Your Guide to Working Capital: How to Keep the Cash Flowing

When you launch, manage, and scale your business, you need capital to keep the doors open. You have to spend money to make money. And, if you have none, you can’t possibly build your business at any stage. Here, you’ll learn what you need to understand about working capital.

What is Working Capital?

Working capital is, by definition, the assets a business uses to power its daily operations. These assets are what a company has to work with. They pour into and out of the company. The goal of utilizing working capital is to turn a profit.

Business activities that must take working capital into account include accounting, inventory management, debt collection, and financial account management.

Which Assets and Liabilities are Included in Working Capital?

We’ve all heard the old adage, “You have to spend money to make money.” In the most literal sense, capital is the portion of the money that you spend to keep your doors open. This type of capital is the most talked about and dependent upon the success of a business. Financial capital is often boosted through loans, lines of credit, factoring, and cash advances.

Working capital includes cash on hand, short-term and long-term debts, accounts receivable and accounts payable.

Businesses need working capital for everything from ordering stock to paying utilities and other short-term debts. Capital isn’t considered profit, but it is a determining factor in a company’s ability to thrive. When a business doesn’t have enough, it will fail to succeed.

What Can You Use it for?

Theoretically, you can use financial capital for anything you like, but, giving yourself a raise isn’t the wisest business decision. Why not? Working capital should be invested in items and operations that ultimately increase your long term business profits. Here are some examples:

  • Stock
  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Buildings
  • Training
  • Marketing

In a nutshell, thriving businesses reach success by reinvesting profits into their business.

Working Capital Current Assets vs Liabilities

Financial capital can be viewed as an asset or a liability. An asset is a positive, profitable aspect of your business. A liability, on the other hand, is a debt. So, what does this mean for you?

If you make monthly installments to pay for a piece of equipment and the payments cost more than the profit output of the machine, then this is a liability negative working capital. And, if you have a staff member who makes more money for your business than their salary, this is an asset. You should have a birds-eye view of your working capital at all times.

This is How to Calculate Your Working Capital Ratio

A working capital ratio is a measurement of short-term liquidity. In more common terms, it identifies whether or not your business can meet its financial obligations. You can calculate your working capital ratio by comparing your assets and current liabilities.

The working capital formula is simple: working capital ratio = assets ÷ liabilities

Here’s an example of what a simplified quarterly spreadsheet might look like:


Building & Operations$200,000$175,000


And, the accompanying formula would look like this:

4.25:4.25 or 1:1 or 1.0 = 425,000 ÷ 425,000

This equation most often expresses results as a ratio (a:b). But, when expressed as a numeral, a number greater than 1 symbolizes positive working capital.

Your long-term balance sheets should compare working capital ratios with each operating cycle. This helps to ensure that the amount of working capital within your operations continually increases.


Operating CycleTotal AssetsTotal LiabilitiesRatio
Q1 2019$230,000$225,0002.3:2.25 or 1.02
Q2 2019$425,000$420,0004.25:4.2 or 1.01
Q3 2019$430,000$425,0004.3:4.25 or 1.01
Q4 2019$425,000$425,0001:1 or 1.0


In the example above, the ratio gradually decreases over 12 months. What you want to see is a positive ratio that stays the same or increases over time. When a ratio decreases from cycle to cycle, this signals a working capital problem that must be addressed.

Why Can’t You go to a Bank for Working Capital Financing?

Most businesses can’t go directly to their bank with working capital problems because a traditional bank needs to see profits. And, banks typically have stringent application processes that require companies to prove that they’re turning profits.

If you’re in mid-air, jumping a financial hurdle, it will be difficult to prove that you are worthy of traditional financing. You probably can’t provide evidence that your company can pay its bills on-time. So, in most cases, you must look elsewhere for the right financing opportunities.

So, Where Can You Get Financing for Daily Operations?

When you’re in need of short-term financing for your daily operations, you can look to traditional sources like the Small Business Association (SBA) or credit card issuers. Or, you can turn to non-traditional financial resources like factoring providers and merchant cash advance companies. Learn more about your options before you make a decision.

Option 1: SBA Loans for Working Capital

The SBA insures some business loans taken through traditional lenders. While the administration does not lend the funds, they will “guarantee” some financing. An SBA 7 (a) loan decreases the risk to the lender.

These types of loans can be used to buy real property, equipment, or used as working capital to pay off short-term liabilities. The application process is often more intensive than that of typical business loans from banks and credit unions. And, interest rates for these loans fall between 7.5 – 10%

SBA Loan Minimum Qualifications:

  • 10% down payment
  • Credit score of 690+
  • No bankruptcies for 3+ years
  • Clean criminal history
  • No state of federal debt (IRS, child support, etc.)

When Do You Need to Pay it Back?

Repayment terms for working capital loans through the SBA can be stretched as long as 10 years from the original date of funding.

Option 2: Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards are designed for business spending. While they can be used to finance daily operations, their primary role is to establish or build credit for a company. They are available for all sized companies. While the typical interest rates for credit cards are in the 15 – 25% range, there are ways around this.

With a high enough credit score, you can sometimes leverage an introductory promotion of 0% interest for a set amount of time. No interest intro rates usually last from 6-18 months. So, if you pay the balance off by the end of the period, you will owe no interest.

Business Credit Card Minimum Qualifications:

  • Credit score of 550+ (the higher your credit score, the better card you can qualify for)
  • Proof of ability to pay as agreed

When Do You Need to Pay it Back?

Business credit cards are considered revolving debt. So, as long as you make your minimum monthly payment as agreed, there is no deadline to pay back a business line of credit.

Option 3: Invoice Factoring

Small businesses have the option to leverage invoice factoring. With this type of funding, a company sells its past due invoices or accounts receivable to a factoring company at a discount. There is no debt incurred. And, the factoring company becomes responsible for collection on the accounts.

Factoring Minimum Qualifications:

  • Must be majority owner of company
  • 2+ years in business
  • Updated aging report (AR)

When Do You Need to Pay it Back?

Invoice factoring repayment terms typically run from 18-24 months with the option to renew.

Option 4: Merchant Cash Advances

Most retailers and service providers, aside from those in excluded industries, have the option to leverage a merchant cash advance (MCA). Hair salons, restaurants, and clothing retailers are among the type of companies that generally leverage MCA funding. In exchange for a lump sum paid by an MCA company, a business agrees to pay the advance as a percentage of daily debit and credit transactions.


Turns (terms for an MCA) typically range between 1.1x and 1.5x. So, if you take out a $100 advance, you will need to pay back between $110 and $150, depending on the terms of your contract.

Merchant Cash Advance Minimum Qualifications:

  • Must be majority owner of company
  •  At least a year in business
  • Credit score of 500+

When Do You Need to Pay it Back?

Merchant cash advance remittance depends on the health of your business and is taken as a percentage of daily credit or debit transactions.

Can You Take Out Multiple Working Capital Loans?

In the traditional sense of the word, working capital financing isn’t necessarily considered a loan. However, it is not advised to take out more than one at once because of the uncertainty of cash flow. If you’re working with a lender that offers you preferred pricing on a renewal, and the cost of funds make sense for your business, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of better pricing.

Then, if your margins have not increased as expected, stay the course and pay off the advance. Don’t take additional funds until your margins/profits make sense. When working with multiple funding sources, it’s a good idea to diversify and find out what options work best with your operations.

Final Thoughts

We hope you can use this working capital guide to empower your financial decision making. Take control of your business’ finances! If you’re tired of the run around from the bank or an inflexible loan provider, try out Lendr. Apply for working capital financing today.


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