How To Double Your Firm's Profit

min read

If you bill time, then you’re probably familiar with utilization rate, or the percentage of your employees’ time spent on billable work. In this post, we’ll explain how this metric is a primary driver of revenue and overall profitability as well as the best approach to increasing it. To illustrate this point: If a company of 100 people with an average billing rate of $150 per hour increases their total billable time by just 2%, that organization will make an additional $420,000 in revenue. (.)

There's a lot of room for improvement.

Average utilization rates for time-billing companies vary by industry. For this blog post, we’ll look at two industries I worked in prior to starting «ӰҵAPP: AEC firms and creative agencies. According to the average ǰԾپDz-ɾutilization rate for architecture and engineering firms is 60%. And according to , the rate for marketing and creative agencies is also 60%.

To put this metric another way, all you have to sell is time, and on average, 40% of the total organization’s time isn’t being billed. These averages are very consistent year after year, and this number highlights the overall inefficiency of the resource planning process due to the challenges that come with resource planning. Projects never start or finish when they’re supposed to, and it’s a struggle to put together a project team when everything is constantly moving.

While of course non-billable work is required to operate, there is always room for improvement. Your costs—payroll, overhead, etc.—are all fixed, so increases in revenue from increased efficiency go right to the bottom line. In other words, it's all profit because it doesn’t cost more to be more efficient (other than the cost of the software of course).

Utilization is the lever for profitability.

Prior to «ӰҵAPP, I was the founder of two consulting firms and was looking for ways to operate the business more efficiently and profitably. It affected who we could hire, the software and technology we could afford to operate, and even the number of hours people would have to work.

I would review the results of surveys on business performance metrics and analyze which metrics were most closely tied to higher revenue and profitability. One report that was key to helping me understand was by , an AEC consultant for improving business performance. For the past 10 years, PSMJ has polled the best firms in the AEC industry as part of their , where they honor companies for exceptional financial performance.

By looking closely at how the best firms perform over a long period of time, we’re able to understand what’s achievable. Year after year, the polls show that the median utilization rates of firms that applied were between 59 and 60%, but the best-performing organizations—PSMJ’s “Circle of Excellence” companies—were around 65%. While that’s only about a 5% difference in utilization, the operating profits (as percentages of new revenues) for these excellent firms were nearly double that of the average (30.7% vs. 15.9%). These results are highlighted year after year as shown in the screenshots below.

Year after year results of Circle of Excellence firms; EBBT and utilization highlighted
Results of all surveyed firms for 2019 and 2018 reports; EBBT and utilization highlighted

Screenshots from .

The numbers don’t lie.  

Year after year, the numbers demonstrate a clear and direct correlation between profit and utilization. Remember, other than the cost of the software, it doesn't cost more to be more efficient, so the money is nearly all profit. Efficiency is the name of the game in all companies, from manufacturing to software. If you were selling widgets, you would need to figure out how to sell more. And it should make sense that for companies that bill time, there is a very clear and direct ROI with increased utilization. So, how do companies achieve higher utilization rates like the Circle of Excellence firms?

From speaking with thousands of time-billing companies, we've learned that top-performing organizations typically have extensive resource planning processes that allow them to achieve higher utilization. It should be no surprise that improving your resource planning process is key to boosting utilization and driving dramatic increases in profit.

The answer is always to make it a team effort.

After discovering the clear connection between utilization and profit PSMJ’s benchmark summaries, I spent my time on resource planning spreadsheets to improve our efficiency. I started seeing results within months, but was a challenge. They were very complex and weren’t collaborative—mainly because activity couldn’t be tracked and it was hard to get others to update them or even use them, and I couldn’t blame them. They were far too complex and hurt your head to look at them, so I was stuck managing them myself.

was born to replace what I was doing on those resource planning spreadsheets. A modern version of the process, simple and visual, that anyone can learn to do in minutes on their first day in the software. But the magic is that the software creates collaborative resource management, so rather than having one person or a small percentage of resource managers trying to keep up with all of the constant changes to plans —everyone plays their part, updating information in real-time. As a group, the organization is working to keep everyone busy and prioritize work.

As a result of getting more people into the planning conversation, plans are more accurate and up to date, and schedules can be monitored and controlled. Departments and office borders get broken down, and the skills of the organization are unlocked. People can easily ask for and offer help to meet deadlines. You'll give people from your team, but you'll also get people when you need them. The best part is that operations, resource and staffing managers become true people managers, rather than data entry specialists. They can achieve deeper levels of efficiency with their teams, which improves everyone’s connection to their work and schedules.

Getting everyone into the resource planning conversation is the key to maximizing utilization.

Less work, more profit.

Some might be thinking, “We’re already feeling burned out. Why would more work be better?” That’s the beauty of efficiency. The potential increase in billable time simply highlights the inefficiency of the current processes, not an increase in the amount of work. The burnout youor your team may be feeling is more likely due to over-scheduling, conflicting deadline bottlenecks, and misallocation of projects rather than the work itself. To increase efficiency, you first need to be able to see what's happening, understand what you can get done, and then you can.

Increasing collaboration, managing time more efficiently, and planning more effectively result in fewer late nights and weekends, never more. The can also give you clarity on capacity, demand, skills, and hiring so you can confidently manage the business. It gives you control over your organization’s work, so you can ensure everyone is appropriately busy with the right things at the right time. And by being more efficient, you can actually work less to achieve the same or even higher profitability goals.

The right system can drive dramatic results.

A testament to the effectiveness of «ӰҵAPP in improving both productivity and profitability: the AEC firm I founded (the first company to use «ӰҵAPP) made the Circle of Excellence award cited above twice and has now made the Inc. 5000 list of 'The Nation’s Fastest-Growing Companies' seven times in the last nine years. Again, the results speak for themselves.

Other companies have reported similar results, experiencing their best revenue months and years while using «ӰҵAPP. We’re so confident that «ӰҵAPP’s collaborative and visual resource planning can improve your organization’s performance that we guarantee it. Use «ӰҵAPP and you will increase your total annual billable time by at least 2%. Thanks to the power of utilization, this seemingly small increase has a tremendous impact, increasing profit up to 30%. I encourage you to see «ӰҵAPP for yourself in a customized product demonstration. .

John Meyer

Founder & CEO
view all posts
Related Articles