Organisations have several expenses that can influence profitability. Whether finance or accounting, comprehending the cost framework of an enterprise is key to making decisive financial decisions. Operating leverage is one such measure that can be accessed to determine company costs.

In this article, we will talk about operating leverage, how it works, who needs it, and how to calculate it with instances.

Understanding Operating Leverage

Operating leverage measures the part of the company’s cost framework, which includes only fixed costs.

The thumb rule of operating leverage is that greater the degree of operating leverage, the more significant the hazard of forecasting risk. A higher operating leverage cost implies low variable costs and more fixed costs, highlighting that the business has reached the break-even point.

On the other hand, a lower operating leverage cost implies less fixed costs and more variable costs, showcasing that the company needs to earn to reach the break-even point.

A higher degree of operating leverage is suitable for a business to reap profits from every sale.

Operating Leverage Formula

Here is the formula for operating leverage:

Operating Leverage = (Sales – Variable costs) / Profits

How to measure Operating Leverage? A Step-by-Step Overview

Here are the two ways to measure and calculate operating leverage:

Using Cost Structure

By accessing the cost framework details of a company, operating leverage can be determined using the following formula:

Operating leverage= Q (P – V) / Q (P – V) – F

Q= number of units produced or sold
V= variable cost per unit

P= price per unit
F= fixed operating costs

Using Cost Ratio

If you have restricted access to the financial details of a company, it is still possible to determine the operating leverage with the following formula:

Operating leverage = % change in income / % change in sales

  • Determine the change in income: It can be calculated by taking the income of the present year and deducting it from the last year’s income. Dividing that amount by the last year’s income will provide the current change.
  • Determine the change in sales: Subtracting the last period’s sales from the present period’s and then dividing the outcome with last period’s sales will get the percentage change.

Understanding Fixed and Variable Costs

Here is what you need to know about fixed and variable costs in operating leverage:

  • Fixed Costs: Fixed costs are expenses that must be cleared, regardless of the production volume in the company and sales performance. Consequently, fixed costs usually remain constant.
  • Variable Costs: Such costs are directly linked to the sales of a company. It implies that such expenses fluctuate depending on the sales performance in a particular period.

Operating leverage is considered an important metric to track because the bond between the fixed and variable costs can impact a company’s profitability and scalability.

 High and Low Operating Leverage

Enterprises can either have a low or high operating leverage:

  1. High Operating Leverage: High operating leverage implies that a business has a more significant proportion of fixed costs regarding its total costs. The best instance for this is a shipping company. They have substantial fixed expenses like employee wages and ship maintenance that stay the same, regardless of the total sales.
  2. Low Operating Leverage: A business incurs low operating leverage when the fixed expenses are comparatively less. Take, for instance, a restaurant business. They have fixed expenses like the rent; however, they have variable expenses like raw materials costs. When the demand is high, and the restaurant is full, they will need more raw materials; however, when the demand goes down, the costs decrease.

What Does Operating Leverage tell you?

Operating leverage is a financial element. Understanding this component will help you to learn about a company’s:

  • Risk Level: With the help of operating leverage, investors can determine risk. Financial experts generally link low operating leverage with less risk. Profits can change depending on the period; however, fixed costs remain the same. Low fixed costs can be covered easily compared to a business with high operating leverage.
  • Potential Future Profitability: High operating leverage displays high-profit potential. When revenue shoots up, fixed costs remain constant; hence a company with higher leverage can reap more profit. Low operating leverage has less potential profitability since, as revenues boost, the variable costs also shoot up.

What is the Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL)?

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It is a financial ratio that determines the influence of the operating income of a company on its sales. This particular financial metric displays how a shift in company sales will influence operating income.

What are Examples of High and Low Operating Leverage?

Businesses with high fixed expenses have increased operating expenses like marketing or research and development costs. The company makes a profit for every penny earned in sales beyond the break-even point. Contrarily, retail stores usually have low fixed expenses and huge variable costs, particularly for merchandise.

Since retailers sell an enormous volume of items and pay for the units sold upfront, the cost of goods sold rises as sales increase. Due to this, retail stores generally do not have high operating leverage.


While analysing a company, it is crucial to consider its operating leverage. With the help of DOL, it is possible to analyse how sensitive the operating income of the firm regards changes in Sales.

A higher DOL will lead to a more significant change in operating income when sales increase. But, when the sales of such companies take a hit, the operating income will suffer the most. On the contrary, firms with lower DOL will experience a proportional change in operating income.

Do you wish to get a more in-depth understanding of operating leverage and its related key terms?

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to Determine Whether the Operating Leverage is Good or not?

It is a known fact that operating leverage is the main ingredient in distinguishing a company’s variable and fixed costs. When a company has higher operating leverage, it means it has more fixed costs and implies that it uses fixed assets better. As a result, it improves the chances of getting more profits.

How can Businesses Boost their Operating Leverage?

A business can boost its operating leverage by acquiring several fixed assets. Acquisition of more assets helps the core function, boosting the operating leverage.

Is it possible for Operating Leverage to be Zero?

Yes. The operating leverage can be zero when the company has no fixed assets.