Money Matters

# How to use the break even formula to calculate product profitability

Find out how to use the break even formula to calculate your company's product profitability with our comprehensive guide.

One of the most crucial things in business is being able to identify when your product or service starts to turn a profit. This moment, known as the ‘break even point‘, is a key milestone for any entrepreneur or business owner.

But understanding and calculating the break even formula is about more than just crunching numbers. It can affect everything from pricing decisions, to budgeting, to overall business strategy.

So, whether you’re launching a new product or want to assess the viability of an existing one, let’s take a closer look at how you can master this calculation and unlock the secrets to better financial planning and profitability.

## What is the break even point?

The break even point is a fundamental financial metric that indicates when a business, product, or service starts to generate enough revenue to cover its costs, resulting in neither a profit nor a loss.

At this point, the total revenue earned from sales equals the total costs incurred in producing or delivering the product or service.

In simple terms, the break even point is the point at which a business’s income perfectly balances its expenses. This is the minimum level of sales that you need to avoid losing money.

For example, if you sell handmade candles, the break even point would be the number of candles you need to sell to cover all your costs, including materials, labour, and overhead expenses.

## Components of the break even analysis

To effectively calculate the break even point, there are a few different components you need to get to grips with that contribute to it.

These components include fixed costs, variable costs, and the selling price of the product or service. Let’s take a look at what part they each have to play.

### Fixed costs

Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant regardless of the level of production or sales volume. These costs do not change with the number of goods or services produced, and have to be paid even if no sales are made.

A few examples of fixed costs include:

• Rent or lease payments: monthly payments for office or manufacturing space that remain consistent regardless of business activity.
• Salaries: regular wages paid to full-time employees, including administrative staff and management, which do not vary with production levels.
• Depreciation: the gradual reduction in the value of fixed assets such as machinery and equipment.
• Insurance: premiums for business insurance, which are generally fixed for the duration of the policy period.

Understanding fixed costs is really important, as these are what represent the baseline expenses that your business has to cover to stay operational.

### Variable costs

Variable costs are expenses that change in direct proportion to the level of production or sales. These costs will change depending on the number of units produced or sold, and are incurred only when there is business activity.

Some examples of variable costs include:

• Raw materials: the cost of materials required to manufacture a product, such as wood for furniture or ingredients for food products.
• Direct labour: wages paid to workers involved in the production process, which increase or decrease with the number of units produced.

• Shipping and handling: costs associated with delivering products to customers, which vary depending on the volume of sales.
• Utilities: expenses like electricity and water, which can vary with the level of production activity.

Variable costs are essential in the break even analysis because they directly impact the cost of producing each unit.

The relationship between these costs and the selling price is what determines the contribution margin, which is vital when you’re calculating your break even point.

### Selling price

The selling price is the amount that you sell your product or service to your customers. This amount directly affects the revenue generated from each unit sold.

This price determines:

• Revenue generation: the selling price determines the total revenue, which is needed for covering both fixed and variable costs.
• Pricing strategy: setting the right selling price is how you achieve profitability. If the price is set too low, it may not cover costs, while a price set too high could reduce the sales you make.

To calculate your break even point, you need a thorough understanding of your fixed costs, variable costs, and selling price. This analysis will help your business to set realistic sales targets, optimise pricing strategies, and manage your costs effectively.

## The break even formula and calculation

The most straightforward way to calculate the break even point is to determine the number of units that need to be sold to cover all costs. This is done using the following formula:

Break even point (units) = Fixed costs / Selling price per unit – Variable cost per unit

This will calculate the exact number of units that you need to sell to make a profit.

So, as an example:

If a company sells custom-made chairs with the following data:

Fixed Costs: £10,000 (covering rent, salaries, and equipment depreciation)

Variable Cost per Unit: £50 (cost of materials and labour per chair)

Selling Price per Unit: £100

This is then £10,000 / 100 – 50, meaning the company needs to sell 200 chairs to cover all its fixed and variable costs.

While this is the most commonly used formula, the break even point can be calculated using different methods, depending on the specific financial data available and the business context.

## Common mistakes to avoid

While calculating the break even point is a crucial financial exercise for your business, there are a few common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

#### 1. Overestimating sales volumes

Overly optimistic sales forecasts can skew break even calculations, meaning you may expect to reach profitability sooner than in reality.

#### 2. Ignoring variable costs fluctuations

Variable costs can change over time due to things like increased supplier prices, inflation, or changes in production processes. Keep an eye on these fluctuations to make sure you don’t underestimate costs or overestimate profitability.

#### 3. Neglecting market conditions

Not taking into account market trends, competitor actions, and economic conditions can also lead to unrealistic break even calculations. Things like price wars or economic downturns can hugely impact sales volumes and prices, so always make sure these are factored into your calculations.

#### 4. Not accounting for all fixed costs

Many businesses forget about some fixed costs, such as long-term maintenance or insurance when calculating their break even point. This can result in an incomplete cost analysis, making the break even point appear lower than it actually is.

#### 5. Ignoring the impact of sales mix

If your business has multiple products, you need to make sure you consider the different contribution margins and sales volumes of each product to calculate an accurate break even analysis.

#### 6. Not revisiting the break even analysis

Our biggest piece of advice is to make sure your revisit your break even analysis regularly, updating it with your current costs and prices, as well as differing market conditions.

## Final thoughts

Understanding and calculating the break even point is a fundamental aspect of financial management for any business. It provides valuable insights into cost structures, pricing strategies, and sales targets, helping businesses navigate the complexities of profitability.

When you accurately determine your break even point, you can make informed decisions, minimise financial risks, and plan strategic growth for your business.

By applying the principles above and avoiding the common pitfalls, you can get a much clearer understanding of your financial standing and take proactive steps towards achieving profitability.

Remember, regular review and adjustment of your break even analysis are crucial as costs, prices, and market conditions change all the time.

Make sure you always stay informed and adaptable, positioning yourself to achieve long-term success and sustainability in your business.