Working capital

Working capital

Working capital and cash flow are two variables that finance teams need to understand if they want to determine whether their businesses can endure an unanticipated downturn or crisis. These two measures show several facets of an organisation’s financial health.  

To make money, you must first spend money. Yet, if you spend too much money, you might get it wrong. Your working capital enters the picture here. The difference between your company’s liquid assets and short-term liabilities is its working capital. It gauges how much cash is available for day-to-day operations at your company. You can use it as a yardstick to direct your business expansion and investment choices. 

What is working capital? 

The difference between a company’s current assets, such as cash, accounts receivable/unpaid invoices from customers, and inventories of raw materials and completed goods and its current liabilities, such as debts and accounts payable, is known as working capital, sometimes known as net working capital (NWC). Cash accounts receivable and inventory are examples of current assets. Accounts payable, taxes, unpaid salaries, and accrued interest are examples of existing obligations. 

Understanding working capital 

Any business’s working capital is its lifeblood. You require it to finance day-to-day operations, pay expenses, and support business growth. The amount of operating capital needed can differ by industry. Since a manufacturer only makes money when things are sold, it may require outside investment for working capital.  

The company can buy the product’s raw materials thanks to upfront investment. To determine a company’s liquidity and if it has the resources to satisfy short-term obligations, it’s crucial to look at its net working capital. The efficiency of a company’s operations is also shown by its working capital.  

Companies with net working capital of zero or more can cover current obligations. When liabilities exceed assets, a company’s net working capital is negative. In such cases, businesses can have trouble repaying lenders and might even fail. A company with a positive net working capital can better pay off its short-term debts. Positive working capital enables businesses to flourish through expansion. 

Working capital formula 

After settling short-term liabilities, the working capital formula reveals the remaining liquid assets. It gauges a company’s near-term liquidity and is crucial for managing cash flow, financial modelling, and financial analysis.  

A positive working capital calculation indicates that the company’s assets exceed its current liabilities. A negative working capital calculation suggests that not all of the company’s current liabilities can be covered by its existing assets. 

The formula for working capital is: 

Working Capital = current assets – current liabilities 


Components of working capital 

Working capital

The following are the various components of working capital: 

  • Cash 

Every business must maintain a cash reserve to pay operating expenses as needed, whether that reserve is cash in the bank or cash on hand. Money should make up much of your working capital because it is the most liquid asset. Cash equivalents are also helpful to have. These assets are quickly liquidated without experiencing a significant value loss. 

  • Inventory 

Another type of asset is inventory. It alludes to material possessions you have yet to sell to clients. Products are included in the inventory category, which counts as an asset when determining your working capital until they are sold. 

  • Accounts payable (AP) 

Your accounts payable are factored in once you’ve totalled your inventory, accounts receivable, and cash. All of the liabilities you anticipate having over the following 12 months are included in AP. Your operational capital calculations consider debt repayment schedules longer than 12 months. 

  • Accounts receivable (AR) 

Accounts receivable are different kinds of assets that are taken into consideration while calculating working capital. Money owed to your business or checks you have received but have yet to cashed falls under this category. The money becomes sales income and is classified as cash once you have received payments and deposited your checks in the bank. 

Limitations of working capital 

Working capital can occasionally be misleading because of several limitations in the concept. 

  • Working capital fluctuates constantly. So, when financial data is computed, the company’s operating capital can be altered. 
  • The underlying types of accounts are ignored when calculating working capital. For instance, even if a company’s working capital appears positive if its current assets are accounts receivable, its financial health will depend on whether the payments are realised. 
  • A company’s assets are subject to sudden changes in value due to factors beyond its control. Working capital will therefore adjust as a result. 
  • The working capital calculation is predicated on knowing all debts, which may be false. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When a company’s current liabilities are more than its current income and assets, it is said to have negative working capital. Situations where a big cash payment reduces current assets or where a huge amount of credit is provided in accounts payable might result in negative working capital. On the surface, your short-term investments will only be able to pay off your obligations promptly. It implies you may need more money to pay your employees’ salaries. 

Cash and cash equivalents, checking or savings bank account funds, and marketable securities are examples of working capital. 

Current liabilities are subtracted from existing assets, as shown on the company’s balance sheet, to calculate working capital. 

Working capital is important for various corporate operations, including paying vendors and employees, keeping the lights on, and planning for long-term, sustainable growth. Moreover, working capital aids the business in competing with rivals. Both advertising and sales promotion may be done with it. Also, the company can afford to offer its clients longer loan terms.  


A few strategies for improving working capital include: 

  • Controlling your net working capital ratio 
  • Enhancing your inventory control 
  • Improving spending control to increase cash flow 
  • Automating procedures for business finance 
  • Imposing penalties for delayed payments 
  • Working with suppliers who provide reasonable prices and discounts 
  • Using data analytics to monitor the performance of your company 
  • Settling disputes with clients and suppliers 
  • Complying with your debt obligations 
  • Lowering debt servicing expenses 
  • Considering consumer segments and credit risk analysis 
  • Improving payment conditions with distributors and providers 
  • Using tax benefits and seeking the advice of experts 


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