Small Business Glossary


Revenue is income earned from selling products, services or other business activities. Reported at the top of the income statement.

Revenue, a term that is at the heart of every small business, is the total income generated by the sale of goods or services related to the company's primary operations. It's the lifeblood that keeps the wheels of business turning, enabling growth, expansion, and the achievement of business goals. In the context of small businesses, understanding and managing revenue is crucial for survival and success.

Revenue is often referred to as the 'top line' because it sits at the top of a company's income statement. It's the starting point from which costs and expenses are subtracted to determine net income or profit. The ability to generate consistent and increasing revenue is a key indicator of a company's health and future prospects.

Types of Revenue

Revenue is not a monolithic concept. It can be broken down into different types, each with its own characteristics and implications for a small business. Understanding these types can help business owners develop more effective strategies for generating and increasing revenue.

Let's delve into the different types of revenue that a small business might encounter.

Operating Revenue

Operating revenue is the income earned from a company's core business activities. For a retailer, this would be the sales of goods; for a service provider, it would be the income from providing services. Operating revenue is the primary source of income for most businesses and is a key indicator of a company's performance.

For small businesses, maximising operating revenue often involves improving product or service quality, increasing sales volume, or raising prices. It's the bread and butter of a company's revenue stream, and a consistent increase in operating revenue is a positive sign of growth.

Non-operating Revenue

Non-operating revenue is income that comes from secondary, non-core business activities. This could include interest from investments, income from renting out property, or profits from the sale of assets. Non-operating revenue can provide a helpful boost to a company's total revenue, but it's generally less stable and predictable than operating revenue.

For small businesses, non-operating revenue can provide a valuable buffer in times of financial difficulty or help fund growth initiatives. However, it's important not to rely too heavily on non-operating revenue, as it can distract from the core business and create financial instability if it dries up.

Importance of Revenue

Revenue is more than just a number on a balance sheet. It's a measure of a company's ability to attract and retain customers, sell products or services, and generate value. In other words, it's a reflection of a company's overall business performance and potential for future success.

For small businesses, revenue is particularly important. It provides the funds needed to cover costs, invest in growth, and generate profits. Without sufficient revenue, a business may struggle to survive, let alone thrive.

Revenue and Profitability

Revenue is closely linked to profitability. The more revenue a business generates, the more potential it has to make a profit, assuming costs are controlled. Profit is what's left over after all costs and expenses have been subtracted from revenue. It's the 'bottom line' that determines whether a business is financially successful.

For small businesses, turning a profit is often a major challenge, especially in the early stages. By focusing on increasing revenue and controlling costs, businesses can improve their chances of becoming profitable.

Revenue and Cash Flow

Revenue also plays a key role in a company's cash flow. Cash flow is the movement of money in and out of a business. Positive cash flow means more money is coming in (from revenue) than going out (for expenses), while negative cash flow means the opposite.

For small businesses, managing cash flow is crucial. Even a profitable business can run into trouble if it doesn't have enough cash on hand to cover expenses. By generating steady and reliable revenue, businesses can help ensure positive cash flow and financial stability.

Measuring Revenue

Measuring revenue is an essential part of financial management. It provides a quantifiable measure of a company's performance and can be used to track progress, identify trends, and make informed business decisions.

There are several key metrics and methods used to measure revenue, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Let's take a closer look at some of these.

Revenue Growth

Revenue growth is the percentage increase (or decrease) in a company's revenue from one period to the next. It's a key indicator of a company's growth and potential for future success. A consistent increase in revenue growth is a positive sign, while a decrease could signal problems.

For small businesses, tracking revenue growth can help identify successful strategies, spot potential issues, and guide future decision-making. However, it's important to consider revenue growth in the context of other financial metrics, such as profit margin and cash flow.

Revenue Per Customer

Revenue per customer is the average amount of revenue generated per customer over a specific period. It's a measure of a company's efficiency and effectiveness in generating revenue from its customer base.

For small businesses, increasing revenue per customer can be a cost-effective way to boost total revenue. This can be achieved by upselling, cross-selling, or improving customer retention. However, it's important to balance the desire to increase revenue per customer with the need to provide value and maintain customer satisfaction.

Increasing Revenue

Increasing revenue is a common goal for most businesses. More revenue means more resources to invest in growth, more potential for profit, and more financial stability. However, increasing revenue is often easier said than done. It requires a clear strategy, effective execution, and constant monitoring and adjustment.

There are several strategies that small businesses can use to increase revenue. Let's explore some of these in more detail.

Increasing Sales Volume

One of the most straightforward ways to increase revenue is to sell more products or services. This can be achieved by attracting new customers, encouraging existing customers to buy more, or expanding into new markets. However, increasing sales volume often involves additional costs, so it's important to ensure that the increase in revenue outweighs the increase in costs.

For small businesses, increasing sales volume often involves a combination of marketing, sales, and customer service efforts. It requires a deep understanding of the customer, a compelling value proposition, and a strong sales process.

Increasing Prices

Another way to increase revenue is to increase prices. This can be a delicate balancing act, as higher prices can deter customers and lead to a decrease in sales volume. However, if a business can successfully communicate the value of its products or services, it may be able to increase prices without losing customers.

For small businesses, increasing prices can be a viable strategy for increasing revenue, especially if they offer a unique product or service that customers are willing to pay more for. However, it's important to carefully consider the potential impact on sales volume and customer satisfaction before implementing a price increase.


Revenue is a fundamental concept in business. It's the lifeblood that keeps the wheels of business turning, providing the resources needed for growth, profitability, and success. For small businesses, understanding and managing revenue is particularly important.

By understanding the different types of revenue, the importance of revenue, how to measure it, and how to increase it, small business owners can take control of their financial performance and steer their business towards success. Remember, revenue is more than just a number – it's a reflection of your business's value, performance, and potential.

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