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What is the Sustainable Growth for a Business?

Calculating the Sustainable Growth Rate

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Businesses see growth as a good thing. The more and the faster a business can growth the better. Right? Not necessarily. Businesses have to grow at a sustainable rate. In order for a business to grow and not run into problems with financing, it has to grow at a sustainable growth rate. Why? Businesses have to be able to finance their growth with either debt or equity financing. If they do not have enough financing, but they have runaway growth, may find it difficult to get financing to sustain that growth. On the other hand, a business that grows too slowly will stagnate

What is the Sustainable Growth Rate and How is it Used in Small Business?

The sustainable growth rate in a business is the maximum growth rate a business can achieve without having to increase its financial leverage or debt financing. Stated another way, it is the maximum growth rate that can be achieved given the company's profitability, asset utilization, dividend payout, and debt ratios.

The sustainable growth rate is an interesting concept and one more business owners ought to use. You already know that the breakeven point is the "floor" for your sales growth. That is the absolute minimum in sales you need to make in order to stay in business. Think of the sustainable growth rate as the "ceiling" for your sales growth. It is the most your sales can grow without new financing and without exhausting your cash flow.

Can your Business Attain a Sustainable Growth Rate?

Attaining the sustainable growth rate for your business is a little like searching for the holy grail. It's out there, but it is hard to find. You have to consider all the factors external to your business that interfere with your search - political, economic, international, consumer trends - and more. The environment in which you do business is very competitive for most businesses and most industries. You have to beat your competition by adding value in a different way to your product or service.

You need to address two primary issues: growth capability and growth strategy. Growth capability refers to your firm's infrastructure. Growth strategy refers to that business plan that you so desperately need to have in place. Unless you have both of these issues covered, long-term growth will be impossible.

Using the Sustainable Growth Model

If you have your business plan and infrastructure in place and your firm is growing, you are in a good position. Unless you have a crystal ball, however, it is impossible to predict the future. What if your firm grows faster than you anticipate and actual growth exceeds sustainable growth? You aren't going to turn down sales, are you? So, how do you handle this situation?

You have several options. You can sell new equity in order to raise new money, raise more debt financing, permanently reduce dividend payments to shareholders, try to increase your profit margin, or try to decrease your total asset turnover. Take note that all of these options will take time to put into place and work. There is also something wrong with all of these options.

Selling new equity dilutes the owner's shares. Raising more debt pushes the firm nearer to http://bizfinance.about.com/od/businessbankruptcy/a/bizbankruptcy.htm">bankruptcy. Reducing dividends always makes shareholders unhappy. Increasing the profit and decreasing asset turnover are long-term strategies that are not as easy as they sound. Mature firms often have sustainable growth rates somewhat less than their maximum rate. They distribute their excess cash to shareholders or put it to work in investments.

How to Calculate Sustainable Growth Rate

Here is the formula and an example. The formula for sustainable growth rate is:

SGR = Retention Ratio X Return on Equity

where: Retention Ratio = 1 - dividend payout ratio and Return on Equity = Net Income/Total Shareholder's Equity

The retention ratio is the flip side of the dividend payout ratio. If the firm pays out 20% of its earnings in dividends, then its retention ratio is 80%. The Return on Equity (ROE) is what the firm earns on the shareholder's investment in the firm. Multiply the two together, and you have sustainable growth rate.

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