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Break-even analysis: A comprehensive guide

Are you struggling to make a profit in your business? Are you wondering how many units you need to sell to break even? Look no further! This article will give you a comprehensive guide to break-even analysis, including how to calculate the break-even point, how to use it in different business situations, and some tips for getting the most out of your analysis.

What is break-even analysis?

Break-even analysis is a financial tool used to determine the point at which a business's total revenue equals its total costs. It's an essential part of any business's financial planning, as it helps to identify the point at which the company becomes profitable. Break-even analysis makes informed decisions about pricing, production, and sales strategy.

Break-even point analysis is based on the concept of fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are expenses that don't change based on the number of units produced or sold. These can include things like rent, salaries, and property taxes. Variable costs, on the other hand, are expenses that do change based on the number of units produced or sold. Examples of variable costs include raw materials, production, and shipping expenses.

How to calculate break-even point

Two main formulas are used to calculate the break-even point: one for units and one for sales dollars.

To calculate the break-even point in units, you can use the following formula:

Break-even point formula (in units) = Total fixed costs / (average selling price - Variable cost per unit)

Here's a quick break-even analysis example.  Let's say a business has total fixed costs of \$10,000, a product with a sales price of \$20, and a variable cost per unit of \$10. Using the formula above, the break-even point would be 1,000 units (10,000 / (20 - 10)). This means the business would need to sell 1,000 units to cover its fixed and variable costs and break even.

To calculate the break-even point in sales dollars, you can use the following formula:

Break-even point formula (in sales dollars) = Total fixed costs / Contribution margin ratio

The contribution margin ratio is calculated by dividing the sales price per unit by the variable cost per unit. For example, if the sales price per unit is \$20 and the variable cost per unit is \$10, the contribution margin ratio would be 50%.

How to use break-even analysis

Break-even analysis can be a helpful tool for businesses in various situations. For example, it can help a new business determine how many units it needs to sell to become profitable. It can also help an existing business identify new sales channels or pricing strategies that could help it reach its break-even point more quickly.

Break-even analysis helps to make informed pricing decisions. For example, if a business is struggling to reach its break-even point, it may need to raise its prices to cover its costs. On the other hand, if a company is already profitable but wants to increase its profits, it may be able to lower its prices and still reach its break-even point due to increased sales volume.

There are a few key things to remember when using break-even analysis. First, it's essential to have reliable data on your fixed and variable costs. This will help you accurately picture your business's financial situation. Second, it's vital to be aware that there may be additional costs or expenses that you haven't accounted for. Break-even analysis can help you catch any missing expenses and ensure you have a complete picture of your business's financial health.

Break-even analysis examples

Here are a few examples of how break-even analysis can be used in different business situations:

Let's say you have a business idea for a product that you plan to sell for \$40 per unit. You estimate that it will cost you \$20 in raw materials and production costs for each unit, and you'll need to rent a warehouse for \$5,000 per month. You also plan to hire two employees at a salary of \$4,000 per month.

A break-even analysis tells you that you'll need to sell 1,250 units to break even (10,000 / (40 - 20)). This means that you'll need to sell at least 1,250 units in order to cover your fixed and variable costs and start making a profit. You will also catch missing expenses as you will be listing out all the costs associated with bringing your idea to reality.

Let's say you already have a small business that sells handmade crafts. You currently sell your products for \$20 each, costing you \$10 in materials and production costs for each unit. You have fixed costs of \$1,500 per month for rent and utilities.

Using the break-even analysis formula for sales dollars, you can calculate that you'll need to bring in \$7,500 in sales revenue to break even (1,500 / 0.5). This means that you'll need to sell at least 375 units in order to cover your fixed and variable costs and start making a profit.

Let's say you have a successful online store that sells clothing. You're considering expanding your business by adding a new sales channel, such as a brick-and-mortar store. You've done some research and estimate that it will cost you \$50,000 in upfront costs to open the store, and you'll need to pay \$3,000 in rent and utilities each month.

Using the break-even analysis formula for sales dollars, you can calculate that you'll need to bring in \$100,000 in sales revenue to break even (50,000 / 0.5). This means that you'll need to sell at least 2,000 units in order to cover your fixed and variable costs and start making a profit.

Break-even analysis tips

1. Use reliable data: It's essential to have accurate data on your fixed and variable costs in order to get a precise picture of your business's financial situation. Make sure to include all of your costs, including any potential hidden costs or expenses you might have missed.
2. Consider multiple prices: If you're considering changing your prices, running a break-even analysis for a few different price points can be helpful. This will help you see how price changes affect your break-even point and overall profitability.
3. Look for ways to lower your fixed costs: One way to lower your break-even point is to reduce your fixed costs. Find ways to negotiate a lower rent or better deals on supplies or materials.
4. Keep an eye on demand: Keep in mind that changes in demand can affect your break-even point. If demand for your product or service increases, you can reach your break-even point more quickly. Conversely, if demand decreases, it may take longer to reach your break-even point.

Conclusion

A valuable tool for businesses of all sizes, a break-even analysis determines the point at which a company becomes profitable and can be used to make informed decisions about pricing, production, and sales strategy.

By understanding your fixed and variable costs and using the appropriate break-even analysis formula, you can better understand your business's financial health and make informed decisions about your future.

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Ray Wyand, CEO of gini
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