What is a break-even analysis?

A break-even analysis is a critical metric for businesses as it provides valuable information about the minimum level of activity required to cover all costs.

In other words, it helps businesses identify the level of sales required at which they neither make a profit nor incur a loss. This is the break-even point.

The break-even analysis takes into account two primary types of costs:

• Fixed costs: As suggested by the name, these costs remain constant regardless of the production level or sales amount. Examples include rent, insurance, and salaries.
• Variable costs: Variable costs vary in line with the production level or sales amount. Examples for these costs can include labor and raw materials.

How to calculate break-even point with formulas

To perform a break-even analysis, the following steps are typically involved:

1. Identify fixed and variable costs: The first step is to categorize the costs into fixed and variable components.

2. Calculate contribution margin: The contribution margin shows the difference between variable costs and sales revenue. It signifies the portion of revenue available to cover the fixed costs and generate a profit.

Contribution Margin per Unit = Selling Price per Unit – Variable Cost per Unit

3. Determine the break-even point in units: To find the break-even point, divide the total fixed costs by the contribution margin per unit (or contribution margin ratio). This calculation will provide the sales revenue required to break even.

Break-Even Point (in Units) = Total Fixed Costs / Contribution Margin per Unit

4. Analyze profit and loss scenarios: Beyond the break-even point, each additional unit sold contributes towards profit. The analysis can be used to assess different scenarios by calculating profit levels at different sales levels.

Break-even analysis is particularly useful for startups, new product launches, and businesses considering significant changes in their operations. It provides a basis for evaluating the financial feasibility of various business strategies and assists in setting sales targets to achieve profitability.

Who uses break-even analysis?

Break-even analysis is widely used by various stakeholders in business, finance, and decision-making processes. Some of the key users of break-even analysis include:

• Business owners: Business owners and managers use break-even analysis to assess the financial viability of their operations. It helps them understand the minimum level of sales or production required to cover costs and achieve profitability.
• Financial investors: Financial analysts and investors use break-even analysis to evaluate a company’s financial health and risk. It provides insights into a company’s ability to cover costs and generate profits, which is crucial for assessing the investment potential.
• Marketing and sales teams: Marketing and sales teams use break-even analysis to set sales targets and assess the impact of pricing strategies and promotional activities on profitability.
• Budgeting teams: Break-even analysis helps teams set realistic revenue targets and plan expenses based on the projected sales levels needed to reach the break-even point.
• Risk management professionals: Break-even analysis helps assess the impact of changes in costs or market conditions on the business’s financial performance. It assists them in identifying potential risk factors and developing contingency plans.
• Management consultants: Management consultants often use break-even analysis to assess a company’s financial performance and identify areas for improvement. They provide insights and recommendations based on break-even calculations.

Overall, a wide range of professionals and stakeholders use break-even to evaluate financial performance, guide decision-making, and assess the financial feasibility of various business strategies.

When should you use a break-even analysis?

We wanted to list some some scenarios in which a break-even analysis is particularly useful:

• To plan your business when starting anew or launching a new product or service
• To amend pricing based on profitability assessments
• To determine the optimal production volume that will result in the best balance between revenue and cost
• To assess potential ROI for investors and lenders
• To create financial projections and budgets
• To identify areas where cost reductions can lead to a lower break-even point
• To expand or diversify the business
• To help understand the financial risks associated with changes in costs, sales, or market conditions
• To evaluate businesses performance and monitor financials

The importance of break-even analysis

Break-even analysis is important to businesses for several reasons, including the below:

• Financial assessments: Break-even helps to determine the point at which total revenue equals total costs, providing crucial insights into the minimum sales or production level required to avoid losses.
• Pricing strategy: By knowing the costs involved and the desired profit margin, businesses can establish competitive pricing structures.
• Risk management: Understanding the break-even point enables businesses to develop contingency plans and make informed risk management decisions.
• Investment evaluation: Break-even analysis provides valuable information for evaluating investment opportunities and assessing the potential return on investment.
• Decision-making: Break-even also helps businesses choose strategies that align with their financial goals and objectives.

The limitations of break-even analysis

While break-even analysis is a valuable tool, it also has several limitations that should be considered:

• Assumption of costs: Break-even analysis assumes that costs remain constant. In reality, costs may change due to various factors such as inflation. Failure to account for cost fluctuations can lead to inaccurate break-even calculations.
• Ignoring time value of money: Break-even analysis does not consider the time value of money. In long-term projects, the timing of cash flows can significantly impact the overall profitability, which break-even analysis does not account for.
• Overlooking factors that aren’t financial: Break-even analysis ignores critical factors that can impact business decisions, such as market demand, competition, and regulatory changes.
• Ignores quality and customer satisfaction: Break-even analysis does not consider factors like product quality, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation, which can influence sales and profitability in the long run.
• Difficulty in predicting sales volume: Predicting future sales volume can be challenging. Inaccurate sales forecasts can lead to unreliable break-even analysis results.

Simple break-even analysis example

In this example we will use a jewelry store.

Assumptions

• Selling price per jewelry piece: \$50
• Variable cost per jewelry piece: \$20
• Fixed costs: \$5,000 per month

Step 1: Calculate Contribution Margin per Unit

Contribution margin per jewelry piece = selling price per jewelry piece – variable cost per jewelry piece

Contribution margin per jewelry piece = \$50 – \$20 = \$30

Step 2: Determine the Break-Even Point in Units

Break-even point (in units) = total fixed costs / contribution margin per jewelry piece

Break-even point (in units) = \$5,000 / \$30 ≈ 167

In this simplified example, the business needs to sell approximately 167 jewelry pieces to cover all fixed costs and reach the break-even point. Any sales beyond this point will contribute towards profits.

If the business sells more than 167 jewelry pieces, it will generate a profit, and if it sells fewer than 167 jewelry pieces, it will incur a loss. The break-even analysis helps the business understand its minimum sales requirement for profitability.

How to reduce your break-even point

Reducing the break-even point is an important goal for businesses as it allows them to achieve profitability with lower sales volume.

To reduce your break-even point, focus on two key strategies: decreasing fixed costs and increasing revenue.

First, scrutinize your business expenses to identify areas where cost-cutting is feasible, such as renegotiating contracts, optimizing operational efficiency, or exploring more affordable suppliers. In line with this, implement revenue-enhancing measures such as new products or services, expanding into untapped markets, or raising prices strategically. By combining these approaches, you can effectively lower your break-even point, enabling your business to become more resilient and profitable.

It’s important to note that reducing the break-even point is a strategic process that requires careful planning and analysis. Business owners should consider the potential impact of these strategies. Additionally, businesses should regularly review their break-even analysis to adjust strategies and stay competitive in a changing market environment.

Can software help with break-even analysis?

Financial forecasting software can be a valuable tool to assist with break-even analysis and various aspects of financial planning. Financial forecasting software typically comes equipped with features that make break-even analysis more efficient and accurate.

By inputting essential financial data, software like Brixx can accurately determine the break-even point. Additionally, it acts as a speedy scenario analysis tool, enabling you to assess how changes in various parameters impact the break-even point. This dynamic capability helps businesses make informed decisions to achieve the desired break-even position.

Moreover, the software’s ability to generate comprehensive financial reports and visualizations empowers managers to gain deeper insights into the company’s financial health and take proactive steps towards improving profitability and sustainability.

Overall, financial forecasting software streamlines the break-even analysis process and provides businesses with a comprehensive understanding of their financial performance. By using such software, businesses can make more informed decisions, plan for profitability, and respond effectively to changing market conditions.