How to Determine Your Working Capital Needs

Rajath Kumar

The availability of working capital is probably the most critical aspect of running a business smoothly and successfully. Also known as the current capital, working capital basically refers to the cash available with an organization for managing its daily operations and is calculated by simply deducting the current liabilities of a business from its current assets.

Assets that can be easily converted into cash within a year or a business cycle are termed as current assets and include cash, accounts receivables, inventories and short-term prepaid expenses. Similarly, current liabilities are the ones that a business needs to pay off within a year or one business cycle and includes accounts payable, accrued liabilities, accrued income taxes and dividends payable.

If current assets are greater than current liabilities, the business has a positive working capital situation or extra cash to meet unexpected expenses. Conversely, if the current liabilities are more than the current assets, the business is said to have negative working capital and needs to take working capital business loans.

Adequate cash availability also allows a business to take care of newer opportunities that require quick infusion of funds. However, not all businesses have access to adequate funds to carry out their operations smoothly and often need working capital loans.

Working Capital: Need and Importance

Every business needs to maintain some working capital to continue its operations smoothly. The amount of liquid funds available with a business is a measure of its ability to meet its short-term obligations. It is also a reflection of a company’s operational efficiency. Here are some reasons why working capital is essential:

Smooth Running of Business: Funds are needed for the smooth working of day-to-day operations and spending on the purchase of raw materials, overhead expenses and payment of wages and salaries. Working capital enables an uninterrupted flow of production or provision of services.

Goodwill: Sufficient cash with a business means it is capable of making prompt and timely payments, which in turn enhances its goodwill.

Easy Loans: Banks and financial institutions prefer to lend to organizations with adequate working capital.

Ability to Deal with Unexpected Expenses: Adequate availability of funds prepares a business to meet any unexpected expenses or situations.

Working capital is often used to judge the financial health of a business. A positive working capital situation indicates that a business is capable of paying off all its short-term debts, operating expenses and salaries with some extra amount remaining for reinvestment. In contrast, negative working capital is a cause for concern. It hints that the business may not be able to pay off its creditors.

Need for Working Capital Finance

Many businesses do not have sufficient cash in hand or liquid assets like money in the current account to meet their daily operational expenses. This is where working capital finance comes to their rescue. Small retailers or merchants typically require capital to fund seasonal inventory buildup. Also, businesses that do not have stable revenues through the year may still need to maintain a specific amount of inventory to fulfill any sudden increase in demand for their products. Such units often require a working capital loan to pay wages or meet other expenses during lean periods or when they are servicing an order, and the receivables would become due only after order fulfilment.

A working capital business loan is a short-term finance option that is generally repaid in the period when sales are high and the company has surplus cash. A major benefit of such credit is that its terms is short, which allows a business to maintain full control of its operations. Such loans need to be sanctioned quickly, without a lengthy approval process. Working capital funding can be secured or unsecured, depending on the financial product or lender.

Determining Your Working Capital Needs

The proper assessment of working capital needs is an important part of efficient financial planning. It allows a business to plan well and arrange the necessary funds on time to ensure smooth functioning of daily operations. The amount of current or working capital required by a business may vary. It is dependent on the operating cycle, or the amount needed to pay suppliers, the amount of inventory held and the time taken to collect cash from customers. Also, this may change with changes in demand for its products and services.

The working capital requirements of a business can be calculated by subtracting the accounts payable from the sum of the inventories and accounts receivables. Businesses need to fill the working capital gap by using internally generated profits or external borrowings or a combination of the two.

In case of new units or startups, working capital refers to the amount of money to be borrowed to keep operations going until the business starts generating adequate revenues to cover its operational expenses. Calculating the amount required to carry on business in the initial few months when there are no or very little revenues challenging and often leads to businesses borrowing too much or too little. A business should look towards raising working capital loans that have a prepayment option, or the option to repay the loan before the term is over.

Raising Working Capital Business Loans

Financial institutions use two ratios – the current ratio and the quick ratio – to measure the financial health or liquidity of a business. The current ratio is obtained by dividing the value of current assets by the value of current liabilities. A ratio above one means the current assets are more than liabilities, which is viewed positively. The quick ratio measures the proportion of short term liquidity (current assets minus inventory) to the current liabilities of a business. It gives a good idea of the company’s ability to meet short-term expenses quickly.

Working capital business loans are granted after assessing a company’s liquidity and working capital needs.