When it comes to prices in your business, how much is enough and how much is too much? How do you set your prices? Buy low and sell high is the obvious answer, but for many companies, especially those with a mixture of retail merchandise and services, bricks-and-mortar and online competition, and customers driven one day by a penny-pinching budget and the next by the lust called gotta-have-whatever-at-any-price, there aren’t any easy answers.
Setting prices requires that even the most experienced manager or owner take a few moments every once in a while to dust off the calculator, get the accountant on the phone, and do some serious figuring. It’s tempting to just mark all merchandise up by a fixed percentage and figure labor at a flat rate comparable to what your competitors charge, but that’s not managing for profit, it’s hoping for one. There are several factors that you should consider.
Start with the cost of goods sold. That’s the amount you pay the manufacturer, wholesaler, or whomever for the merchandise you sell, whether at retail or as part of a service job. But it also includes the cost of acquiring those goods (shipping and handling), carrying them in inventory (interest expense), and allowances for returns and defective merchandise. If you pay any salespeople a commission or spiff, that needs to be taken into account, too.
For service work, you have to cover your direct labor costs on each job. These include not only an appropriate portion of your technicians’ annual salaries, but also their benefits, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, etc
What about the cost of your time? Whether you are a one-person business or simply provide indirect supervision of your staff, your time is a cost that has to be covered. One way to approach this is to divide what you expect to personally earn on an annual basis (including those items above but not your profit from the business—I’ll talk about that later) by 2,000, which is roughly the number of working hours during the year. Let’s say your “salary” plus benefits is $100,000. Your hourly labor cost is $50. Multiply that number by the hours you estimate you’ll personally spend on the job, add in the other worker’s costs, and you have your direct labor costs.
These aren't the only factors, so check next week for more guidelines on pricing for profit.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.