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Defining an Impaired Asset

When it comes to defining an impaired asset, its fair market value is worth less than the original cost of the asset – or, more formally, its carrying value. As a company re-evaluates its assets’ value, and when it determines there’s a discrepancy between the book or original value and the current market value, impaired assets that are lower in value are written down on the balance sheet. The business’ income statement shows a loss for the negative difference in value. Impaired assets can be Property, Plant, and Equipment (PP&E), goodwill, or fixed assets.

Making a Judgment on Asset Impairment  

One more consideration to get an accurate calculation, according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), is to ensure that accumulated depreciation is subtracted from the asset’s historical or original cost before assessing the difference between the fair market and carrying values. Equally as important is the GAAP recommendation for businesses to perform impairment tests annually.

Assets could be damaged physically, consumer demand may change, or legal factors could reduce its fair market value. These reasons may cause lowered projected future cash flows – lower than an asset’s current carrying value. It, therefore, requires an impairment assessment.  

Illustrating With a Real-World Example

Take a business that bought a piece of equipment 24 months ago worth $500,000 and depreciates it $25,000 annually. Using these two figures, we can determine the equipment’s carrying value is as follows for the present year:

[($500,000 – ($25,000 x 2 years)] = $450,000

If the same type of asset (same age, usage, etc.) can be purchased on the open market but is able to be purchased for $400,000 (market value), the asset the business owns would be considered an impaired asset.

The difference between the current market value and the carrying value is: $450,000 – $400,000 = $50,000. The $50,000 would be written down.

It’s important to note that once an asset is impaired, depreciation going forward must be recalculated based upon the new valuation figure.

Criteria to Establish Impairment

According to GAAP, businesses must begin with a recoverability test. If the initial cost of an asset (minus any depreciation or amortization) is more than the non-discount rate adjusted cash flows it’s projected to produce, the asset is considered impaired.

Assuming the asset is deemed impaired, the second part determines how much impairment exists, which is the gap between the original and market value of the asset in question. If the fair value is unspecified, the total of the discount rate adjusted future cash flows is acceptable.

Assuming the total of non-discount rate adjusted future cash flows is $90,000 – the projected undiscounted cash flows through the next 36 months, which is lower than the estimated carry amount (or book value) of $115,000. The recoverability test is passed, so the asset should be impaired. Based on the second step, the impairment loss will be $25,000 ($115,000 – $90,000). If, however, the fair market value is unknown, the projected cash flows of $30,000 per year for the next 36 months should be discounted to present value. This example can assume a 5 percent discount rate:

Year 1 – $30,000 / (1+0.05) = $30,000 / 1.05 = ($28,571.43)

Year 2 – $30,000 / (1+0.05)^2 = $30,000 / (1.1025) = ($27,210.88)

Year 3 – $30,000 / (1+0.05)^3 = $30,000 / (1.1576) = ($25,915.69)

To calculate the impairment loss with an unknown fair market value: $115,000 – ($28,571.43 + $27,210.88 + $25,915.69) = $115,000 – $81,698.00 = $33,302.00

Whether it’s a time of economic uncertainty or the economy is firing on full cylinders, assets can change value. Businesses that effectively navigate changing conditions are able to increase their chances of surviving or thriving amid the challenges they might face.

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Understanding the Weighted Average Cost (WAC) Method for Inventory Valuation

When it comes to businesses and their inventory and accounting methods for managing it, there are a few different ways to approach the task. The three different options to value inventory/implement cost flow assumptions, include: Last In, First Out (LIFO); First In, First Out (FIFO); and Weighted Average Cost Accounting (WAC). This article will focus only on the WAC method.

Weighted Average Cost (WAC) Method

WAC is a way to value inventory based on how much each tranche contributes to the overall valuation of its cost of goods sold (COGS) and inventory. Recognized by both GAAP and IFRS, it’s determined by taking the cost of goods available for sale and dividing it by the quantity of inventory ready to be sold. It’s important to note that while WAC is a generally accepted accounting principle, it’s not as precise as FIFO or LIFO; however, it is effective at assigning average cost of production to a given product.

It’s done primarily for types of inventories where parts are so intertwined that it makes it problematic to attribute clear-cut expenditures to a particular part. This often happens when stockpiles of parts are indistinguishable from each other. It also accounts for businesses offering their inventory for sale all at once. Here’s a visual representation of the formula: 

Weighted Average Cost (WAC) Method Formula

WAC per unit = Cost of goods available for sale / Units available for sale

Costs of goods available for sale is determined by adding new purchases of inventory to the value of what the business already had in its existing stock. Units available for sale is how many saleable items the company possesses. Its value is assessed per item and encompasses starting inventory and additional purchases.

When it comes to calculating WAC, there are two different types of inventory analysis systems: periodic and perpetual.

Periodic Inventory System

In this system, the business tallies its inventory at the end of the accounting period – be it a quarter, half or fiscal year – and analyzes how much the inventory costs. This then determines the value of the remaining inventory. The COGS is then calculated by adding how much starting, final, and additional inventory within the accounting period cost.

Perpetual Inventory System

This system puts a bigger emphasis on more real-time management of its stock levels. The trade-off for such real-time tracking of inventory requires more company financial resources. Looking at an example of how a company began its fiscal year with the following inventory can illustrate how it works.

At the beginning of the year, a company had 1,000 units, costing $50 per unit. It also made three additional inventory purchases going forward.

Jan 20: 75 units costing $100 = $7,500

Feb 17: 150 units costing $150 = $22,500

March 18: 300 units costing $200 = $60,000

During the fiscal year, the business sold:

235 units sold during the last week of February

325 units sold during the last week of March

Looking at the Periodic Inventory System, for the first three months of its fiscal year, the company can determine its COGS and the number of items ready to be sold over the first three months of its fiscal year.

WAC per item – ($50,000 + $7,500 + $22,500 + $60,000) / 1,525 = $91.80

Based on this method, the WAC per unit would be multiplied by the number of units sold during the accounting period, therefore:

560 units x $91.80 = $51,408 (inventory sold)

To calculate the final inventory value, we take the entire purchase cost and subtract the remaining inventory to arrive at the valuation:

$140,000 – $51,408 = $88,592

Perpetual Inventory System

Unlike the periodic inventory system, this looks at determining the mean prior to the transaction of items:

This would calculate the average before the 235 units were sold during the last week of February:

WAC for each item: ($50,000 + $7,500 + $22,500) / 1,225 = $65.31

Looking at the 235 units sold during the last week of February, it’s calculated as follows:

235 x $65.31 = $15,347.85 (inventory sold)

$80,000 – $15,347.85 = $64,652.15 (remaining inventory value)

Before calculating for the 325 units sold the last week of March, the unit valuation per WAC is: ($64,652.15 + $60,000) / (1225 – 235 + 300) = 1290 = $96.63

Looking at the 325 units sold during the last week of March is calculated as follows:

325 x $96.63 = $31,404.75 (inventory sold)

$124,652.15 – $31,404.75 = $93,247.40 (remaining inventory)

Based on these options, businesses have the choice, along with LIFO and FIFO, to decide how they want to vary it based on their own business needs.

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Defining and Calculating Amortization

Calculating AmortizationWhen there’s a question of the benefit that tangible or intangible assets provide businesses, there are many factors that must be weighed to make internal accounting procedures effective. Businesses must determine how the cost of business assets can be expensed each year over the asset’s lifespan. Looking at how amortization and depreciation work, implementing both processes depend on the type of asset being expensed. There are noticeable differences for each method, including how to salvage value is considered, whether accelerated expensing is allowed, and how each type is expressed on financial statements.


Amortization is an accounting practice of spreading the cost of an intangible asset over its useful life. Examples of intangible assets, according to the Internal Revenue Service’s “Section 197 Intangibles,” include goodwill, intellectual property such as trademarks, patents, and government or agency-granted permits or licenses. These are all assets that must be amortized over 15 years.

Based on IRS regulations, when it comes to determining how an asset is expensed over its useful life, amortization is most similar to the straight-line basis method of depreciation. 

It’s important to note that the timeframe of amortization is subject to interpretation. Examples, according to the IRS, include a 36-month amortization timeline for computer software because it’s not categorized as an asset under the same IRS Section. Other examples not mandated to be amortized under a 15-year time frame include interests to land, business partnerships, financial contracts (such as interest rate swaps) or creation of media. 


One of the main differences when it comes to depreciation is that it focuses on tangible or fixed assets and requires a certain percentage of its useful life to be allocated each year. Examples of assets that can be expensed include trucks for service calls, computers, printers, equipment for production, etc. Another important difference is that the asset’s salvage value is deducted from the asset’s starting cost. The remaining balance (original cost – salvage cost) determines annual expensing amounts, which is divided by the asset’s years of useful life.

Along with the above method of depreciation, also called “Straight-Line Method,” there are other ways depreciation can determine how much is expensed annually and over the asset’s useful life. For example, Declining Balance or Double Declining Balance methods are alternate ways businesses can depreciate their assets – some frontload the amounts to take advantage of accounting/tax rules to reduce their tax liabilities. Another way is to depreciate via Units of Production. This method pro-rates the level of an asset’s expected use within a particular accounting period, on a per-unit basis, to determine how much the company can expense during a particular accounting timeframe.

When it comes to accounting for goodwill, according to a November 2020 electronic survey of CFA charter holders by the CFA Institute, respondents found that investors who see amortization used by companies still require investors’ due diligence. Sixty-one percent of respondents said there need to be alternate ways to figure out if management is effective or not, and 63 percent said that amortization “distorts financial metrics.”

When it comes to understanding and navigating the differences between amortization and depreciation, business owners and investors need to be well-versed in performing due diligence to ensure compliance.


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Auditing: What it is & Why It’s Done

What is AuditingThe Importance of Auditing

Auditing typically refers to an objective review of a company’s financial statements, which consists of the cash flow statement, the income statement and the balance sheet. It analyzes the level of accuracy that the business has characterized its financial records. The process looks at how a business documents investing, financing and operating ventures.

Depending on the type of audit and what it aims to accomplish, it can be conducted by internal employees or independent, third-party examiners like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm or a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. When it comes to the United States, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is what auditors look to when analyzing financial statement preparation. External audits are guided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board (ASB). The AICPA requires that the generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) are followed by external auditors to ensure proper protocol is followed.

When it comes to regulations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires publicly traded companies to have their internal controls’ impacts reviewed. It also states that companies that do not implement and enforce their internal controls may be subject to criminal charges.

Defining Internal Controls

These can be thought of as how businesses can manage operations by regulating permissions, documentation, congruency, protection/safety and partitioning of responsibilities for business processes. These are broken into preventative and detective activities.

Sometimes referred to as protective activities, responsibilities are compartmentalized and distributed among different individuals to dissuade mistakes or deceit from occurring.

It also integrates highly detailed written procedures and validation procedures for further cautionary measures. It’s meant to verify that no sole person is able to approve, document or be responsible for monetary transactions and final products. Permitting invoices and validation of expenses are examples of internal controls. Only permitting appropriate access to the fewest employees necessary and the fewest required business equipment is one way to implement this type of internal control.

Detective Controls Defined

These are redundant systems that are put in place to intercept issues that might have fallen through the initial round of quality control measures. Looking to reconciliation procedures, which matches data in question against known accurate data sets, it’s used to fix discrepancies.

Internal Audits

This type of audit is usually conducted by the business’ employees, primarily performed as a way to evaluate internal operations and internal controls. It looks to identify any deficiencies or weaknesses in the business’ operations, often occurring before an external auditor reviews its financial statements. It’s also meant to review and identify any legal or regulatory compliance issues.

External Audits

This type of audit occurs when an independent auditor, such as a third-party CPA firm, assesses a business’ internal controls and financial statements. It is performed to provide an objective opinion that an audit conducted by the business itself cannot. With a “clean opinion” or “unqualified opinion” provided by the independent auditor, businesses can provide those looking at financial statements confidence that such financial statements are reliable. It enables the outside entity to focus on the financials, the business’ internal controls, etc. by providing a conflict-of-interest-free perspective.

Government Audits

This type of audit is done to ensure that businesses have accurately reported their taxable income to respective government agencies. This can include federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which are the U.S. and Canada’s respective tax collection agencies.

When an IRS audit has concluded its review, there may be a few different preliminary results and resulting paths. The tax return may see no modification. There may be a modification the taxpayer agrees to, which could result in additional money being owed. The third result occurs when the filer doesn’t agree with the change, and it is worked out through an appeal process.

Whether it’s an investor for a publicly traded company or a business looking for creditors for help with money, materials, etc., having audited financial statements provides confidence that they’ll see a return on their investment or a high likelihood of their debts being satisfied in the future.




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Financial Accounting Overview

Financial accounting is how accounting professionals document, compile and outline how a business performs financially over a discrete period of time. Unlike cost accounting, which is used primarily for internal short and long-term strategic planning, financial accounting focuses primarily on producing relevant documentation for outside parties interested in short- and long-term financial performance.

Small businesses, large corporations and nonprofits use the following financial statements produced for relevant parties: the Balance Sheet, the Cash Flow Statement and the Income Statement. When it comes to publicly traded companies, their financial accounting standards are overseen by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). It’s one way to provide a standardized means to communicate the business’s monetary details to potential and current shareholders, lenders, government oversight and tax enforcement agencies.

Balance Sheet

As the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) explains, the balance sheet is a financial statement that informs readers about a business’s assets, financial obligations and shareholders’ equity. It’s how a business documents its asset valuation, its financial obligations and cash holdings. It provides owners, lending institutions and investors a way to analyze a business. The current ratio shows the ratio of current assets to current liabilities. This is a way to evaluate a business’ ability to manage financial obligations over the next year. Shareholders’ equity represents how much cash would remain if the business satisfied all creditors and all assets were liquidated; whatever remains would be the property of the shareholders.

Income Statement

Released once a month, every quarter or once per year, an income statement reports revenue, expenses, and net earnings or losses of a company for a given period. A company’s net revenue is calculated by subtracting allowances for uncollectable accounts, discounts, etc. from a business’s gross sales or revenues. From there, subtract the cost of sales, or how much the lot of products or services cost to make for the accounting period, from the net revenues figure. This results in gross profit or gross margin. Depreciation, along with amortization, or the cost of machinery and equipment losing life over time, is subtracted from the gross profit figure.

From there, operating expenses, which aren’t directly attributable to product or service production but are running day-to-day operations, are deducted from the resulting gross profit figure. This number is now called income from operations or operating profit before interest and income expense. Depending on the number, the interest income or interest expense is either added or subtracted from operating profits to arrive at the operating profit before income tax. Finally, income tax is deducted, resulting in net profit (net income or net earnings) or net losses. For publicly traded companies, it gives investors insight as to how much the company is making per share, so-called “earnings per share” (EPS).

Statement of Cash Flow

Per the SEC, a statement of cash flow features three sections that detail sources and utilization of the business’ operating, financing and investing cash flows. It paints a picture of inflows and outflows of the business’s cash levels. At the end of the day, it helps anyone interested in the company’s financials, especially potential and current investors, see the latest status and trends of cash flow.

One way to calculate cash flow, according to the SEC, is to look at a company’s free cash flow (FCF). This is calculated as follows:

Free Cash Flow = Operating Cash Flow – Capital Expenditures

Free Cash Flow = $50 million – $20 million = $30 million

This information is helpful because free cash flow can help determine a company’s financial health, how well (or not) the business model is performing, and its overall likelihood of success moving forward. Additionally, understanding the difference in accounting methods is another helpful piece of financial accounting analysis.

Accrual Method vs. Cash Method

Accrual Method

When it comes to the accrual method, according to the Congressional Research Service, when a business is paid for services or products to be rendered in the future, the payment is permitted to be recognized as revenue only when the product or service has been rendered. When it comes to accounting for expenses that are presumably deductible, under the accrual method, the expense can be recorded when it’s experienced by the business, not when payment has been made to the utility, raw material supplier, etc.

Cash Method

If a consultant gets payment immediately but isn’t expected to do said job until the following month, this approach requires revenue to be recognized when the cash has been received. Similarly, when expenses are paid is when expenses are recorded.


For any business that handles inventory or sells to customers on credit, accrual accounting is required by the Internal Revenue Service. Similarly, for companies with average gross receipts of revenues greater than $25 million for the past 36 months, the IRS mandates accrual accounting. For companies with average gross receipt of revenues of less than $25 million, depending on the exact circumstances of the company’s business nature, cash or accrual may be used.

Financial accounting provides investors, business owners, and those providing businesses with legal and accountability a way to monitor performance and compliance.



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How Cost Accounting Helps Businesses Measure Performance

Cost AccountingCost accounting is a type of accounting that analyzes a business’ complete production costs by looking at both variable and fixed costs. This includes the concepts of marginal costing, lean accounting, standard costing and activity-based costing. It’s used by a business’ management to evaluate fixed and variable costs involved in the manufacturing operations.

The initial step is to assess and document such costs one-by-one. Once production is finished, it will contrast projected costs to what actual costs ended up being and see how processes can be improved. Management gleans information on how funds are used, revenue is earned, and where funds might be misdirected. It can help businesses create greater productivity and financial efficiencies after analyzing such information.

Looking at it more in-depth, there are different types of costs analyzed. The first is fixed costs, such as a monthly mortgage or lease payment, or those that are static regardless of the production level. The next is a variable cost that correlates directly with the production level. Operating costs can be either fixed or variable, depending on each business’ type of operation. Other types of costs include direct or directly connected; and indirect costs, which are costs such as administrative expenses that are less directly associated with production.  

Variable Cost Ratio

Variable Cost Ratio (VCR) looks at what percentage a business’ variable production costs is of its net sales. Businesses can calculate the VCR by:

VCR = Variable Costs / Net Sales. Net sales is a business’ gross sales after subtracting any discounting, customer returns and allowances.

It can also be calculated this way: VCR = 1 – Contribution Margin

If each widget’s variable unit cost is $40 and it sells for $200 individually, the VCR equals 0.2 or 20 percent. It’s also possible to be completed within a certain time frame. For example, if a single month’s total variable production costs are $6,000, and the business has revenues of $30,000 within that same month, the variable cost ratio is 0.2 or 20 percent.

The VCR shows if a company is able to earn a higher rate of revenues and a slower growth in input costs. It can help businesses determine when it hits an equilibrium between a loss and profit. It’s also important to note that fixed costs are excluded.

Marginal Costing

Marginal costing, or cost-volume-profit analysis, is a way to determine how much more it would cost a company to increase its manufacturing by one more widget.

It helps analyze the impact of varying levels of costs and volume on operating profit. This calculation looks at potentially profitable new products, sales prices to establish for existing products, and the impact of marketing campaigns. It assumes that the retail price and the variable and fixed costs per unit don’t change. It’s a way for businesses to calculate when they’ve developed a price point to cover all expenses. It also can indicate when the business can obtain profits at a particular price point and mix of manufacturing output. It’s a way for businesses to determine which levels are unprofitable, break-even and make a profit.

When it comes to determining how much sales volume a business needs to break even, the formula is as follows:

Sales Volume = Fixed Costs / Contribution Margin (Contribution Margin = Sales – Variable Costs)

If a business is looking to determine its break-even sales revenue figure, it must determine what its fixed costs are and its contribution margin. This calculation would be as follows:

$210,000 in fixed costs and a contribution margin of 30 percent = 210,000 / 0.30 = $700,000

However, it’s important to note that there’s no profit with the first calculation. If the business wanted to make $100,000 in profit, it would add that to the $210,000 in fixed costs. This would be calculated as follows: $310,000 / 0.30 = $1,033,333.33

Considerations of Marginal Costing/Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis

This formula tells a company if a widget is profitable. The contribution margin is what’s left over after each item or a lot of items is sold after deducting the variable costs for the respective number of units sold. When the contribution margin exceeds the fixed cost for the item or respective number of units sold, this signifies a profit. 

Companies that have the time and resources to analyze their performance beyond the traditional financial statements can see what’s right with their processes; but can more importantly, they can find out what’s wrong and how to fix it going forward.

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How Businesses Can Mitigate Inflation & Maintain Pricing Power

Mitigate Inflation, Maintain PricingWhether it’s tariffs, trade wars or post-pandemic inflation caused by kink-ridden supply chains and what many experts believe to be excess money printing, inflation is an insidious drag on businesses’ operations. When it comes to energy’s contribution to inflation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that crude and natural gas prices in 2022 have increased on an annualized and weekly basis. Looking at the snapshot of 7/21/2022, WTI crude on the futures market was $96.35 a barrel. This was up more than $26 compared to 12 months ago, and $0.57 higher than a week earlier. For the same time frame, natural gas futures were $7.932/MMBtu, an increase of $3.973 from 12 months ago and an increase of $1.332 from a week earlier.

When it comes to businesses using any type of commodity, they’re faced with the question of how to raise retail prices when their prices increase. However, many business owners are hesitant to increase prices on their goods and services as they fear it will drive away customers. But in light of increasing input prices, not implementing price increases correctly will impact a business’ earnings and profitability.

As McKinsey & Company explains, there are many considerations why businesses have had trouble with mitigating costs in light of rising input costs. It’s important to monitor raw material costs with a fine-tooth comb. Businesses that bury costs of commodities, labor or tariffs under general accounting categories hide spikes in input costs due to factoring ancillary costs. If volatile input or uncontrollable factors, however, like tariffs can be monitored independently and in real-time, businesses are more likely to be able to increase prices – and do so more gradually. With this in mind, McKinsey & Company highlighted four practices that businesses can implement to combat pressure from input costs and pushback from customers who question the reason for price increases.

1. Create a Database of Dynamic Costs

By looking at historical records going back as far as 36 months, businesses can determine trends and keep track of increases or decreases of input materials to share with the sales and customer service department, who can then communicate with customers. Along with looking at how contracts are written and if there are escalator clauses that permit conditions to adjust for increases in input materials, taking steps to accurately measure the impact of raw material costs can be helpful for price increase considerations.

It could look at costs by department. If a plating department at a manufacturing company plates 50,000 pieces of metal a month, incurs $200,000 of direct material costs and has $50,000 in labor and overhead costs, it can be broken down into a per unit cost of $4 for materials and $1 of labor and overhead costs. If the per unit cost of materials fluctuates, investigation can occur through the supply chain from the supplier to the price of futures contracts to see if prices can be negotiated or must be increased for customers.

2. Mind the Economy

Businesses are advised to keep an eye on current economic conditions. This is how companies can set a dynamic pricing strategy. Building on the first step, it’s advised to index prices to those of commodities to reduce the lag time between when companies experience changes in costs for their input materials and when retail prices actually reflect the true cost to the company. Be it fuel, wood, coffee or metals, understanding how the price of commodities fluctuates in real time is essential to determine when and how to adjust prices for retail customers. It also can help businesses determine how competitors are adjusting their pricing to customers, how far prices could increase, and how to augment delivery of goods or services to stay competitive and profitable.  

In addition to escalation clauses, companies adapting to changing input material prices could, for example, introduce shorter-term contracts, look for more competitive suppliers, or substitute different but equal quality/performance materials.

3. Coaching Staff to Educate and Explain Price Fluctuations

Continual evaluations for sales teams are imperative. Supervisors must see what accounts have (and have not) been informed of price increases. They should focus on what accounts have accepted price increases (and what level of price increases have been accepted). They also should look at what accounts are likely to accept price increases and what accounts are not likely to accept price increases. Businesses also must factor in the business cycle for the sales process and how each account is performing relative to its price increase targets due to cyclical increases in input commodity prices and interest rates for financing availability. Ongoing coaching should be implemented to identify major issues and ways to resolve them. Anticipating and preparing sales representatives for customer questions through role playing can help better prepare employees to explain why price increases are a part of doing business.

4. Managing Performance

Businesses must play the long game after products or services have been priced accordingly to commodity and input prices. Since inflation follows the economic cycle, upside and downside pricing dynamics can catch companies off guard. Consistently updated product or service pricing systems and prepared sales teams can lead to more profitable margins and hopefully the ability to weather volatile and long-term price spikes.

Much like the price of commodities and labor fluctuate based on dynamic market conditions, finding ways to adapt one’s business practices can increase chances of surviving and thriving in a challenging economy.


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Measuring the Margins

Operating Margin DefinedCorporate profits, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, grew by $20.4 billion in the final quarter of 2021, a 0.7 percent increase. For the first quarter of 2022, corporate profits fell by 2.3 percent or $66.4 billion. On an annualized basis, corporate profits fell 5.2 percent in 2022, but grew 25 percent in 2021. With the economy facing inflation, the uncertainty of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and the world working its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty abounds. For companies, measuring margins is one way to evaluate performance and strategize ways to survive and thrive in a dynamic economy. Here are a few common margins that businesses can determine to measure their financial performance.

Operating Margin Defined

Also referred to as return on sales, this measures the profit a business makes on a percentage basis, per dollar, from its core operations. It accounts for manufacturing costs that fluctuate, such as paying employees and input stock. The operating margin is determined by obtaining the business’ earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and dividing it by its net sales or sales revenue.

Operating Margin = Operating Earnings (EBIT) / Revenue

Operating Earnings = Revenue – (cost of goods sold (COGS) + overhead expenses, except tax and loan servicing costs)

Assuming a business had $10 million in revenue, $1.5 million of COGS and $750,000 in related overhead expenses, it would be as follows:

Operating Earnings = $10 million – ($1.5 million + $750,000) / $10 million

Operating Earnings = $10 million – ($2.25 million) / $10 million

Operating Earnings = $7.75 million / $10 million = 0.775 or 77.5%

Understanding the Operating Margin

This doesn’t factor in things such as taxes, interest on loans or other non-core business expenses. However, it gives a picture of what’s remaining for its non-core operating expenses, such as servicing outstanding loans. By looking at a company’s past operating margins, the trends can determine a company’s performance. Ways to improve the margin include reducing staff redundancy, negotiating better deals on raw materials or reaching more receptive customers.

Marginal Revenue Product (MRP)

If a piece of equipment or employee can create an output of X (the marginal physical product or MPP) and each additional unit of production sells at Z price (marginal revenue or MR), the MRP of the piece of the new investment is MPP x MR. Accepting that all other costs remain constant, if the business owner pays less than or equal to the MRP, it may be profitable. Otherwise, it’s not a good decision.

Using the example of a furniture manufacturer looking to respond to increased demand, this illustrates how it can guide business decisions. If a new employee can produce 100 tables every week that will retail for $100 per table, this is the MPP. Based on the calculation, the MPP of 100 multiplied by the marginal revenue (MR) of $100 = $10,000. If the business can hire and retain a new employee for less than $10,000 per week to increase their production by 100 tables per week, it can signal a positive investment.

Marginal Cost of Production

This metric is a way for businesses to determine efficient manufacturing costs. Looking at production volume, this calculation can determine if adding an additional unit to production would add profitability by examining fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs don’t change with modifications in production levels.

A static or fixed cost can be spread out over more units of increased production. However, if expanding production capacity requires additional fixed costs, it can add to the marginal cost of production, which will be explained shortly. When it comes to variable costs, as the name implies, as more production occurs, the costs similarly vary.

Assume company A makes widgets with $1 in variable costs and fixed costs of $10,000 per month, producing 5,000 widgets monthly. This would lead to $2 in fixed costs ($10,000 in fixed costs/5,000 widgets).

This final cost per widget comes to $3 ($2 fixed + $1 variable cost).

If company A chose to produce 10,000 widgets a month and they could use existing machinery, employees, etc., their fixed costs would drop to $1 ($10,000 in fixed costs/10,000 widgets).

Assuming the same variable cost of $1 per widget, plus the $1 in fixed costs, it would cost $2 per widget if the 10,000 widgets were produced. However, if additional investments (equipment, etc.) were needed to produce widget 5,001 to 10,000, this consideration would need to be factored in the marginal cost of production. If additional equipment costs $1,000 to increase production, the business would need to factor this in to see if it’s still profitable.

Essentially, if this additional production cost is less than the price of an additional individual unit, there’s the potential for a profit for the business.

Contribution Margin After Marketing (CMAM)

This measures how much cash is earned from a single unit sold after accounting for promotional and variable expenses. Example expenses include input stock, freight, inventory, etc. It’s important to distinguish between pre-planned marketing expenses over a set period of time (per month, quarter, etc.), and variable sales commissions that can fluctuate. CMAM is calculated as follows:

Contribution Margin After Marketing = Sales Revenue – Variable Costs – Marketing Expense

Looking at how much each unit can add to a business’ profitability:

CMAM for every Unit = Sales Revenue for every Unit – Variable Expenses for every Unit – Marketing Expense for every Unit

From there, a business’ net profit or loss can be found using this ratio:

Net Operating Profit = CMAM – Fixed Costs


A smaller or negative CMAM is indicative of a product that’s likely uncompetitive. Conversely, a high CMAM, especially over a long time, can indicate the product is well regarded. It can help businesses to determine their most profitable products and/or what products to discontinue, etc.   

With economic uncertainty expected to continue, keeping an eye on past, present and future margins is a key way to maintain a business’ chance of thriving in 2022 and beyond.


Blog General Business News

How to Calculate the Cash Conversion Cycle

The Cash Conversion Cycle, also known as the Net Operating Cycle, answers the question, “How many days does it take a company to pay for and generate cash from the sales of its inventory?” However, before an analysis like this can take place, it’s important to consider the company’s primary line of business.

If the company sells software, it’s more challenging to measure performance if it generates revenue primarily on intellectual property – by developing computer code and licensing its use to clients. For online marketplaces, especially those that make the majority of their profits from third-party sellers that manage product sourcing, listing their inventory and shipping products on their own won’t measure the online marketplace’s own inventory. Since these types of businesses don’t act like a manufacturer that produces and sells products to other businesses or the general public, this type of analysis will be less helpful.

To start with the formula for the Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC), it’s calculated as follows:

CCC = Days of Sales Outstanding (DSO) + Days of Inventory Outstanding (DIO) – Days of Payables Outstanding (DPO)

Days of Sales Outstanding, Defined

DSO is the average number of days it takes a company to collect payment once a sale has completed. The beginning and ending Accounts Receivable figures from a fiscal year are added together and divided by 2. Then revenue from the income statement for the entire fiscal year must be divided by 365 days to get a daily average.

DSO = Beginning Accounts Receivable + Ending Accounts Receivable / 2 = Revenue / 365 days

The fewer the days, the better; however, it can’t be so fast that such tight payment terms push customers away.

Days of Inventory Outstanding, Defined

DIO is the average number of days a business keeps its inventory before it’s purchased.

The beginning and ending inventories of a fiscal year are added together and divided by 2 to find an average. The resulting figure is then divided by the daily average of the cost of goods sold over a fiscal year, which is often 365 days.

DIO = Beginning Inventory + Ending Inventory / 2 = Cost of Goods Sold / 365 days

The lower the number, the faster inventory is sold. While there’s nothing wrong with moving it fast, there is the danger that orders might not be able to be fulfilled.

Defining the Operating Cycle

As the CFA Institute explains, putting DIO and DSO together constitutes the Operating Cycle. This is defined as the period of days that it takes a business to transform basic materials and/or goods into stock and obtain money from the completed transaction. When this number is small, it means product is moving and customers have no issue making prompt payments.

Days of Payable Outstanding, Defined

Days of Payable Outstanding determines the number of days a business takes to fulfill its debts to suppliers.

DPO = Beginning Accounts Payable + Ending Accounts Payable / 2 = Cost of Goods Sold / 365 days

Considerations for DPO include finding a balance between how long a business can take to pay their suppliers, but also not missing out on pre-payment discounts or being penalized with late fees, financing charges, etc.

Going Beyond the Results

When analyzing the Cash Conversion Cycle for the right type of company, it can provide great insight into a company’s efficiency in collecting billings; how long inventory is up for sale; and the time it takes to become current with its own suppliers. Depending on the results of the CCC analysis, performing financial analyses can provide insight into not only how the company is performing financially, but why the company is performing financially.


Blog General Business News

Combating Employee Hesitancy to Return to the Office

According to the January 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey, there’s been a shift in what workers want post-pandemic. The report found that in Q4 of 2021, 78 percent of workers from six industrialized companies wanted location flexibility. The survey also found that 95 percent desired schedule flexibility. This is in light of the same survey finding that 72 percent of employees desire greater flexibility from their current places of employment. Those same workers reported that if they can’t find more flexible arrangements, they would seek out another employer that provides greater flexibility – compared to 57 percent expressing the same desire in Q3 of 2021.

According to a December 2017 Gallup report titled, “Thinking Flexibly About Flexible Work Arrangements,” along with helping develop and keep high-performing workers, creating and improving a flexible workplace also intensifies the tie workers have to their employer, as well as reducing employer expenses. While lowering costs is always attractive, it’s important to understand that not every role or type of business will have the same implementation opportunities.

When businesses formulate their flexible working arrangement, employers and employees must be on the same page, have clear expectations, and a way to measure that work is being completed in a manner similar to that in office. One important consideration is ensuring that remote employees are treated with the same consideration for potential promotions, projects, etc. Do managers and senior executives maintain the same level of treatment of employees whether someone comes into the office or works remotely and at different hours?

As for jobs that cannot be performed remotely, flexibility may not be very realistic. However, businesses can offer employees compensatory approaches to flexibility. Examples include a relaxed dress code and the ability, within reason, to choose lunch and break times. Employers also may offer the option for both an open floor plan and traditional office space to provide variety that leads to creativity and innovation.

Additionally, employers can create digital spaces where in-person workers can communicate with co-workers to discuss covering and switching shifts in their work schedules, helping them attend to their personal lives better and foster camaraderie. Businesses also can gamify employees covering each other shifts; for example, by offering a reward system if they take on extra shifts.

Permitting workers to select their preferred variety of tasks gives employees an awareness of freedom and can increase capabilities. By switching tasks within a pre-determined time frame or permitting employees to work at different offices or sites, employers can similarly provide a flexible working arrangement. This lets employees take on new responsibilities, workplace flows, and engage with different co-workers.

 Variations on Flexible Working Arrangements

Another option is to work around employees’ personal circumstances. It could be a school system holding classes every other month or a mixed schedule. It also could take the shape of a four-day work week, whereby employees work 10 hours a day. This could similarly benefit families with children, parents, etc. that have medical or other special needs that can be addressed efficiently by a shorter but equally productive work week.

Splitting a Position

Having two (or more) employees perform duties of one full-time worker is called job sharing. This happens via employees performing a part-time schedule, combining to create a single full-time position. It’s able to satisfy the role of a full-time job while meeting the needs of workers looking for part-time work.

Legal Considerations

One consideration for employers to maintain compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for non-exempt employees with flexible work arrangements is to strictly monitor hours worked. According to the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive 1.5 times standard wages when they work beyond 40 hours within any continuous seven-day work week. Ensuring that workplace guidelines are crafted and implemented equally, as well as documenting the implementation, is one way to reduce the risk of discrimination claims.

While providing flexible working arrangements is unique to every business, offering it can provide many benefits, especially the potential to attract and retain high-performing staff.


Pulse survey