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What is Operating Revenue?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Operating revenue is any type of income that is generated as a result of the day to day operations of a business. Revenue of this type usually includes all income that is derived from sales efforts, or the lease of assets owned by the business. The goal of any business is to establish a steady flow of operating revenue and thus ensure that the business operation is able to continue functioning at a profit.

In order to calculate operating revenue, it is necessary to determine what constitutes the normal business operations of the company. This often involves direct sales to steady customers, as well as any rental or leasing activity that is associated with properties or equipment that is owned by the business. All these forms of revenue are then adjusted to allow for any discounts or returns that take place during the time frame that is under consideration. After making those adjustments, it is possible to determine the net operating revenue for the period, and compare that figure to the cost of operations. Assuming that the revenue exceeds the costs, the company is operating at a profit and has an excellent chance of continuing to remain a viable operation.

Businesses actively look for ways to boost their operating revenue. This may come in the form of offering ancillary products that are intended to work with or otherwise support other products offered, or to actively cultivate a presence with a broader range of consumers. The idea is often to make the most efficient use of production efforts, so that the highest volume of products is produced using the same amount of resource. In the event that more products can be sold, this will in turn increase gross sales and have a positive effect on the amount of net sales for any given period.

Some companies do experience situations where the operating revenue for a given period does not exceed operating costs. This is particularly true in industries where consumer demand is highly affected by seasonal factors. When this is the case, businesses seek to generate high volumes of operating revenue during the times of year when demand is high, and utilize those proceeds to continue operation during off-season periods. For companies that are not affected by seasonal changes in consumer demand, undergoing a period where the operating revenue does not cover operational expenses can be a strong indicator of impending financial issues that could undermine the entire operation. In this scenario, steps should be taken to isolate the causes for the disparity, and correct them as soon as possible.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By seag47 — On Jun 30, 2012

My friend and her husband took a big risk and opened up a party supply store two years ago. They were scared at first, but they have been operating without loss since two months after they opened.

I am so happy for them. They both left dead-end jobs that they hated, and now, they are their own bosses. I am so glad that their operating revenue exceeded their costs.

It's something that every business owner has to worry about all the time. I'm not sure I could handle the stress of wondering if I would make a profit every month. I do admire all those who try, and I commend those who succeed.

By kylee07drg — On Jun 29, 2012

@shell4life – That is really sad to me. I love reading the news in actual printed form, and it breaks my heart that so many of them are closing across the nation.

I work at a print shop in a college town, so our operating revenue is always greatest when school is in session. We do a lot of t-shirts for fraternities and sororities, and we sell several college-themed shirts on racks to tourists and families of students.

Our operating revenue is always lowest during the summer months. The majority of the students go home then, and the ones left behind generally are not in the frame of mind to have large orders of t-shirts printed up. We do see a big increase in revenue in the fall when school starts back, though.

By shell4life — On Jun 28, 2012

I work at a small newspaper, and our total operating revenue was suffering several years ago. In response to a downturn in the economy, advertising revenue was really declining. People just couldn't afford to buy big ads anymore, and since advertising was our main source of revenue, that meant we were in trouble.

The bosses met and decided they had to let some employees go and cut the hours of others. I got to stay, but my hours did get trimmed down from 40 to 33 per week.

This worked for a couple of years, but they are now considering making more cuts. I think this means we are in trouble as a business.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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