The Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is the annual growth rate over a period of time

The CAGR is a really important tool for a consultant to compare long-term growth scenarios

Consultants often like to compare (see benchmarking) current year growth rate with the following year growth rate and looking at year over year growth rates is often subjected to several one-off influencing factors. Additionally, consultants often have to work with growth plans that include company’s goals for the future (usually for the next 5 years).

These growth plans, in turn, consist of a set of measures each of which having different impacts in different years. An often-asked question is: how much does the company grow on average? In order to answer that you need to use the CAGR. The CAGR shows the yearly growth of an indicator if it had grown at a steady rate y-o-y.

How do you calculate the CAGR?



Your interviewer gives the following graph about a client’s sales in the last 7 years and wants you to find their CAGR.

Their sales in 2006 were 0.8 million Euros (beginning value). In 2013, after 7 years, sales increased to 1.8 million Euros.

This means, if the company would have grown each year from 2006 onwards with a rate of ~12% (12.28%), then the sales in the year 2013 would be 1.8 million Euros. More than likely, you will not be asked to calculate a CAGR in a case interview but knowing what it means and also the formula will get you through majority of the cases during interviews.

Restrictions and rules of thumb of CAGR

  • The CAGR does not tell you anything about the real sales in the years between the starting year and the end year
  • Theoretically, it is possible that all the growth happens only in the first or in the last year
  • While this is somewhat part of what is wanted when using the CAGR (to make growths comparable) this is also a restriction: Two Investments can have the exact same CAGR but one of them can be much more favorable since the growth is faster earlier on. The NPV (Net Present Value) is key to understand this concept
  • Dividing 72 by the CAGR will roughly give you the number of years to double the starting revenues (rule of 72)
  • CAGRs are most commonly used for periods of 3-7 years. For periods longer than 10 years, the CAGR is considered suitable only in special cases because at this point, it starts to mask sub trends

Key Takeaways

  • CAGR is a theoretical steady growth rate over a specific amount of time
  • CAGR is not the average of the Y-o-Y growth rates
  • It doesn’t reflect highs and lows and could mask sub trends within the period
  • You probably will encounter CAGR in graphs that the interviewer will hand out to you but you will likely not have to calculate CAGR yourself
4 Comment(s)
August 15, 2016 13:55 -
Abhay Sinha

I really doubt anyone will ask you to calculate CAGR. Here it is just given as more of a concept. CAGR just tells you how a company will grow over a period of time, may be useful for M&A cases to determine whether the company will grow as per the desires of the acquirer or not.

May 19, 2015 00:19 -

CouldnĀ“t you understand the CAGR as Cumulated Average Growth Rate, and apply it on a monthly basis? Would that make sense? I guess annually gives a wider perspective, since you avoid stationary factors, but I can see the calculation using months as the number of periods, instead of years.

July 06, 2014 20:35 -

I agree with Sam, what you will need to ask is possibly G.R for segmentation of certain area and infer some conclusions from it.

April 24, 2014 20:55 -

Given that you are not able to use a calculator in a case interview - might you be asked to calculate the GAGR? If so, how would you go about this calculation - ie 2.25 to the power of 0.125?

Related consulting question(s)

Two frameworks here: 4 Ps (= price, place, product, promotion), or the Ansoff Matrix (grow with existing or new products in existing or new markets). Both are quite MECE. Word of caution however --... (more)

Best answer so far:
Experienced consultant, now running own consulting business

Ever heard of the rule of 70? For relatively low percentages (<10%) you can approximate the time to double an amount by dividing 70 by the percentage number. So at 2% interest, your money will... (more)

Related case(s)

Well Being health care

Solved 11026 times | Rating: (4.3 / 5.0)

Your client is Well Being (WB), a private healthcare company based in Germany.

Well Being operates 10 hospitals in Germany (in comparison to 1,000 public hospitals). These hospitals are normally half the size of the public ones and are not providing Accident and Emergency (ER).

Revenue comes from patients claiming their own private insurance or paying by cash. In 2012 Well Being had revenues of €100 m (<1% share in the market) and an operating profit of €0.5 m.

Their main competitor is the governmental national health care (NHC). NHC has asked to outsource some of their patients to WB and WB wants our advice on this offer.

Ocean's Pearl

Solved 8005 times | Rating: (4.5 / 5.0)

Your client is the captain of the pirate ship Ocean’s Pearl. He currently discovered declining cash reserves.

The recent operations of his ships are not meeting his requirements and he is looking for options to generate additional cash.

He wants us to solve two problems:

  • Assessing the reasons why the cash reserves are declining.
  • Coming up with strategies to refill the cash reserves.

Travel Destination

Solved 4492 times | Rating: (4.2 / 5.0) |

Your client is the government of a region in southern Spain. Situated in this region are the country’s main tourist locations, mostly beaches.

The government is not satisfied with the revenues of the tourism sector. They have contacted our company to find a solution for this problem.