“There is one rule for industrialists and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible” Henry Ford
Sales, General & Administrative (SG&A) expenses include, all salaries, indirect production, marketing, and general corporate expenses. This constitutes the bulk of expenses that a business incurs and should be constantly reviewed. The entire concept of running a lean enterprise extends from the fact that we use an optimal mix of resources to achieve our target goals. However, this is usually not the case in the real world and businesses tend to inflate costs drastically whenever they have some success. This creates an unhealthy dependence on extra resources and also leads to complacency within the team. When cuts need to be made during recessionary periods, there is a detrimental impact on the team’s overall performance in such organizations. From the onset we have to continuously monitor our SG&A growth in relation to revenue growth as well as industry averages. This helps keep an eye on the ball and puts emphasis on efficiency. When evaluating this metric there are a couple of factors to keep in mind.
1. SG&A Break Up & Alignment: How are costs distributed through the business? We need to identify which costs contribute significantly to overall costs. This helps us map out IT, marketing, sales, payroll and other components which usually make up the bulk of expenses. Once we have this breakdown, we can analyze each component further and see how it contributes to the overall strategic vision of the company. If your company has a short term goal of increasing market share in its industry through mergers and acquisitions, there needs to be focus on getting the right people on the team instead of bulking up marketing expenses. We see hence how breaking up the SG&A and aligning it in accordance to the business vision is important.
2. ROI: Each major component such as IT or marketing, needs to be measured. When assessing your business it is important to delve into each component to gauge which technologies and campaigns are delivering an acceptable ROI and which are not. This exercise highlights non performing costs which are being incurred without adequate return. It is through this exercise that one can eliminate these costs and make the entire business more efficient.
3. Growth %: One also needs to pay attention to how fast the SG&A figures grow when the business begins to scale. This percentage needs to be kept in check and must be reviewed regularly to ensure that costs are not being overly inflated with growth. This usually happens when we begin to hire too many people, launch unnecessary marketing campaigns or have technology infrastructures implemented when not needed. This leads to erosion of operating margins and can have a detrimental impact on growth. If possible benchmark your SG&A against industry averages as well to ensure that growth is specifically aligned with the overall strategic direction the business wants to take.
SG&A needs to be kept in control and be constantly reviewed. However, I do not like pegging its growth to some budgeted figure. SG&A growth needs to be aligned with the business vision. Restricting it from growing over a certain percentage may have a short term benefit to the business, it may however prevent it from reaching its long term goals.