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Book Summary – Profit First: Transform your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine

Profit First - Book summary

Money is the foundation of any business. Without money, you can’t deliver your solutions, spread your message, create an impact or gain your financial freedom. Yet, many businesses don’t make money. Entrepreneurs sink in all their time and resources only to end up with a cash-eating monster and no profit. In this free Profit First summary, we’ll outline how you can use the Profit First approach by Mike Michalowicz to grow an efficient, profitable business and get more results with less effort.

Why Profit First?

At least 50% of businesses fail in the first 5 years, and many continue to burn cash, accumulate debts or hover on the brink of collapse. Entrepreneurs may start a business to do what they love and gain financial freedom, only to end up as slaves to their businesses. They work hard, put in their life savings and chalk up debts to keep the business afloat; yet in the end, they still don’t make money.

Profit First is built on this simple idea: Before you pay your expenses, take your profit first. Run your business based on what you can afford now, not what you hope you can afford someday. If you apply Profit First to a new business, you can make profits from day one. If you’ve been losing money for years and can’t even pay yourself a salary, then it’s time to transform your business.

Grow a profitable business, not a cash-eating monster

To get different results in your business, you must be willing to change what you may have learned about business and accounting.

Businesses often suffer due to 2 big mistakes: They wrongly believe that bigger is better, and they focus on income instead of cashflow and profits. In our full Profit First summary, we explain (i) why you must get profitable before you try to grow/scale, and (ii) the difference between making money and taking a profit.  We also elaborate on the “survival trap” that many businesses get caught in and why many entrepreneurs end up living from cheque-to-cheque and hand-to-mouth.

The Profit First approach requires a fundamental shift in your accounting formula. Instead of the traditional formula (Sales – Expenses = Profit), use this new formula: Sales – Profit = Expenses.  Make profit your focus, not an afterthought.

Profit First: The 4 Core Principles

To transform your business into a money-making machine, you must develop sound financial habits, just like how you need healthy dietary habits to lose weight. The Profit First system is tailored based on 4 principles from dietary-science research. Here’s a quick overview. In our complete summary we’ll elaborate more on the approach and how they relate to other concepts like the Parkinson’s Law and The Primacy Effect.

Profit First summary_The 4 principles

Use Small Plates

We tend to consume all the food on our plate. Simply by using a smaller plate, you can reduce your food intake. When you put all your money in 1 account, you feel richer and spend more. Reduce the amount of available cash so you’re forced to be smarter and more innovative with how you use each cent.

Change your Meal Sequence

Consume nutritious, low-calorie food (e.g. vegetables) first so you’ll be full by the time you get to the less healthy options. Here, you’ll be taking profit first and paying your bills last, by allocating your business income is allocated into sub-accounts in this sequence: Income => Profit => Owners’ Pay => Tax => Operating Expenses (Opex).

Remove Temptations

It’s human nature to seek convenience. To cut down on junk food, remove them from the house and stock up on healthy food instead. Likewise, once you’ve taken your profit, keep it out of sight and out of mind so you won’t be tempted to use it for your business.

Build a Rhythm

Eat small, regular meals so you won’t get hungry and over-eat. Likewise, don’t wait for your monthly or annual statements to assess your cash position. Take a few seconds daily to log in and check your bank balance and do your income allocations and pay your bills twice a month.

Implementing Profit First

Here’s a quick overview of the Profit First approach.

Profit First summary_Steps and ComponentsFor implementation tips and a step-by-step guide for each of the components below, do get our complete Profit First summary to learn:

  • How to set up your 5 core accounts and 2 “no-temptation” accounts and transfer/manage funds from each account.
  • How to use the Instant Assessment to evaluate your business health and identify the specific gaps to be addressed;
  • How to define your Target Allocation Percentages (TAP) for allocating your income optimally between profit, owners’ compensation, taxes and operating expenses (opex), and how to gradually shift from your existing percentages toward your TAP;
  • How to cut expenses, remove your debts and free up cash from your existing business; and
  • How to improve your efficiency using innovative approaches and solutions.

Getting the Most from Profit First

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.

Profit First summary - book summary bundle


Fundamentally, Profit First is a way of life. It’s about changing how you do business so you actually get what you wanted in the first place—financial freedom and the ability to do what you want to do. You can also apply the principles to manage your personal finances. In the book, Mike Michalowicz shares many examples of entrepreneurs who’ve turned their businesses around using this approach, as well as various scenarios and tips on how to apply the system and the mistakes to avoid.

You can purchase the book here for the full details, or download the Instant Assessment form and get more details at

Read our Clockwork summary to get more powerful ideas from Mike Michalowicz!

About the Author of Profit First

Profit First: Transform your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine is written by Mike Michalowicz–an American author, speaker, entrepreneur, and lecturer. He has contributed to or appeared in various publications and programs, including being a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the “Business Rescue” segment host for MSNBC’s Your Business. He has also lectured on entrepreneurship, sales and marketing at various universities and organizations.

Profit First Quotes

“When profit comes first, your business will automatically show you the path to growth.”

“You need to fix profit first, then grow.”

“When profit comes first, it is the focus, and it is never forgotten.”

“A financially healthy company is a result of a series of small daily financial wins, not one big moment.”

“Profit is not an event. Profit is a habit.”

“Projections are an opinion. Cash is a fact.”

Click here to download the Profit First summary & infographic

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