Determining Pricing for Products or Services

When products or services are developed and ready to be provided to customers, an entrepreneur still needs to make a pricing decision. Entrepreneurs need to be careful to ensure that the appropriate price is determined since customers generally do not like increases in prices.

Price is one of the four Ps of the marketing mix, which are product, place (distribution), promotion and price. Price, further, is interrelated with other Ps of the marketing mix.

Price of the product or service directly affects the revenue of the business. It also indirectly affects demand for the product or service (level of sales). This refers to the fact that generally as price of the product or service decreases demand tend to increase and as price increases demand tend to decrease. Both of this influences of price needed to be taken into account when an entrepreneur decides on appropriate price for the product or service.

Sales revenue

Total sales revenue of the business depends on quantity sold and price. If we ignore the affect of changes in price on demand than we can assume that as price increases revenue will also increase and vice versa.

For example, if a small business owner increases its price from $6.5 to $7 and the demand stays the same at 150,000 units per year than the following changes in revenue will take place:

Sales revenue at $6.5 per unit: $6.5 * 150,000 = $975,000

Sales revenue at $7 per unit: $7 * 150,000 = $1,050,000

As we can see from the above, an entrepreneur can lose a $75,000 annually in sales revenue by charging just $0.5 less.

A price of the unit of product or service is the cost per unit sold plus profit per unit. To determine pricing, entrepreneurs firstly need to understand the total cost of providing product and service. This includes all costs involved in getting the product or service to customers and after sales service, and includes manufacturing, advertising, storage, delivery, taxes, salaries, et cetera. When considering costs, it is important to divide total costs into fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed costs refer to costs which do not change as volume of sales changes. For example, assume that enterprise is renting a building. The rent paid is a fixed cost since it does not fluctuate with changes in sales volume. Even if company will not sell any products over a certain period, the rent must still be paid.

Variable costs, on the other hand, refer to costs which fluctuate with changes in sales volume. An example of variable cost is commission paid to sales personnel. For example, assume that the business sells product at $100 per unit and pays sales commission of $5 to its sales personnel. The sales commission is a variable cost since it will fluctuate with changes in sales volume.

Many entrepreneurs treat fixed and variable costs the same. An average pricing approach which is often used by entrepreneurs is a manifestation of this. To find average price, entrepreneurs take total cost from the last period and divide it by total number of units sold from the last period. This gives them an average cost per unit.

This approach is very risky. The problem with this approach is that it does not account for the difference in fixed and variable costs. For example, if sales of the business will be lower than last year than fixed cost will increase the average cost per unit. This can decrease or eliminate the profit margin of the business. What is even worse is that this can even lead to business making a loss.

For example, imagine that ABC Company in the last financial period had fixed costs of $750,000 and variable costs of $250,000. Over last period 150,000 units were sold. To determine the average cost per unit, ABC will divide $1,000,000 ($750,000 + $250,000) by 150,000 units. This results in average cost per unit of $6.7. Assume that on the basis of this ABC decided to charge $9 per unit.

However, the slowdown of the economy led to decrease in number of units that ABC could sell to 90,000 units. This decreased the variable cost to $150,000. However, the fixed cost of ABC was left unchanged at $750,000. The new average cost per unit of ABC is ($750,000+$150,000)/90,000=$10 per unit. Since company charges customers $9 per unit, which is less than its average cost per unit of $10, it is making a loss.

The above example illustrates very clearly how risky an average pricing is, especially for the small business.

Pricing changes and demand

When entrepreneurs determine pricing, it is important to consider how demand is affected by pricing. The response of demand to price changes depends on whether the goods or services is demand elastic or demand inelastic.

Elastic demand refers to demand for products and services when increase in price will result in decrease in quantity purchased and decrease in price will result in increase in quantity purchased. For example, a decrease in price of certain brand of chocolate may result in increase in quantity of this brand of chocolate that is purchased.

Inelastic demand refers to demand for products and services which do not respond much to changes in price. For example, if the price of sugar will increase, the quantity of sugar purchased will likely remain unchanged. This is because sugar is seen as necessity and the amount of sugar that is used is usually more or less fixed in quantity.

To determine whether demand is elastic or inelastic it is helpful to start from a desktop research. Desktop research refers to research that can be done at one’s desk, such as with the use of the internet. The product or service that the entrepreneur makes available is provided by other companies as well and information on their prices and volumes will be available. After some research you should be able to see if demand for the product or service that you want to provide is elastic or not.

The degree of elasticity will determine barriers that entrepreneur has to consider when increasing the price of the product or service. To decrease elasticity of demand for product or service, an entrepreneur can take steps towards making product or service more unique and more value adding compared to that offered by competitors. In other words, an entrepreneur needs to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

 

Operating leverage

Operating leverage is the relationship between sales and revenue (Price*Quantity of units sold) and operating profit (which is also called EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes)). It is a measure of how the potential use of fixed costs can enlarge the effect that change in sales volume has on operating profit (EBIT).

We can represent the calculation of operating leverage as follows:

Sales (P * Q)

Less: Fixed operating costs (FC)

Less: Variable operating costs (VC*Q)

= EBIT

Or

EBIT = (P*Q)-FC-(VC*Q)

This simplifies into:

EBIT = Q * (P-VC) – FC

When do firms have operating leverage?

If a firm has fixed costs, it has operating leverage. Because fixed cost (FC) is unchanged, an increase in sales revenue (P*Q) results in a proportionally bigger increase in EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes, which is also called operating profit). However, decrease in sales revenue (P*Q) will result in a proportionally bigger decrease in EBIT.

Increase in operating leverage increases business risk, which is a chance that the business will not be able to cover its operating costs.

How to calculate the degree of operating leverage (DOL) of the firm?

To calculate degree of operating leverage, which is just a way to measure operating leverage of the firm, we can use the following formula:

DOL =% change in EBIT/% change in sales

Therefore, if the degree of operating leverage is greater than 1, than operating leverage exists (which is the case as long as the company has fixed operating costs).

Businesses can increase their operating leverage by substituting variable costs for fixed costs, where possible. For example, salaries to sales personnel could be fixed instead of variable of units sold. Of course, many other variables need to be taken into account to make such a decision, such as consideration of how such changes would affect motivation levels of sales personnel.

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Leverage

In finance, leverage (which is also called gearing or levering) refers to the use of debt rather than equity as a source of capital to finance investments and reinvestments. The more debt the business uses the more leverage it has.

As leverage increases, the risks also increase and so does the return on investment. However, as leverage decreases, the risks also decrease as well as the return on investment. Management have almost total control over the risk introduced by increased leverage.

There are three types of leverage:

  • Operating leverage – refers to the relationship between sales revenue and operating profit (which is also called EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes))
  • Financial leverage – refers to the relationship between operating profit and EPS (earnings per share)
  • Combined or total leverage – refers to the relationship between sales revenue and EPS

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EBIT-EPS Capital Structure Approach

The EBIT-EPS capital structure approach focuses on finding a capital structure with the highest EPS (earnings per share) over the expected range of EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes).

The reason why we are interested in finding a capital structure which will permit maximization of the EPS over the expected range of EBIT is because it partially helps us to achieve the ultimate objective of the enterprise. The ultimate objective of the enterprise is to maximize shareholders’ wealth by maximizing its stock price. Two key variables that affect stock price are return (earnings attributed to owners of the enterprise) and risk (which can be measured by required return (rs)). This approach explicitly considers maximization of returns (EPS). However, it is important to note that this approach ignores risk (does not explicitly consider risk).

Major shortcoming of the EBIT-EPS approach


The fact that this approach fails to explicitly consider risk is the major shortcoming of this method. As firm obtains more debt (its financial leverage increases), the risk also increases and shareholders will require higher returns to compensate for the increased financial risk. Therefore, this approach is not completely appropriate because it does not consider one of the key variables (risk), which is necessary for maximization of shareholders’ wealth.

Considering financial risk


As per above, the approach does not explicitly consider financial risk. However, when utilizing the approach, financial risk can be considered in two ways:

1) The approach measures financial risk by the financial breakeven point. The higher the breakeven point the greater the financial risk.

2) The approach also measures the financial risk by the slope of the capital structure line. The steeper the capital structure line the greater the financial risk.

EBIT-EPS graph


It is a graphical approach. EPS is plotted on the vertical axis (x-axis) and EBIT on the horizontal axis (y-axis). By connecting the coordinates for different capital structures (different variations of equity versus debt), capital structure lines for each capital structure are graphed.

We will need to represent EBIT-EPS coordinates (capital structure lines) for different capital structures to ascertain at which levels of EBIT which capital structure is preferred. This will allow us to find a capital structure with the highest EPS over the expected range of EBIT.

For the purposes of this article it is sufficient to mention that to find EBIT-EPS coordinates we can assume particular EBIT values (and associated earnings available for common stockholders values) and calculate EPS in line with such values for different capital structures.

The formula to calculate EPS is as follows:

EPS = Earnings Available for Common Stockholders/ Number of Shares of Common Stock Outstanding Another easy way to find one of the EBIT-EPS coordinates is to use the financial breakeven point calculation. Financial break-even point occurs at the level of EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) at which EPS (earnings per share) equals zero. At this level of EBIT all fixed financial costs are covered. The formula for calculation of the financial break-even point is as follows:

Financial break-even point = I + PSD/1-T

Where:

I – interest charges

PSD – preferred stock dividends

T – tax rate

***

This capital structure approach does NOT allow us to determine the point where weighted average cost of capital is at a minimum and where stock price is at a maximum (where wealth of the owners of the firm is maximized). The approach focuses on maximizing earnings rather than on maximizing wealth. Therefore, although it is helpful to use when analyzing alternative capital structures, the major shortcoming of this approach should be taken into account.

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Total Asset Turnover

Total asset turnover is one of the activity ratios indicating the relationship between assets and sales (revenue). Activity ratios help businesses to measure how efficiently various accounts are converted into sales or cash. Other activity ratios include average payment period, average collection period and inventory turnover analysis.

It calculates how efficiently assets are used to produce sales or revenue. In other words, how efficiently the balance sheet is managed. It shows how many dollars of revenue is earned per each dollar of assets. It is also referred to as asset turnover or asset turnover ratio.

The formula to calculate the ratio is as follows:

= Sales(Revenue)/Total assets

The health of this ratio is an important factor which contributes to a healthy return on investment (ROI/ROA).

Example of total asset turnover ratio analysis


Assume Heroic Company has sales of $750,000 and total assets of $880,000. The total asset turnover of Heroic Company is calculated as follows:

$750,000 /$880,000=0.85 or 0.9

This indicates that Heroic Company turns over its assets 0.85 (0.9) times per year.

Things to note about total asset turnover ratio


Usually the higher the asset turnover number the more efficiently assets of the business are utilized.

Further, to obtain a better understanding, one should compare the ratio of individual firms to industry averages, to that of leading firms in the industry and to historical results.

Earnings Available for Common Stockholders

In summary, to calculate earnings available for common stockholders, we need to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses, and interest, tax and preferred stock dividends from sales revenue.

To calculate these earnings available, we need to understand the format of the income statement.

Income Statement Format


Sales revenue

LESS: Cost of goods sold

= Gross profit

LESS: Operating expenses

= EBIT (earnings before interest and tax/operating profit)

LESS: Interest

= Net profit before tax

LESS: Taxes

= Net profit after tax

LESS: Preferred stock dividends

= Earnings available for common stockholders

Therefore, to calculate earnings available for common stockholders, all we need to do is to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses, interest, tax and preferred stock dividends from the sale revenue.

Knowing the the earnings available for common stockholders is very important. Among other uses, it allows us to do the following:

1 – It allows you to calculate EPS:

Calculating EPS allows us to understand how much dollars were earned on each outstanding share of common stock.

2 – It also allows you to calculate the net profit margin ratio:

Net Profit Margin ratio = Earnings Available for Common Stockholders / Sales.

Net profit margin ratio measures how much of each sales dollar remains after all costs are deducted. In other words it measures how successful the firm is in terms of its earnings on sales.

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Calculating net profit after tax

In summary, to calculate net profit after tax, we need to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses, interest and tax from the sales revenue.

To make this calculation, we need to understand the format of the income statement.

Income Statement Format


Sales revenue

LESS: Cost of goods sold

= Gross profit

LESS: Operating expenses

= EBIT (earnings before interest and tax/operating profit)

LESS: Interest

= Net profit before tax

LESS: Taxes

= Net profit after tax

LESS: Preferred stock dividends

= Earnings available for common stockholders

Therefore, to calculate net profit after tax, all we need to do is to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses, taxes and interest from sales revenue.

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Calculating net profit before tax

In summary, to calculate net profit before tax, we need to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses and interest from sales revenue. We need to understand the format of the income statement.

Income Statement Format


Sales revenue

LESS: Cost of goods sold

= Gross profit

LESS: Operating expenses

= EBIT (earnings before interest and tax/operating profit)

LESS: Interest

= Net profit before tax

LESS: Taxes

= Net profit after tax

LESS: Preferred stock dividends

= Earnings available for common stockholders

Therefore, to calculate net profit before tax, all we need to do is to subtract cost of goods sold, operating expenses and interest from sales revenue.

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How to calculate EBIT (Operating Profit)?

In summary, to calculate EBIT, we need to subtract the costs of goods sold and operating expenses from sales revenue.

To determine EBIT (operating profit), we firstly need to understand the format of the income statement.

Income Statement Format


Sales revenue

LESS: Cost of goods sold

= Gross profit

LESS: Operating expenses

= EBIT (earnings before interest and tax/operating profit)

LESS: Interest

= Net profit before tax

LESS: Taxes

= Net profit after tax

LESS: Preferred stock dividends

= Earnings available for common stockholders

Therefore, to determine EBIT, all we need to do is to subtract the cost of goods sold and operating expenses from sales revenue.

Other uses for EBIT


1 – Calculate the Operating Profit Margin Ratio = Operating profit (EBIT) / Sales The operating profit margin measures how much of each sales dollar remains after all costs except for interest, tax and preferred dividends are deducted. In other words it measures how efficient the business manages its operations or how efficiently the firm manages its income statement (keeping a healthy balance between sales and costs).

2 – Calculate the Times Interest Earned Ratio = EBIT/Interest

The times interest earned ratio (Interest Coverage Ratio) measures the ability of the enterprise to meet its financial obligations (interest payments on debt that come due).

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Calculating gross profit

Calculating gross profit is simple and straightforward. In summary, we need to subtract cost of goods sold from the sales revenue.

Whilst making this calculation, we need to have a good understanding of the format of the Income Statement, as shown below. More details can be found in the format of the income statement section.

Income Statement Format


Sales revenue

 

LESS: Cost of goods sold

= Gross profit

LESS: Operating expenses

= EBIT (earnings before interest and tax/operating profit)

LESS: Interest

= Net profit before tax

LESS: Taxes

= Net profit after tax

LESS: Preferred stock dividends

= Earnings available for common stockholders

Therefore, all we need to do is to subtract cost of goods sold from the sale revenue. But how do we find the cost of goods sold? To calculate the cost of goods sold, we need to take the following steps:

Cost of goods sold =

Opening inventory

ADD: Purchases

LESS: Closing inventory

Gross profit allows us, among other things, to calculate the Gross Profit Margin Ratio , which is:

Gross Profit Margin = Gross Profit / Sales GPMR measures how much of each sales dollar is remaining after costs of goods are deducted. In other words it measures the relative cost of goods sold.