Sunday, August 1, 2010

You need profit centers for your business.

“Profits are like breathing. You have to have them. But who would stay alive just to breathe?” ~Maurice Mascaranhas

One of the most basic tools available to entrepreneurs is a profit center. A concept originated in the 1940s by the great management guru, Peter Druker, profit centers divide a company into smaller entities allowing entrepreneurs to measure results more easily. These results can be used to hold each unit accountable for desired profit levels or simply to ensure that they are generating sufficient profits.

Though not prudent for organizations with sales of less than 10 percent, businesses that sell more than one product should use the profit center model. Without profit centers, managers have a very difficult time figuring out their goals and objectives.

Profit centers are simple to set up. Accounting software such as QuickBooks allows entrepreneurs to easily evaluate unique profit centers by assigning different categories of accounts for both revenues and expenses.

When using profit centers, costs and revenues should be allocated to each center. While revenues are easy to allocate, costs are a tad bit harder. It is important to realize that the bottom line profit for the center may not be 100 percent accurate due to the process of allocating fixed costs. However, as long as the reporting process is identical each month, the measurement will be valid.

Most businesses have no problem allocating variable costs to a profit center. For example, we were working with a lawyer whose practice covered many areas, but he was unsure of where to spend his time. Profit centers allowed this lawyer to clearly measure and manage how much time he and his staff spent with each client every month. For a retail operation, the direct costs would be the cost of products sold, which again, is easily measured.

The process gets more difficult when it comes to allocating fixed costs. Each center must cover its fair share of the company’s overhead. For example, each profit center should be charged a pro rata share of the CEO’s salary.

The allocation of fixed costs can be handled a number of ways. One option is to apply the overhead as a function of sales for each profit center. A second alternative is to allocate the costs as a function of how much floor space they utilize. And the list goes on. Whatever the chosen allocation method, as long as it is consistently applied, the measurement will be fine.

Now go out and make sure you have a profit center set up for each element of your business. If you are having difficulty setting up profit centers, your accountant can provide assistance.

You can do this!