Return on investment (ROI) is a fiscal and strategic business concept–and a critical part of basic accounting. On the one hand, many investors want you to demonstrate realistic ROI predictions before they invest in your business. On the other hand, you need to make realistic ROI predictions when deciding how you will grow your business. Both hands rely on realistic ROI predictions to make sound business decisions.

ROI Basics

ROI calculations are simple. Add up all the probable revenues a specific opportunity will generate. Then, subtract all the probable costs you will incur for pursuing that opportunity. The remainder is the likely ROI for this opportunity. A good opportunity from an ROI perspective is one that generates a positive ROI or a profit. A bad opportunity is one that generates a negative ROI or a loss. The best opportunity is the one that generates the most profit.

ROI Factors

When predicting revenues, you need to consider:

  • Direct revenues that will be generated by the opportunity
  • Indirect revenues that will be generated by the opportunity
  • Residual revenues that will be generated by the opportunity


When predicting expenses, you need to consider:

  • Direct costs incurred by pursuing the opportunity
  • Indirect costs that will be incurred if you pursue the opportunity
  • Opportunity costs for not using your energy, time, and resources to pursue other opportunities


All of these factors must be considered to produce an accurate ROI prediction. The really tricky part, however, is looking into the future and making a realistic prediction for each of these factors.

Predicting ROI

To make a realistic ROI prediction, you must set aside your biases (what you want to be true) and conduct research (what is true). You must also balance the science and the art of ROI. You can research the number of people who use a product or service, the percentage of users who want a better experience, the effort required to convert them, and your penetration rate. You can only guess at market changes that impact your predictions and the costs you will incur to adapt to those changes.

Predicting ROI requires research and honest calculations. It also requires having a feel for your market and its upcoming changes. On the one hand, there’s a lot of business science involved. On the other hand, there’s a lot of artistic, intuitive guesswork involved. You need both hands to make realistic, accurate ROI predictions. If you’re struggling to predict ROI and need help with small business accounting strategies, our experts can help.

Are you a small business that is looking to outsource your accounting? If you need help managing any aspect of your business’s or nonprofit’s finances, such as predicting ROI, we want to hear from you. Call us at (301) 913-0008 or email to make an appointment.