factors that can vary year-to-year. Find your increases and decreases, and see where there can be room for improvement.

Inventory Costs

How much money did your business have sitting on the shelves this year? If you're keeping stock, you have to take stock. Things like transportation of goods and overproduction alone can keep your company's inventory costs in the red where they could shift to black.

An annual profit margin review can show you the numbers you need to know in order to make smarter decisions that can boost your bottom line. By assessing everything from warehousing costs and payroll dollars to transportation costs and inventory levels, you're looking at numbers that can materially affect whether your business is as profitable as it could be.

Fulfillment Costs

An annual review of your true fulfillment cost per item or service sold can be a sobering and highly useful practice. You can discover that loss leaders may actually be losers, and that you're not making enough margin on your goods and services with the longest sales pipeline.

Work with your financial team to identify areas for potential improvement, by department or service class, or even at the individual item or service level. Compare year-to-year numbers for the past three years and understand why costs may have risen or declined. You may be able to identify key areas that can help you improve your overall profit margins through lowering fulfillment costs.

In the end, profit margins are just one place for a company to assess its annual performance and future potential. However, by making an annual review of your profit margins a part of your company's business plan, you're opening the door to improving in many ways that can lead to higher performance—and profitability.

About This Author

Erika Napoletano is an author, columnist, speaker and branding strategist, hailed by Forbes as a “spinless spin doctor.” She's a twice-published author, including The Power of Unpopular (Wiley 2012), a columnist for American Express OPEN Forum, an acclaimed speaker from TEDx Boulder 2012, and speaks at conferences across the U.S. on the inherent power of truth in business… or as she refers to it, the power of unpopularity.


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PNC is a registered mark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”). This article has been prepared for general information purposes by the author who is solely responsible for its contents. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PNC or any of its affiliates, directors, officers or employees. This article is not intended to provide legal, tax or accounting advice or to suggest that you engage in any specific transaction, including with respect to any securities of PNC, and does not purport to be comprehensive. Under no circumstances should any information contained in the presentation, the webinar or the materials presented be used or considered as an offer or commitment, or a solicitation of an offer or commitment, to participate in any particular transaction or strategy or should it be considered legal or tax advice. Any reliance upon any such information is solely and exclusively at your own risk. Please consult your own counsel, accountant or other advisor regarding your specific situation. Neither PNC Bank nor any other subsidiary of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., will be responsible for any consequences of reliance upon any opinion or statement contained here, or any omission.  Banking and lending products and services, bank deposit products, and Treasury Management products and services for healthcare providers and payers are provided by PNC Bank, National Association, a wholly owned subsidiary of PNC and Member FDIC. Lending and leasing products and services, including card services and merchant services, as well as certain other banking products and services, may require credit approval.