Small Business Glossary

Break Even Analysis - definition & overview


Break Even Analysis is used to determine the sales volume at which revenue covers total costs, resulting in no profit or loss.

The concept of break-even analysis is a cornerstone in the world of business and finance. It's a tool that aids in decision-making, planning, and control. It's the point where total revenue equals total costs, resulting in neither profit nor loss. But, how does one calculate this point? And, what are the implications of reaching it? Let's delve into the fascinating world of break-even analysis.

Understanding Break-Even Analysis

Break-even analysis is a critical financial tool used by businesses of all sizes and industries. It's a method of determining the level of sales needed to cover all operating costs, thus achieving a break-even point. This point is where a business neither makes a profit nor incurs a loss. In other words, it's the point where total revenue equals total costs.

Understanding the break-even point is vital for businesses as it helps in setting sales targets, pricing products, and planning future activities. It provides a clear picture of the minimum sales volume required to avoid losses, which can be particularly useful for start-ups and small businesses.

Calculating the Break-Even Point

Calculating the break-even point involves two key components: fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are those that do not change with the level of output, such as rent and salaries. Variable costs, on the other hand, fluctuate with the level of output, such as raw materials and direct labour.

The formula for calculating the break-even point in units is as follows:

The formula for calculating the break-even point in units is: Break-even Point (Units) = Fixed Costs ÷ (Sales price per unit – Variable costs per unit)

And the formula for calculating the break-even point in sales revenue is:

  • Break-Even Point (Units): Divide fixed costs by the sales price per unit minus the variable costs per unit. The fixed costs are those that do not change no matter how many units are sold. The sales price is the price for which you’re selling the product minus the variable costs, like labour and materials. The formula is: Break-Even Point (Units) = Fixed Costs ÷ (Sales price per unit – Variable costs per unit)
  • Break-Even Point (Sales Dollars): Divide fixed costs by the contribution margin. The contribution margin is determined by subtracting the variable costs from the price of a product. This amount is then used to cover the fixed costs. The formula is: Break-Even Point (Sales Dollars) = Fixed Costs ÷ Contribution Margin

Implications of the Break-Even Point

Reaching the break-even point is a significant milestone for any business. It signifies that the business is covering all its costs and is on the path to profitability. However, it's essential to remember that breaking even is not the end goal. Businesses should strive to exceed the break-even point and generate profits.

Moreover, understanding the break-even point can help businesses make informed decisions. For instance, it can aid in determining whether a proposed product or service will be financially viable. It can also assist in setting sales targets and pricing strategies.

Limitations of Break-Even Analysis

While break-even analysis is a useful tool, it's not without its limitations. Firstly, it assumes that all units produced are sold, which may not always be the case. Secondly, it assumes that fixed and variable costs remain constant, which is often not realistic as costs can fluctuate due to various factors.

Furthermore, break-even analysis does not consider the impact of changes in business conditions, such as market trends or competitive actions. Therefore, while it's a valuable tool, it should not be the sole basis for decision-making.


Break-even analysis is a powerful tool that can aid businesses in planning, decision-making, and control. By understanding the break-even point, businesses can set realistic sales targets, price their products effectively, and plan for future growth. However, it's important to remember that break-even analysis is just one tool in the financial toolbox, and it should be used in conjunction with other financial analysis methods for a comprehensive view of a business's financial health.

So, whether you're a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, understanding break-even analysis can provide valuable insights into your business's financial performance and potential. Remember, the journey to profitability begins with breaking even.

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