Small Business Glossary

Operating Profit - definition & overview


What is operating profit?

Operating Profit is the earnings from normal business activities before subtracting interest and taxes, also known as operating income.

Operating Profit, also known as operating income or operating earnings, is a crucial term in the world of small businesses. It's a key indicator of a company's profitability and financial health, and understanding it can be a game-changer for business owners. Operating Profit is the profit a company makes from its core business operations, excluding deductions of interest and taxes. It's a measure of the profits a company generates from its primary business activities, not including any income or expenses from non-operating activities.

Operating Profit is an essential metric because it directly reflects the efficiency of a company's operations. It's a clear indicator of how well a company's management is utilising resources to generate profits. For small businesses, this is particularly important as it can highlight areas of inefficiency that need to be addressed. Operating Profit is also a key factor in determining a company's net income, which is the final profit figure that appears on the bottom line of the income statement.

Calculating Operating Profit

The calculation of Operating Profit is straightforward. It's derived from the gross profit of a company, which is the total revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). From the gross profit, operating expenses are deducted. These expenses include rent, salaries, utilities, depreciation, and other costs associated with running the business. The resulting figure is the Operating Profit.

It's important to note that non-operating income and expenses, such as interest and taxes, are not included in the calculation of Operating Profit. This is because these items are not directly related to the core business operations. By excluding these items, Operating Profit provides a clearer picture of the profitability of the company's primary business activities.

Formula for Operating Profit

The formula for calculating Operating Profit is as follows:

Operating Profit = Gross Profit - Operating Expenses

Or alternatively:

Operating Profit = Total Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold - Operating Expenses

Example of Operating Profit Calculation

Let's consider a hypothetical small business in Australia. The business has total revenue of $500,000. The cost of goods sold is $200,000, and the operating expenses amount to $150,000. Using the formula above, the Operating Profit would be calculated as follows:

Operating Profit = $500,000 - $200,000 - $150,000 = $150,000

Importance of Operating Profit

Operating Profit is a vital measure of a company's profitability. It shows how much profit a company makes from its core business operations, before the deduction of interest and taxes. This makes it a more accurate indicator of a company's operational efficiency than net profit, which includes non-operating income and expenses.

For small businesses, understanding Operating Profit is particularly important. It can help business owners identify areas of inefficiency and make informed decisions about how to improve profitability. For example, if a company's Operating Profit is decreasing over time, it may indicate that the company's operating expenses are rising faster than its revenue. This could signal a need for cost-cutting measures or strategies to boost revenue.

Operating Profit Margin

The Operating Profit Margin is a related metric that expresses Operating Profit as a percentage of total revenue. It's calculated by dividing Operating Profit by total revenue and multiplying by 100. The Operating Profit Margin provides a measure of a company's profitability per dollar of revenue, which can be useful for comparing the profitability of different companies or industries.

For small businesses, a high Operating Profit Margin can be a sign of strong operational efficiency. It indicates that a large portion of the revenue is being converted into profit, which can be reinvested in the business or distributed to shareholders. Conversely, a low Operating Profit Margin may suggest that a company's operating expenses are too high relative to its revenue.

Operating Profit vs. Net Profit

While both Operating Profit and Net Profit are measures of a company's profitability, they are not the same. Operating Profit only considers income and expenses from core business operations, while Net Profit includes all income and expenses, including those from non-operating activities such as interest and taxes.

This distinction is important because it allows business owners to separate the performance of their core business operations from the effects of financing and tax strategies. For example, a company may have a high Operating Profit but a low Net Profit if it has high interest expenses or tax liabilities. Conversely, a company may have a low Operating Profit but a high Net Profit if it has significant non-operating income.

Understanding the Difference

Understanding the difference between Operating Profit and Net Profit can help business owners make more informed decisions. For example, if a company's Operating Profit is strong but its Net Profit is weak, it may indicate that the company needs to review its financing or tax strategies. Conversely, if a company's Operating Profit is weak but its Net Profit is strong, it may suggest that the company is overly reliant on non-operating income and needs to improve its core business operations.

Furthermore, comparing Operating Profit and Net Profit can provide insights into a company's financial stability. A company with a high Operating Profit but a low Net Profit may be at risk if its non-operating income sources dry up. On the other hand, a company with a low Operating Profit but a high Net Profit may be more resilient to changes in market conditions, as it has multiple income streams.

Improving Operating Profit

Improving Operating Profit is a key goal for many small businesses. There are two main ways to achieve this: increasing revenue or reducing operating expenses. Both strategies can be effective, but they require careful planning and execution.

Increasing revenue can be achieved through strategies such as expanding into new markets, launching new products or services, or improving marketing efforts. However, these strategies often require upfront investment and carry risks. Therefore, it's important for business owners to conduct thorough market research and financial analysis before pursuing these strategies.

Reducing Operating Expenses

Reducing operating expenses is another effective strategy for improving Operating Profit. This can be achieved through cost-cutting measures such as negotiating better deals with suppliers, improving operational efficiency, or reducing waste. However, it's important for business owners to ensure that cost-cutting measures do not compromise the quality of their products or services, as this could negatively impact revenue.

Furthermore, reducing operating expenses can also involve making tough decisions, such as laying off staff or closing underperforming branches. These decisions should not be taken lightly, as they can have significant impacts on the business and its employees. Therefore, it's crucial for business owners to consider all options and seek professional advice before making these decisions.


Operating Profit is a crucial metric for small businesses. It provides a clear picture of a company's operational efficiency and profitability, and can help business owners make informed decisions about how to improve their business. Whether it's through increasing revenue, reducing operating expenses, or a combination of both, improving Operating Profit can lead to increased financial stability and growth for small businesses.

Remember, the journey of improving your Operating Profit is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, persistence, and a deep understanding of your business operations. But with the right approach and mindset, you can turn your small business into a profitable and sustainable enterprise. Here's to your success!

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