Understanding business profits – Types of profit and methods to measure profitability

Last updated on 10 October 2023

In today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, understanding the dynamics of profit is absolutely crucial. For a UK business audience, it is imperative to grasp what profit signifies, how to categorise it, and the various methods for measuring profitability. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of these crucial aspects.

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What is profit?

In simple terms, profit is the financial gain that occurs when revenue generated from business operations exceeds the expenses, costs and taxes required to sustain the business. It serves as the basic measuring tool for the success of any enterprise.

Types of profit

Gross profit

Gross profit is calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from total revenue. It gives an overview of how efficiently a business is producing and selling its goods. However, it does not account for other operating expenses such as administration costs, taxes, and so on.

Operating profit

Operating profit, often referred to as operating income, is calculated by subtracting operating expenses (like wages, depreciation, and utilities) from gross profit. This figure provides an accurate depiction of the profitability related to the core business activities, without considering the influence of taxes and other financial activities.

Net profit

Net profit is what remains after all expenses, including taxes and interest, are subtracted from the revenue. It is the most comprehensive measure of a business’s profitability and is often referred to as the ‘bottom line’.

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Methods to measure profitability

Profit margin ratios

The profit margin is a widely used metric for assessing the profitability of a business. It’s usually expressed as a percentage and is calculated by dividing the profit by the revenue, then multiplying by 100.

  • Gross Profit Margin: (Gross Profit / Revenue) x 100
  • Operating Profit Margin: (Operating Profit / Revenue) x 100
  • Net Profit Margin: (Net Profit / Revenue) x 100

Return on investment (ROI)

ROI is a measure used to evaluate the efficiency or profitability of an investment. It is calculated by dividing the net profit from the investment by the initial cost of the investment, then multiplying by 100.

Return on assets (ROA)

ROA indicates how efficiently a business is using its assets to generate profit. It is calculated by dividing net income by average total assets during a specific period.

Return on equity (ROE)

ROE measures the profitability of a business in relation to the equity held by shareholders. It’s calculated by dividing net income by shareholder’s equity.


Profitability is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Different types of profits and various methods to measure them provide diverse insights into the financial health of a business. By understanding these different facets, businesses can make more informed decisions and strategise more effectively for long-term success.

FAQ about business profit

What is the difference between revenue and profit?

Revenue is the total amount of money generated by the business through sales or other means. Profit is what remains after all costs, expenses, and taxes are subtracted from revenue.

How do you calculate gross profit?

Gross profit is calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from total revenue.

What is included in operating expenses?

Operating expenses include costs such as wages, rent, utilities, marketing, and administrative expenses.

What are non-operating expenses?

These are expenses that are not directly related to the core business activities. Examples include interest payments, losses on investments, and foreign exchange losses.

Is net profit the same as net income?

Yes, net profit and net income are essentially the same and can be used interchangeably. Both terms refer to what remains after all expenses are subtracted from revenue.

What is the importance of net profit margin?

A high net profit margin indicates that a business is good at converting revenue into actual profit, while a low margin may suggest inefficiency or high expenses.

How does one calculate ROI?

Return on Investment (ROI) is calculated by dividing the net profit from the investment by the initial cost, then multiplying by 100.

Is a high ROI always a good thing?

A high ROI generally indicates a successful investment, but it is also important to consider other factors such as risk, time period, and the overall business strategy.

How is ROA different from ROI?

Return on Assets (ROA) considers the profitability of a company in relation to its total assets, while ROI focuses on the return from a specific investment.

What does ROE indicate?

Return on Equity (ROE) measures how effectively a company is using its equity to generate profit.

What is EBITDA?

EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation. It’s an indicator of a company’s operational performance.

Is EBITDA the same as operating profit?

No, EBITDA does not account for depreciation and amortisation, whereas operating profit does.

Can a company have a high revenue but low profit?

Yes, if a company has high operating expenses, high COGS, or both, it could have a high revenue but low profit.

What are retained earnings?

Retained earnings are the portion of net profit which is retained by the company rather than being distributed as dividends to shareholders.

What is a profit and loss statement?

A profit and loss statement is a financial document that summarises the revenues, costs, and expenses incurred by a business over a specific period of time.

How often should I review my business’s profitability?

Regular reviews are essential. Many businesses opt for monthly or quarterly reviews, but the frequency can depend on the specific needs and nature of the business.

What is a break-even analysis?

A break-even analysis tells you the minimum amount of revenue your business needs to generate to cover its costs.

What is a good profit margin?

The definition of a ‘good’ profit margin can vary by industry, but as a general rule of thumb, a net profit margin of 10-20% is considered healthy.

Can a business operate at a loss and still be considered healthy?

In some cases, yes, especially for startups and companies investing heavily in growth. However, long-term profitability is generally necessary for sustained business health.

What is an operating cycle and how does it affect profit?

An operating cycle is the average time it takes for a business to make an initial outlay of cash to produce goods or services and receive cash back from customers. A shorter operating cycle can often lead to higher profitability.

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