Operating Leverage

Definition of 'Operating Leverage'


A measurement of the degree to which a firm or project incurs a combination of fixed and variable costs.

1. A business that makes few sales, with each sale providing a very high gross margin, is said to be highly leveraged. A business that makes many sales, with each sale contributing a very slight margin, is said to be less leveraged. As the volume of sales in a business increases, each new sale contributes less to fixed costs and more to profitability.

2. A business that has a higher proportion of fixed costs and a lower proportion of variable costs is said to have used more operating leverage. Those businesses with lower fixed costs and higher variable costs are said to employ less operating leverage.

Investopedia explains 'Operating Leverage'


The higher the degree of operating leverage, the greater the potential danger from forecasting risk. That is, if a relatively small error is made in forecasting sales, it can be magnified into large errors in cash flow projections. The opposite is true for businesses that are less leveraged. A business that sells millions of products a year, with each contributing slightly to paying for fixed costs, is not as dependent on each individual sale.

For example, convenience stores are significantly less leveraged than high-end car dealerships.


Filed Under:

comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Market Capitalization

    The total dollar market value of all of a company's outstanding shares. Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying a company's shares outstanding by the current market price of one share. The investment community uses this figure to determine a company's size, as opposed to sales or total asset figures.
  2. Oil Reserves

    An estimate of the amount of crude oil located in a particular economic region. Oil reserves must have the potential of being extracted under current technological constraints. For example, if oil pools are located at unattainable depths, they would not be considered part of the nation's reserves.
  3. Joint Venture - JV

    A business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task. This task can be a new project or any other business activity. In a joint venture (JV), each of the participants is responsible for profits, losses and costs associated with it.
  4. Aggregate Risk

    The exposure of a bank, financial institution, or any type of major investor to foreign exchange contracts - both spot and forward - from a single counterparty or client. Aggregate risk in forex may also be defined as the total exposure of an entity to changes or fluctuations in currency rates.
  5. Organic Growth

    The growth rate that a company can achieve by increasing output and enhancing sales. This excludes any profits or growth acquired from takeovers, acquisitions or mergers. Takeovers, acquisitions and mergers do not bring about profits generated within the company, and are therefore not considered organic.
  6. Family Limited Partnership - FLP

    A type of partnership designed to centralize family business or investment accounts. FLPs pool together a family's assets into one single family-owned business partnership that family members own shares of. FLPs are frequently used as an estate tax minimization strategy, as shares in the FLP can be transferred between generations, at lower taxation rates than would be applied to the partnership's holdings.
Trading Center