The Benefits of Analyzing Cost-Volume-Profit

by Jim Woodruff - Updated June 27, 2018
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If you have a business that sells several products, do you know which products are making the most profits? What about the products that are losers? Have you calculated the breakeven points for each one of them?

If you don't have quick answers to these questions, you need to do a cost-volume-price analysis on your product mix.

What Is a Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis?

A CVP analysis is a method to calculate the contribution profit margin of each product at a specific level of sales and variable costs. It can determine the breakeven points in terms of units produced and sales volume at any price point. The formula is as follows:

Sales Price-Variable costs of production = Contribution profit margin

Let's take an example of the Hasty Rabbit Corporation. This company manufactures sneakers for rabbits. Their best-selling model is the Blazing Hare, and they recently introduced a new style called Swifty Feet.

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These are the figures for each model:

Swifty Feet

  • Sales Price: $90
  • Variable Cost: $50/pair
  • Contribution Margin: $40/pair
  • Sales Units: 2,500 pairs/month
  • Sales: $225,000/month
  • Monthly Profit Contribution: $100,000/month

Blazing Hare

  • Sales Price: $110
  • Variable Cost: $60/pair
  • Contribution Margin: $50/pair
  • Sales Units: 1,000 pairs/month
  • Sales: $50,000/month
  • Monthly Profit Contribution: $50,000/month

What are the benefits of having this information?

Sales Strategies

The obvious strategy is to sell the most of the product that makes the highest profit. But first, you have to know which products to promote.

With Hasty Rabbit, their new model, the Blazing Hare, has the highest contribution margin of $50/pair. Therefore, it would make sense for the business to spend money on marketing and sales programs to sell more of this model.

This doesn't mean that the company would neglect their less profitable models, but the emphasis would go toward the higher profit styles.

Profit Planning

Every company must have a plan on how it intends to achieve a specific profit amount. Without a plan, profits are the results of whatever is left after paying all the expenses. That's not managing a business.

Hasty Rabbit has the information it needs from the CVP analysis to prepare a profit plan. The company has annual sales of $3.3 million and a total monthly contribution margin from both models of $150,000 or $1.8 million/year. A target profit margin of 6 percent of sales would be $198,000 (6 percent times $3.3 million). This calculation establishes the overhead budget at $1,602,000 (contribution margin of $1.8 million minus profit of $198,000).

Cost Control

The data from a CVP analysis identifies the variable and fixed costs that need procedures for control. Manufacturing cost standards can be set up as metrics for performance evaluation of production supervisors.

For Hasty Rabbit, the overhead budget of $1,602,000 can be allocated to various overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, administrative salaries, insurance, licenses and accounting fees. These expenses would be monitored on a monthly basis to make certain they stay within the budgeted amounts.

Decision-Making

Every small business owner wants to grow his business and increase profits. Right? A CVP analysis gives him the information needed to simulate different plans to achieve those goals.

One approach might be to improve the product mix by pushing sales of higher-margin products. An alternative could be to find ways to reduce the variable manufacturing costs. Another scenario might involve increasing prices unless constrained by competitive pressures.

The breakeven points calculated from the CVP data provides insight into the effects of these different scenarios. From this information, management can form new sales strategies and cost control techniques that will put the business on its path to improved profitability.

A CVP analysis is an important financial metric that small business owners can use to improve the performance of their companies. The data forms the basis for budgeting, profit planning, creating cost controls and developing sales strategies.

About the Author

James has been a management consultant to more than 1,000 small businesses. As a senior management consultant and owner, he used his technical expertise to conduct an analysis of a company's operational, financial and business management issues. James has been writing business and finance related topics for blogs and e-commerce websites since 2007. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and received an MBA from Columbia University.

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