Business By the Numbers – Part 4 – Sustainable Growth Rate

Jim_NoTieBy Jim D’Amico, President

Business By the Numbers – Part 3” discussed the importance of tracking your business by using numbers from your Profit and Loss statement to create Operating Ratios to “provide a more sophisticated look at what is happening with the business.”

The next topic to discuss is the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula using the Same Debt to Equity Ratio.  Again, we’ll use the information from the Vistage* “Formulas for Success” publication.

Sustainable Growth Rate

“The Sustainable Growth Rate formula tells you–all things being equal–how much sales can grow during the next year without increasing your debt-to-equity ratio.  Since increased debt means you incur more risk, this formula identifies how much your sales can grow without incurring more risk.

This is not the maximum rate at which sales can grow.  Improving your asset management and profitability also enhances your ability to grow safely.  In addition, some companies with low levels of debt can take advantage of leverage to grow the business.  Therefore, the sustainable growth rate can be calculated assuming no new debt (scenario A), or a new level of debt (scenario B).

Variable Assets are all the assets (on the balance sheet) that vary with the level of sales.  Generally, variable assets are all current assets although for some businesses there could be current assets that do not change as sales change.  This requires judgment on the part of the person doing the calculation.

Same Debt-To-Equity Ratio

Sustainable Growth Rate Formula

(Net Profit %) x (1 + Debt / Equity)

(Variable Assets % to Sales) – [ NPM% x (1 + Debt / Equity)]

(By “Debt” we mean “Total Liabilities”)






A x (1 + B/C)

D – [A x (1 + B/C)]


The final percent is the sustainable growth rate; which is important because every business should know how fast it can grow without additional outside funding.  Otherwise, the business plans are unreasonable and unrealistic.”     

Business By the Numbers Part 5 will feature Breakeven Analysis.

*About Vistage (from Since 1957, Vistage has been bringing together successful CEOs, executives and business owners into private peer advisory groups guided by expert executive coaches, known as Vistage Chairs. This assembly of peers & expert leaders makes up Vistage Worldwide, an executive coaching organization.
From the beginning, our coaching Chairs have been at the heart of what makes the Vistage experience so powerful for so many members. Vistage Chairs are a distinguished group of business leaders who come to us from a wide range of industries. Some have owned businesses, many have been CEOs of domestic and international companies, and all are united by a desire to share their insight and expertise to educate other business leaders in their communities through executive business coaching.

The post Business By the Numbers – Part 4 – Sustainable Growth Rate appeared first on Coolfront Blog.

About the Author

Tom Talbot

My name is Tom, many people call me Tommy T, it’s that whole alliteration thing. Which sounds about right since I’m the resident writer at Coolfront. I wasn’t blessed with many skills but writing is one of them. When I’m not writing I’m either coaching, playing sports, watching sports or flipping stuff on eBay. One of my favorite quotes comes from the late great Jim Valvano of NC State basketball “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”

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