Most business owners start their business because they’re seeking out a kind of freedom, either time or financial or even the autonomy to be able to do business the way they want. I admit that all of these things make sense to me and I’m on board with them all.
As the business grows and CEOs start to see the financial freedom they want, it’s common to feel a nudge to give back and use your money to do some good. Business is easier for some, allowing growth because of connections or privileges not everyone enjoys. Or maybe you struggled and you want to help others who may come from a situation similar to yours.
Do you know how profitable your gym is? To be clear, the profitability of your gym isn’t the revenue you’re bringing in or even your net income, after expenses.
One of the biggest mistakes we see business owners make is over-simplifying the profit in their business. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but it does take a little bit of thought.
And to actually see real profit month over month and year over year? That takes a plan.
Do you ever wonder where all your revenue goes each month? You’re not alone. If you run out of money, your business will go under and be among the 85% of businesses that fail in the first five years.
It’s not a lack of revenue that’s the issue, which is helpful because more revenue always seems to be a challenge.
Nope, the key to business success is putting up guardrails and sticking to them.
One of the best things about using the Profit First system is profit distribution time. Being the owner of the company, you get to take a profit once a quarter and use it as you wish.
But sometimes, we hear from clients that they’re not making enough profit, or that they want (or need) to be able to take more in profits every quarter.
Essentially, the owner’s profit distribution “isn’t enough.”
If you’re a Profit First business, you get to take profit distributions four times a year. It’s exciting to see the fruits of your efforts and be able to boost your income as the business owner.
It’s honestly the best thing about Profit First, that you’re not limited by your owner’s pay (though it is important to pay yourself a living wage!). You get quarterly “bonuses” that you can spend as you wish.
You might ask, why not pay yourself more each week or month and enjoy the extra income in the moment…so you don’t have to wait until the end of the quarter? Because your profit distribution is not part of your salary. Even though it might look that way on your taxes.
At some point or another, most of us have had a relationship with debt. That first credit card we got in college or the mortgage to buy our current home. Sometimes the debt is used for good; other times the debt wasn’t in our best interest. (Maybe some of those early credit card purchases weren’t the best idea.)
I don’t want to sound polarizing, but there’s a good time and a bad time to use debt. That’s true in your personal finances and in your business.
So how do you know when using debt is a good thing and when you should plan to use cash?
Our favorite time of year happens four times: at the end of each quarter. If you’re following Profit First, this is when you, as the business owner, get to take half of what’s built up in your profit account as a distribution (a bonus, if you will) to yourself.
That’s right, every 90 days you get to share in the profits of your business.
This is a guest blog post from Howard Polansky of Cash Flow Coach.
Raising your prices is not about greed. It’s also not about inflation, though it does help offset the rising cost of pretty much everything these days.
The true reason to raise prices is two-fold. First, it allows you to work with the people that you prefer to work with because they seem to be the easiest to work with and understand the value you bring to their lives. Second, and more importantly, by weeding out the fringe, you will have more time to think of how to be even more productive without killing the business. Does this sound crazy? I hope so, but I can back this up.
Everyone likes being profitable, yet no one likes paying taxes. So, how can we reduce taxes without reducing net profit?
Making contributions to your qualified retirement plan (SEP/SIMPLE IRA; Solo 401-K; etc) through your business can reduce your federal income tax, but does not reduce your taxable net profit. The cool and unique thing about this deduction is that the IRS allows you to make retirement contributions beyond December 31, up to the filing deadline of your main tax return, in order to maximize your deduction for the previous year.
The health insurance premiums paid on behalf of the owner(s) work very similar to retirement plan contributions: They reduce your federal income tax, but not your business’s net profit. Health savings accounts can be used to achieve the same objective. First, make sure you’re eligible for the deduction. For example, if your spouse has health insurance through their employer and they have the option to cover the entire family, you may not be able to claim the deduction through your business.
If your small business is profitable (especially beyond $50K/yr) and you file taxes on Schedule C, you may benefit from electing to be taxed as an S-Corporation. This strategy will help you to legally reduce self-employment tax. But be careful when adopting this strategy. Electing to be taxed as an S-Corp comes with increased compliance issues, which means more fees. You’ll have a separate tax return to prepare, and you’ll have to run a payroll for yourself (which will require payroll tax returns). You’ll want to do this with the help of a tax pro. Make sure all of the extra fees associated with becoming and maintaining an S Corp do not eat up what would have been your tax savings.
All business owners will eventually end up filing a Form 1040 (the main tax form), and it includes all of the credits and deductions that aren’t business-related. Make sure you are maximizing all credits and deductions outside of the business. They will not reduce your net profit at all but the tax savings can be great.
The main thing to remember about the 1040 tax return is that it includes ALL sources of income, and well as all of the available credits and deductions; not just the business stuff. The popular ones are the student interest deduction, charitable contributions, the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, etc. Reach out to your tax pro to see which credits and deductions you may qualify for.
If you’re trying to increase your business profits (and who isn’t?), you might think the sure-fire way to do that is simply to raise your prices. If your customers pay more, you’ll make more. Right? Not necessarily.
Well, if you’re using the Profit First method, raising prices will indeed equate to increased Profit. Because you take in revenue, you immediately pay yourself a profit. So if you take in more revenue (by raising your prices), you’ll pay yourself more profit. But increased revenue does not necessarily mean increased profitability.
And what is profitability exactly? It’s a measure of your profit relative to your expenses. It’s an assessment that helps you determine if your business can sustain itself and grow. Ultimately you want to be able to project the profitability of your business well into the future.
Here’s why raising your prices does not automatically equate to increased profitability.
You do have to raise your prices from time to time no matter what because of inflation. The cost of doing business is always gradually increasing because the costs of goods and services in our economy are generally rising over time.
So if you raise prices just enough to keep up with the cost of doing business, you might not increase your profitability at all. So how do you increase profitability?
There are endless tactics and factors of influence. (Here are just a few ideas specifically for gym owners.)
But at the most basic level when we’re talking about profitability, raising prices alone won’t cut it. You have to raise your prices and you also have to monitor your expenses.
Price increase strategy incorporates many factors. Ideally, you have a system in place for reviewing your client pricing structure on a regular basis. This involves running reports and examining numbers that are very specific to your business and its service offerings. Read about one fitness studio owner’s successful formula for profitable pricing here.
But let’s say you’re leaving your pricing structure in place for now because it’s working well. How much should you raise your prices, even if just to stay even with current expenses?
I’m always a proponent for increasing your prices regularly by small amounts rather than implementing larger increases less often. It’s easier for clients to stomach.
At minimum, we suggest increasing your prices by 1 to 2% annually to account for an inevitable increase in the cost of something or other. But a 3 to 5% increase is very standard.
Your landlord might raise the rent, or the cost of your CRM software monthly subscription might go up—or both. You might be able to predict how much your vendors will raise their prices this year by reviewing the history of previous years.
And then consider whether you need to upgrade to a higher tier of an existing expense, or purchase something new altogether this year. You’ll need to factor that into your spending plan, and possibly your pricing increase, if you haven’t saved ahead to pay for it.
You should examine your full roster of expenses at least quarterly, and definitely whenever you’re thinking about implementing a pricing increase. We talked about analyzing your recurring business expenses and how to reduce them in this earlier post. Trim whatever you can. This is a step toward increased profitability.
Along with that, you should look at any other areas where you may have inefficiencies in your business. Are you running a tight ship with your team members for maximum productivity? Trim here too, if necessary. Labor inefficiency is an enemy of profitability.
Now you’re aware that you need to increase prices incrementally on a regular basis just to keep up with rising costs. Of course, it’d be great if you also could strategically raise prices to help you achieve your broader business goals.
For example, do you have a goal to pay yourself more every month? You can use a pricing increase to take an incremental step toward that. Work backwards with the numbers. Do you know what your revenue needs to be in order to increase your Owner’s Pay by as much as you want to? Figure out how much you need to increase incoming revenue per client in order to make that incremental step.
Overall, determine an increase that you are comfortable selling to your clients. Are you confident that a $10 increase in their monthly membership fee is worth it for them?
Part of raising rates and your journey toward increased profitability might also involve changing your business model to add more value to their membership. If your goal is to have a higher market share (more clients), then you’ll naturally need to scale your business over time to accommodate them.
Having a higher market share also makes you a more competitive business, and this alone can improve profitability.
And stay tuned for next week’s post, where we’ll offer some best practices for how to tell your clients that prices are going up!