What is the rule of 40 exercise?

Introduction to the Rule of 40

In today's competitive business landscape, companies are constantly seeking ways to evaluate and optimize their performance. The "Rule of 40" is a popular benchmark used primarily by software as a service (SaaS) companies to find the right balance between revenue growth and profitability. Although this metric originated in the tech industry, it can be a useful tool for organizations in various sectors. In this blog post, we'll discuss the Rule of 40 exercise, how to calculate it, and how businesses can use it to analyze and fine-tune their performance.

What is the Rule of 40?

The Rule of 40 is a financial performance benchmark used to evaluate the balance between a company's revenue growth and profitability, focusing on the need for both top-line growth and bottom-line efficiency. It is a simple but useful framework to help businesses make tough decisions about investing in growth or focusing on profitability, guiding them towards a balanced approach.

The Rule of 40 states that the sum of a company's revenue growth rate (expressed as a percentage) and its profit margin (also expressed as a percentage) should be equal to or greater than 40%. It reflects the idea that a company with a high growth rate may sacrifice short-term profitability in favor of rapid expansion, while a more mature company might focus on achieving profitability with moderate growth.

Calculating the Rule of 40

Calculating the Rule of 40 is straightforward:

Rule of 40% = Revenue Growth Rate (%) + Profit Margin (%)

The revenue growth rate is the percentage increase in revenue over a specific period (usually a year) compared to the previous period. Profit margin is calculated by dividing net income (revenue minus expenses) by total revenue and then multiplying the result by 100.

For example, let's say a company has a revenue growth rate of 30% and a profit margin of 15%. The Rule of 40 calculation would be:

Rule of 40% = 30% + 15% = 45%

In this case, the company meets the Rule of 40 benchmark, indicating a healthy balance between growth and profitability.

Using the Rule of 40 to Assess Performance

The Rule of 40 exercise allows organizations to evaluate their performance and set priorities based on their current status. Here are a few ways companies can use the metric:

  1. Benchmarking: Compare your own company's performance against industry norms and competitors. While the Rule of 40 does not apply equally to all organizations, it can help identify areas of improvement and set reasonable targets.

  2. Growth vs. Profitability: Use the Rule of 40 to identify whether your company should focus on increasing its growth rate or improving profitability. For example, if a company's Rule of 40 calculation is significantly lower than 40%, it may need to reassess its strategy and consider shifting resources or making operational adjustments to boost growth and/or profitability.

  3. Investors and Funding: The Rule of 40 can be a valuable tool for investors evaluating potential investments. A company that meets or exceeds the Rule of 40 is considered to have a healthy balance of growth and profitability, attracting investors seeking long-term value creation.

  1. Planning and Forecasting: The Rule of 40 can serve as a guideline for budgeting, resource allocation, and strategic planning, as it provides insights into the need for a balance between investments in growth and operational efficiency.


While the Rule of 40 is not a definitive measure of success, it offers valuable insights into the balance between growth and profitability. By understanding and applying this framework, companies can better evaluate their performance, make informed decisions, and optimize their strategies for long-term success.

Remember, the best approach is to use the Rule of 40 in conjunction with other financial and operational metrics to gain a comprehensive understanding of your organization's performance. Keep learning, experimenting, and adapting to drive continued success in your business journey.

What is the Rule of 40?

The Rule of 40 is a guideline used by investors and business owners to measure the performance of a SaaS (Software as a Service) or subscription-based company. It states that when you add a company's revenue growth rate to its profit margin, the sum should be greater than 40%. The revenue growth rate typically refers to the monthly recurring revenue (MRR) or annual recurring revenue (ARR) rather than gross or net revenue.

How does the Rule of 40 help investors?

Investors often use the Rule of 40 as a quick way to assess the financial health, efficiency, and growth potential of a SaaS or subscription-based company. It helps them strike a balance between revenue growth and profitability, as focusing solely on one aspect may not paint the complete picture. A company with a healthy balance of both growth and profits is generally considered to be on the right track.

How is the Rule of 40 calculated?

To calculate the Rule of 40 for a company, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the company's revenue growth rate as a percentage. This can be based on either MRR or ARR, depending on the preference.

  2. Calculate the company's profit margin. This is typically expressed as a percentage of net income over total revenue.

  3. Add the revenue growth rate and profit margin percentages.

  1. Evaluate if the sum is greater than 40%. If it is, the company meets the Rule of 40.

Can the Rule of 40 be applied to all types of businesses?

Although the Rule of 40 is primarily used for assessing SaaS and subscription-based companies, it can also be applied to other types of organizations as a rough guideline. However, the effectiveness of this rule may vary depending on the industry, business model, and stage of the company.

Is the Rule of 40 always accurate?

It is essential to note that the Rule of 40 is not a foolproof method of evaluating a company's financial health. While it can be a handy tool for a quick assessment, it's just one of many factors investors should consider before making decisions. Other important factors to consider include market share, customer satisfaction, management quality, and competitive positioning.

In conclusion

The Rule of 40 has become a popular benchmark for evaluating SaaS and subscription-based companies. It helps investors and business owners maintain a balance between growth and profitability. However, it's essential to remember that while the Rule of 40 can be a useful preliminary evaluation tool, a more in-depth analysis is always necessary before taking any financial decisions.

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