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Analyzing Employee Utilization Rates to Drive Profitability for Professional Services Firms

Analyzing Employee Utilization Rates to Drive Profitability for Professional Services Firms

How utilized are your employees? What percent of their time is being spent working on projects that are not billable to the client? How much is that costing your company in productive capacity? If you do not know the answer to these questions, you could be missing out on potential revenue benefits.

For service-based organizations, analyzing employee utilization is imperative. Knowing where and how employees are spending their time enables professional services firms to:

  • Appropriately set their rates
  • Properly assess how much to invoice clients accounts
  • Decide what to pay their employees
  • Determine if they are over or understaffed

Calculating Employee Utilization Rates

The resource utilization rate is a balanced relationship between billable hours and working hours available and is a key metric of employee productivity.

For example, if there are 168 eligible working hours in the month of May and Penny spends 100.80 hours on billable client projects then Penny’s utilization rate is 60%.

Billable Hours / Eligible Working Hours = Utilization Rate

Now let’s say that Penny’s annual salary is $50,000, or $4,167 per month. In the month of May, she spends the remaining 40% of her productivity time on business development efforts (10%) and general and administrative (G&A) tasks (30%). That would mean the company is paying Penny $1,250 in May to work on non-revenue generating processes.

Monthly Salary x Time Spent on G&A (%) = Employee Cost

If this general and administrative time is benefiting the company then it may be worthwhile. Otherwise, this time could be used for other work, clients, or spent attending networking and other events to help grow the productive capacity of the business.

If Penny were to increase her utilization from 60% to 80%, her general and administrative employee cost would decrease to $417 per month – increasing efficiencies AND generating additional revenue.

Improving Employee Utilization Increases Profitability

From a revenue perspective, let’s assume that clients are billed at an hourly rate of $150. At 60% utilization the company is making $15,120 in May; however, 80% utilization would bring in $20,160, or $5,040 of additional revenue. Furthermore, if you have 5 employees who can each increase their employee utilization rate from 60% to 80%, you could generate an additional $25,020 of revenue per month.

Higher Utilization = Increased Profitability

Using Utilization Rates to Guide Business Decisions, A Case Study

Earlier this year, Signature Analytics was hired by a professional services firm in San Diego to provide outsourced accounting services. In addition to performing monthly accounting maintenance and bookkeeping services (preparing financial statements, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, etc.), we put together a Utilization Summary Report so the client would have visibility into their employee utilization rates month over month.

The metrics report revealed that in the month of January the company’s average utilization rate for billable employees was 60% resulting in a $95k loss for the month. In February, average utilization was 63% indicating a consistent low utilization rate for the company. To show how utilization rates impacted the bottom line, we also compiled an “if-then” summary report which revealed that increasing average utilization to 75% would generate a profit of $130k for the month.

Using this utilization percentage information, the company decided to make personnel changes in the month of March that would increase their profitability. This included letting go of an underperforming non-billable sales associate. They also replaced a billable-time employee with consistently low utilization with a new billable employee whose skills capacity could be better utilized by the company. Additionally, the firm set personal billable utilization goals for every employee to help encourage the staff to improve productivity and maximize billable projects and hours.

Following the changes, average employee utilization increased to 76%, resulting in a profit increase of $230k for the month of March.

Read another case study: Unknown employee utilization causing unknown or inaccurate client profitability.

Improve Your Firm’s Utilization

At Signature Analytics, we have helped several professional services firms use utilization rates to make key strategic decisions that drive profitability. Preparing utilization summary reports and “if-then” analyses are one way we enable our clients to visualize the effect of increased utilization rates. We are also able to show the company key metrics for unbilled general & administrative time by applying utilization rates to salaries and separating these wages on the financial statements. Furthermore, we have helped clients implement time tracking systems – which is the first step in determining utilization rates – and assisted with the development of company policies to ensure time is accurately entered by employees.

Want to learn more about using utilization rates to drive profitability for your firm? Contact us for a free consultation.

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Do you know your numbers?

Client Increases Profit Margins After Receiving Custom Margin Analysis

Client Increases Profit Margins After Receiving Custom Margin Analysis

Signature Analytics was engaged by a rapidly growing San Diego brewery which, at the time, did not have an internal accounting function. The brewery’s management team spent the majority of their time on the operations of the business, so it was not possible to make maintaining proper account records a priority; however, they recognized that it was critical to have accurate financial information to make proper business decisions. So they reached out to Signature Analytics to provide outsourced accounting services.

Within a one month period, the Signature Analytics team was able to update all of the accounting records for the previous months which had been neglected. Our accounting team also set up a monthly close process which included proper reconciliation of all bank and balance sheet accounts, the implementation of a system to track inventory, and ensured proper Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and accrual basis of accounting. Additionally, we established monthly meetings with brewery management to review historical performance and discuss future activity and projections. Communications with the Brewery’s management were ongoing and imperative, allowing the engagement to maintain flexibility and drive effectiveness.

While these procedures were exactly what the management team expected of Signature Analytics, we knew there was more that we could do to assist with the most crucial business decisions. During the month that the accounting information was updated and while we learned about the business, the Signature Analytics team noted that more focus should be placed on the gross profit margins of the brewery’s products. Once the data was properly structured and accurate, a seasoned CFO put together a custom margin analysis and was able to identify several opportunities for improvement. The insights from this analysis enabled the Brewery to properly evaluate profits and increase margins.

In addition to getting the Brewery’s accounting records in order and providing a custom margin analysis, the Signature Analytics team prepared a 13-week cash flow forecast to assist with cash management and the payment of bills. This analysis helped the management team better understand each of the inflows and outflows the Brewery experienced and identify areas where they could improve the business financially.

Although we were initially engaged to only provide monthly accounting maintenance and bookkeeping services, the Brewery’s management team quickly recognized the value of Signature Analytics’ proactive approach to outsourced accounting services. Having a full accounting team on an as-needed basis was a perfect fit for the Brewery’s needs and the additional financial analysis and reports we provided allowed the Management team to get a better understanding of their business. This enabled them to confidently make business decisions based on the accurate financial information they were provided, ultimately improving profitability for the Brewery.

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