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LACK OF BUSINESS ISN'T ALWAYS THE PROBLEM
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By C.J. Hayden

When you're just starting out in business, it's a safe bet that you need more clients. But what if you have been up and running for a while, and you're still not making as much money as you would like? You may be in the habit of thinking that attracting new clients is the answer, but this isn't always the case.

There are many reasons why a professional services business might not be earning enough, but they typically fall into four categories: not enough revenue, not enough profit, not enough customers, or not enough time.

Start by looking at your gross revenue -- the total amount your customers pay you over the course of a year. How does it compare to others in the same line of business? Ask some trusted colleagues or check with your professional association for any statistics they may have.

What percentage of your gross revenue remains after you cover cost of sales? This is your gross profit. As a service business, you may have no cost of sales. If, however, you are selling books, tapes or software, or accepting credit cards, your inventory cost and credit card fees need to be deducted from your earnings before making other calculations.

Now deduct your business expenses from your gross profit. What percentage of gross profit remains? Is this a typical percentage for your industry? If you can't gather comparable data from colleagues, your professional association, or a published source like Dun & Bradstreet's "Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios," compare your profit margin (net income divided by gross profit) to a desired goal of 70%.

LOW REVENUE - If your gross revenue seems low for your industry, your profit margin is at least 70%, and you have about as many customers as you can comfortably serve, concentrate on increasing your revenue, rather than trying to improve your profit margin or bring in new customers.


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