Financial modelling terms explained

Selling, General, And Administrative Expenses

Unravel the complexities of financial modeling terms with our comprehensive guide to Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses.

Understanding financial modelling terms is crucial for anyone involved in business, finance, or investing. One such term that often appears in financial statements is Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (SG&A). This term refers to the direct and indirect costs associated with the operations of a business. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of SG&A, its importance, and how it impacts financial modelling.

What are Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (SG&A)?

Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (SG&A) are the sum of all direct and indirect selling expenses and all general and administrative expenses of a company. Direct selling expenses are costs that are directly linked to the sale of a product or service, such as salaries, advertising, and distribution costs. General and administrative expenses, on the other hand, are expenses related to the overall operations of a company, such as salaries of non-sales personnel, rent, utilities, and office supplies.

SG&A is a major line item in an income statement and can be found under operating expenses. It is important to note that SG&A does not include cost of goods sold (COGS), which is directly tied to the production of goods or services a company sells. Instead, SG&A reflects the costs to sell and deliver those products and services and to manage the company.

Why is SG&A Important?

SG&A is a significant factor in the financial health and operational efficiency of a company. A high SG&A expense can indicate a company's inefficiency in managing its operations and can lead to lower profit margins. Conversely, a low SG&A expense can suggest that a company is effectively managing its costs, leading to higher profit margins.

Investors and analysts often scrutinize SG&A as a percentage of sales to evaluate a company's operational efficiency. If the percentage is increasing over time, it may indicate that the company's costs are rising faster than its sales, which could be a red flag for investors.

SG&A in Financial Modelling

In financial modelling, SG&A plays a crucial role in determining a company's profitability and cash flow. It is one of the key inputs in projecting future income statements and cash flow statements. By accurately forecasting SG&A, financial analysts can better predict a company's future earnings and cash flows, which are essential in valuation models.

When modelling SG&A, analysts typically use historical SG&A expenses as a starting point and make adjustments based on expected changes in the company's operations. For instance, if a company plans to expand its operations, it may incur additional SG&A expenses, which should be factored into the model.

Modelling SG&A as a Percentage of Sales

One common approach in financial modelling is to forecast SG&A as a percentage of sales. This method assumes that SG&A will grow at the same rate as sales. While this approach is simple and easy to implement, it may not always be accurate, especially if the company's cost structure or sales growth rate changes significantly in the future.

Modelling SG&A Using Driver-Based Approach

Another approach is to use a driver-based model, where SG&A is forecasted based on specific drivers, such as number of employees, number of stores, or advertising spend. This approach can provide a more accurate forecast, especially for companies with variable cost structures. However, it requires more detailed information and assumptions, which may not always be available.


Understanding SG&A is essential for anyone involved in business, finance, or investing. It provides valuable insights into a company's operational efficiency and profitability. In financial modelling, accurately forecasting SG&A is crucial in predicting a company's future earnings and cash flows. Whether you're an investor, a business owner, or a financial analyst, having a solid understanding of SG&A can help you make more informed decisions.

Remember, while SG&A is a critical component of a company's financials, it's just one piece of the puzzle. It should be analyzed in conjunction with other financial metrics and indicators to gain a comprehensive understanding of a company's financial health.

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