One of the most important factors that affect a company’s business risk is operating leverage; it occurs when a company must incur fixed costs during the production of its goods and services. A higher proportion of fixed costs in the production process means that the operating leverage is higher and the company has more business risk. While this is riskier, it does mean that every sale made after the break-even point will generate a higher contribution to profit. There are fewer variable costs in a cost structure with a high degree of operating leverage, and variable costs always cut into added productivity—though they also reduce losses from lack of sales.

  1. However, the risk from high operating leverage also depends on the company’s overall Operating Margins.
  2. Fixed costs are covered and profits are earned as long as a company earns a significant profit on each sale and maintains an adequate sales volume.
  3. Given the points above, the operating leverage metric is MOST meaningful when you calculate it for companies in the same industry with roughly the same operating margins (i.e., the comparable companies).
  4. It suggests that the company can increase its operating income by increasing sales.
  5. However, in certain economic conditions, fixed costs that should theoretically lead to higher operating revenue actually reduce a company’s revenue.
  6. For example, for an operating leverage factor equal to 5, it means that if sales increase by 10%, EBIT will increase by 50%.

At the same time, a company’s prices, product mix and cost of inventory and raw materials are all subject to change. Without a good understanding of the company’s inner workings, it is difficult to get a truly accurate measure of the DOL. The operating leverage formula measures the proportion of fixed costs per unit of variable or total cost. The degree of operating leverage (DOL) is a financial ratio that measures the sensitivity of a company’s operating income to its sales. This financial metric shows how a change in the company’s sales will affect its operating income.

Operating Leverage Formula

When sales increase, higher DOL will result in a larger change in operating income. However, in the event that sales decline, such companies’ operating income will suffer the most. Companies with a lower DOL, on the other hand, will only see a proportional change in Operating Income.

DIFFERENTIAL COST ANALYSIS: Examples & Application to Businesses

Common examples of industries recognized for their high and low degree of operating leverage (DOL) are described in the chart below. The operating margin in the base case is 50% as calculated earlier and the benefits of high DOL can be seen in the upside case. Since 10mm units of the product were sold at a $25.00 per unit price, revenue comes out to $250mm. To reiterate, companies with high DOLs have the potential to earn more profits on each incremental sale as the business scales.

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Companies with high fixed costs tend to have high operating leverage, such as those with a great deal of research & development and marketing. With each dollar in sales earned beyond the break-even point, the company makes a profit. Conversely, retail stores tend to have low fixed costs and large variable costs, especially for merchandise. Because retailers sell a large volume of items and pay upfront for each unit sold, COGS increases as sales increase. Operating leverage is a cost-accounting formula (a financial ratio) that measures the degree to which a firm or project can increase operating income by increasing revenue.

Fixed costs do not vary with the volume of sales, whereas variable costs vary directly with sales volume. Most of Microsoft’s costs are fixed, such as expenses for upfront development and marketing. With each dollar in sales earned beyond the break-even point, the company makes a profit, but Microsoft has high operating leverage. It is important to compare operating leverage between companies in the same industry, as some industries have higher fixed costs than others. For example, Company A sells 500,000 products for a unit price of $6 each.

For example, for an operating leverage factor equal to 5, it means that if sales increase by 10%, EBIT will increase by 50%. The company must sell a certain number of units in order to avoid a loss and profit situation. The advantage here, on the other hand, is that once the break-even point is reached, the company will earn a higher profit on every product because the variable cost is very low.

The 2.0x DOL implies that if revenue were to increase by 5.0%, operating income is anticipated to increase by 10.0%. Therefore, based on the given information, it can be seen that Mango Inc.’s degree of operating leverage is 0.72x. The airline industry, with “high operating leverage,” has performed terribly for most investors, while software / SaaS companies, which also have “high operating leverage,” have made many people wealthy. Most investors, such as private equity firms and venture capitalists, prefer companies with high operating leverage because it makes growth faster and easier.

Whether it sells one copy or 10 million copies of its latest Windows software, Microsoft’s costs remain basically unchanged. So, once the company has sold enough copies to cover its fixed costs, every additional dollar of sales revenue drops into the bottom line. The management of ABC Corp. wants to determine the company’s current degree of operating leverage. The variable cost per unit is $12, while the total fixed costs are $100,000. Other company costs are variable costs that are only incurred when sales occur. This includes labor to assemble products and the cost of raw materials used to make products.

For example, mining businesses have the up-front expense of highly specialized equipment. Airlines have the expense of purchasing and maintaining their fleet of airplanes. Once they have covered their fixed costs, they have the ability to increase their operating income considerably with higher sales output. On the other hand, low sales will not allow them to cover their fixed costs. The enterprise invests in fixed assets aiming for the volume to produce revenues that cover all fixed and variable costs. The DOL is calculated by dividing the contribution margin by the operating margin.


The degree of operating leverage is a formula that measures the impact on operating income based on a change in sales. It is considered to be high when operating income increases significantly based on a change in sales. It is considered to be low when a change in sales has little impact– or a negative impact– on operating income. This means that they are fixed up to a certain sales volume, varying to higher levels when production and sales volume increase.

The direct cost of manufacturing one unit of that product was $2.50, which we’ll multiply by the number of units sold, as we did for revenue. Upon multiplying the $2.50 cost per unit by the 10mm units sold, we get $25mm as the variable cost. In practice, the formula most often used to calculate operating leverage tends to be dividing the change in operating income by the change in revenue. In most cases, you will have the percentage change of sales and EBIT directly. The company usually provides those values on the quarterly and yearly earnings calls.

An operating leverage under 1 means that a company pays more in variable costs than it earns from each sale. Companies facing this will need to raise prices or work to reduce variable costs to bring operating leverage above 1. Companies with high operating leverage can make 15 best practices in setting up and sending nonprofit newsletters more money from each additional sale if they don’t have to increase costs to produce more sales. The minute business picks up, fixed assets such as property, plant and equipment (PP&E), as well as existing workers, can do a whole lot more without adding additional expenses.

Low operating leverage industries include restaurant and retail industries. These industries have higher raw material costs and lower comparative fixed costs. For example, for a retailer to sell more shirts, it must first purchase more inventory. When a restaurant sells more food, it must first purchase more ingredients. The cost of goods sold for each individual sale is higher in proportion to the total sale. For these industries, an extra sale beyond the breakeven point will not add to its operating income as quickly as those in the high operating leverage industry.