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10 Key Metrics (and 2 Bonus Ratios) for Business Success and Their Hidden Benefits

As executive coaches, one of our primary responsibilities is to stress the significance of monitoring a company's health with our executive clients. Although it's challenging to compile a comprehensive list of the "10 most important ratios" as every business has its distinct objectives and traits, there are some ratios that are critical to track. These ratios can provide valuable insights into the financial performance of your client's business and pinpoint areas for enhancement to increase profitability and efficiency. By closely monitoring these ratios, you can make well-informed decisions and take proactive steps to guarantee the financial success of the business.


In this piece, we list and provide context behind the “10 important ratios a business owner should be aware of to run their business optimally” chapter found in Next 10: Coach Wisdom for Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, and CEOs Wondering What Moves to Make Next—a book written by the Host and Curator of Arete Coach Podcast, Severin Sorensen, with contributions from Amelia Chatterley. Keep reading to discover ten crucial ratios for measuring business financial health, and essential insights for how to interpret and use them effectively.



Gross Profit Margin = (Gross Profit / Revenue) x 100%

Gross profit margin is a measure of the profitability of a business after deducting the cost of goods sold.


This ratio shows the percentage of revenue that is left after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS). It can help a business owner understand the profitability of their products or services. Gross profit margin is often used by investors and analysts to evaluate a company's financial health and potential for growth. A consistently high gross profit margin can attract investors and signal a well-managed and financially stable company. Monitoring and improving gross profit margin is important for businesses to remain competitive and profitable in the long term.


One thing that many people may not realize about gross profit margin is that it varies significantly by industry. Some industries have naturally higher gross profit margins than others, so comparing gross profit margins across industries may not be an accurate way to evaluate performance. Additionally, gross profit margin is just one aspect of a company's financial health and should be considered alongside other factors such as operating expenses, net profit margin, and cash flow. Finally, a high gross profit margin doesn't necessarily guarantee success or profitability in the long run. It's important to look at the bigger picture and consider all aspects of a company's finances and operations.


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

Net profit margin is a measure of the profitability of a business after all expenses, including taxes and interest, have been deducted from revenue.


This ratio shows the percentage of revenue that is left after accounting for all expenses, including COGS, operating expenses, and taxes. It is a measure of the overall profitability of a business. A high net profit margin indicates that a company is effectively managing its expenses and generating strong profits, while a low net profit margin could indicate inefficiencies in the business operations or pricing strategies. Investors and stakeholders often use net profit margin as a key metric to evaluate a company's financial health and profitability.


Most people may not realize that net profit margin can vary widely across industries. For example, industries with high overhead costs, such as manufacturing or retail, may have lower net profit margins compared to industries with lower overhead costs, such as software or consulting. Therefore, it is not always useful to compare net profit margins across different industries, and it is more meaningful to compare them within the same industry or sector. Additionally, net profit margin does not take into account non-financial factors, such as customer satisfaction or employee engagement, that can also affect the long-term success of a business.


Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities

Current ratio measures a company's ability to pay its short-term debts with its short-term assets.


This ratio measures a company's ability to pay its short-term debts using its current assets. It is calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities. Current ratio is important because it provides insights into a company's liquidity and short-term financial health. It indicates the company's ability to meet its financial obligations that are due within one year. For investors and creditors, current ratio is an important factor to consider when evaluating a company's financial strength and stability. A high current ratio may indicate that the company is in a strong financial position, while a low current ratio may suggest that the company could face liquidity issues in the short-term.


Most people may not realize that a high current ratio does not necessarily mean that a company is in good financial health. While a high current ratio indicates that a company has enough current assets to cover its current liabilities, it could also mean that the company has excess cash or inventory that is not being efficiently utilized. In some cases, a low current ratio may actually be a sign of good financial health if the company has a strong cash flow and is able to pay its bills on time. Therefore, it is important to consider other financial ratios and metrics in addition to the current ratio to get a comprehensive understanding of a company's financial health.


Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Liabilities / Total Shareholders' Equity

Debt-to-equity ratio shows the proportion of a company's funding that comes from debt compared to equity.


This ratio measures the proportion of a company's debt to its equity. It is calculated by dividing total liabilities by total equity. The debt-to-equity ratio is important because it can provide insights into a company's financial health and risk level. A high debt-to-equity ratio indicates that a company is relying heavily on debt financing, which can increase financial risk if the company is not generating enough income to pay off its debts. On the other hand, a low debt-to-equity ratio suggests that a company is less reliant on debt and has a more stable financial position. Investors and lenders often use the debt-to-equity ratio as a way to evaluate a company's financial risk and creditworthiness. It is also useful for business owners to monitor this ratio as a way to manage their company's debt levels and overall financial health.


One thing that many people may not realize about the debt-to-equity ratio is that there is no universal ideal ratio. The ideal ratio can vary depending on factors such as the industry, the stage of the business, and the company's goals. Additionally, a high debt-to-equity ratio may not always be a bad thing. For example, a young company that is still growing rapidly may have a higher debt-to-equity ratio because it is taking on debt to finance its growth. However, a more mature company with stable cash flow may want to aim for a lower debt-to-equity ratio to reduce its financial risk. It's important to consider the specific circumstances of the company when evaluating its debt-to-equity ratio.


Return on Assets = Net Income / Total Assets

Return on assets measures how efficiently a company is using its assets to generate profits.


This ratio measures the profitability of a company based on its total assets. It is calculated by dividing net income by total assets. ROA is an important financial metric as it helps investors and stakeholders understand how effectively a company is using its assets to generate profits. It indicates the company's ability to generate earnings relative to the amount of investment in assets. A higher ROA means that a company is using its assets efficiently to generate profits, while a lower ROA may indicate inefficiencies or underutilization of assets. ROA is also a useful tool for comparing the performance of companies within the same industry. It provides a common benchmark for measuring profitability, allowing investors to identify companies that are generating higher returns on their assets.


One thing that people may not realize about Return on Assets (ROA) is that it can be impacted by a company's asset base. Companies that have a significant amount of assets may appear to have a lower ROA than a company with fewer assets, even if both companies are generating the same amount of profit. Additionally, ROA can vary significantly by industry, so it's important to compare a company's ROA to others in the same industry to gain a better understanding of its financial performance. Finally, ROA does not take into account the cost of borrowing money, so it may not provide a complete picture of a company's financial health.


Return on Equity = Net Income / Shareholders' Equity

Return on equity measures the amount of net income generated by a company compared to the amount of shareholder investment.


This ratio measures the profitability of a company based on its shareholders' equity. It is calculated by dividing net income by shareholders' equity. ROE is important because it provides insight into how effectively a company is utilizing shareholder investments to generate profits. It is an important metric for investors and financial analysts as it can help assess a company's overall financial health and potential for growth. A high ROE indicates that the company is generating significant profits with the money invested by its shareholders, while a low ROE may suggest that the company is not utilizing its resources effectively.


Most people may not realize that Return on Equity (ROE) can vary significantly between industries and sectors. Therefore, comparing the ROE of companies in different industries may not provide an accurate assessment of the company's financial performance. Additionally, ROE does not account for the company's level of debt, which can significantly impact the return to shareholders. It is essential to consider ROE in conjunction with other financial metrics to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a company's financial health.


Inventory Turnover = Cost of Goods Sold / Average Inventory

Inventory turnover measures the number of times a company sells and replaces its inventory during a period.


This ratio measures how quickly a company is selling its inventory. It is calculated by dividing the cost of goods sold by the average inventory. Inventory turnover is important because it indicates how well a company manages its inventory levels and how efficiently it sells its products. A high inventory turnover ratio is generally favorable because it means that a company is selling its products quickly and efficiently, which can result in higher profitability and better cash flow. On the other hand, a low inventory turnover ratio could indicate that a company has excess inventory, which can tie up cash and lead to increased storage costs and potential obsolescence of products.


One thing that some people may not realize about inventory turnover is that a high turnover ratio is not always necessarily a good thing. While a high turnover ratio generally indicates that a company is efficiently managing its inventory and selling products quickly, it can also mean that the company is not stocking enough inventory to meet demand or is losing sales due to stockouts. On the other hand, a low turnover ratio can indicate that the company is overstocked or has slow-moving inventory, which can tie up valuable resources and lead to increased storage costs. Therefore, it's important to consider other factors such as industry norms and the company's specific situation when interpreting the inventory turnover ratio.


Days Sales Outstanding = (Accounts Receivable / Total Credit Sales) x Number of Days in Period

Days sales outstanding is the average number of days it takes for a company to collect payment after a sale has been made.


This ratio measures how long it takes a company to collect payments from its customers. It is calculated by dividing accounts receivable by average daily sales. DSO is important because it provides insight into how efficient a company is at collecting its outstanding receivables. A high DSO indicates that a company is taking longer to collect payments, which could result in cash flow problems and impact its ability to meet its financial obligations. On the other hand, a low DSO suggests that a company is collecting payments quickly, which is a positive sign for its financial health. By monitoring DSO, a company can identify potential issues in its credit and collections process and take corrective actions to improve its cash flow and financial performance.


Many people may not realize that Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is a critical metric that reflects the efficiency of a company's cash flow management. A high DSO indicates that a company is taking too long to collect its receivables, which can negatively impact its liquidity and ability to pay its own bills on time. Conversely, a low DSO indicates that a company is collecting its receivables quickly and efficiently, which can boost its cash flow and financial stability. Additionally, DSO can vary significantly by industry, so it's important to compare a company's DSO to industry benchmarks to get a more accurate picture of its performance.


Customer Acquisition Cost = Total Cost of Sales and Marketing / Number of New Customers Acquired

Customer acquisition cost measures the cost of acquiring a new customer.


This ratio measures the cost of acquiring a new customer. It is calculated by dividing the total marketing and sales expenses by the number of new customers.CAC is an essential metric for businesses because it helps them determine the cost-effectiveness of their marketing and sales efforts. By comparing the cost of acquiring a customer to the revenue generated from that customer, businesses can determine whether their customer acquisition strategy is sustainable and profitable. A high CAC could indicate that a company needs to adjust its strategy to reduce costs or increase the efficiency of its marketing and sales efforts.


Additionally, tracking CAC can help businesses allocate their resources more effectively. By identifying which marketing channels or campaigns have the lowest CAC, businesses can prioritize those efforts and allocate more resources to them. This can result in a higher return on investment (ROI) and a more efficient use of resources.


Many people do not realize that calculating CAC involves not only the direct costs associated with acquiring a new customer, such as marketing and sales expenses, but also indirect costs, such as salaries and overhead. Additionally, it is important to consider the lifetime value of a customer when assessing the cost of acquiring new customers. A high CAC may not necessarily be a bad thing if the lifetime value of the customer is also high, as it may indicate a worthwhile investment in customer acquisition. Furthermore, CAC can vary significantly between different customer segments, highlighting the importance of targeting the right audience to achieve a more cost-effective acquisition strategy.


Customer Lifetime Value = Average Revenue per Customer x Gross Margin % x Average Lifespan of a Customer

Customer lifetime value is the estimated value a customer will bring to a business over the duration of their relationship.


This ratio measures the total value that a customer is expected to generate for a company over their lifetime. It is calculated by multiplying the average purchase value by the average number of purchases per year and the average customer lifespan. CLV is important because it helps businesses understand the long-term value of acquiring and retaining customers. By knowing the CLV, businesses can make informed decisions about how much to spend on customer acquisition, customer retention, and marketing efforts to maximize their profitability. CLV can also help businesses identify high-value customers and focus on strategies to keep them engaged and satisfied, leading to increased revenue and profitability over time.


Many people may not realize that calculating CLV requires making certain assumptions about customer behavior and future business conditions, which can make the estimate uncertain. Additionally, CLV can vary greatly depending on the industry and type of business, making it difficult to compare across different companies. Finally, while increasing CLV is generally desirable, it may not always be the most important metric for a business to focus on, as it can be affected by factors outside of the company's control.


A/R Aging = (Current Receivables / Total Receivables) x 100%

A/R aging is a measure of the percentage of a company's accounts receivable that are overdue for payment.


Accounts Receivable (A/R) aging is the process of monitoring and managing the outstanding invoices that a company has yet to receive payment for. It involves categorizing the invoices based on the number of days they have been outstanding, typically into 0-30 days, 31-60 days, 61-90 days, and over 90 days. A/R aging is important for companies as it helps them track cash flow, identify potential problems, prioritize collection efforts, and improve customer relationships. By regularly monitoring and managing their accounts receivable, companies can ensure that they have sufficient cash flow, improve their collection efforts, and maintain good relationships with their customers.


A key aspect of Accounts Receivable (A/R) aging that is often overlooked is its ability to provide valuable insights into a company's financial health and operations beyond just tracking overdue payments. By analyzing the patterns and trends in A/R aging reports, companies can identify potential issues, such as problems with credit and collections processes, and make informed decisions about how to manage their finances. Moreover, involving multiple departments in the A/R aging process can improve communication and collaboration across teams, which can lead to more timely collections and stronger customer relationships. Thus, A/R aging is not just a task for the accounting or finance department but is a crucial process for managing a company's financial health and growth.


Contribution Margin = Revenue - Variable Costs

Contribution margin is the amount of revenue remaining after variable costs are deducted and is used to cover fixed costs and contribute to profits.


Contribution margin is a financial metric that shows the profitability of a product or service by calculating the difference between its revenue and variable costs. By determining the contribution margin for each product or service, companies can identify which ones are most profitable and make informed decisions about pricing, production, and marketing strategies. This information can also be used to calculate the breakeven point for a product or service, which can help companies make decisions about pricing and production volume. Overall, contribution margin is an important metric that helps companies assess the profitability of their products or services and make informed decisions to maximize profits.


One thing that many people may not realize about contribution margin is that it can provide insights into the cost structure of a product or service and how changes in that structure can affect profitability. For example, if the variable costs associated with producing and selling a product decrease, the contribution margin increases, which can lead to higher profits. Additionally, contribution margin can be used to evaluate the impact of pricing changes or changes in sales volume on profitability, which can inform strategic decisions about pricing, production, and marketing. By understanding the relationship between contribution margin and profitability, companies can make data-driven decisions to optimize their operations and maximize profits.


The main takeaway

It is crucial for business owners and executives to comprehend and keep track of important financial ratios to guarantee their company's financial success. Although there is no universal list of ratios, the ratios presented in this article provide significant indicators of a business's financial health. Consistently monitoring and analyzing these ratios enables businesses to identify potential areas for improvement and make informed decisions that can enhance profitability and efficiency. By prioritizing financial ratio analysis, businesses can stay competitive and achieve long-term success in their respective industries.


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