How to Improve Your Working Capital Management

Business growth

Good working capital management is vital to succeed in business.

Simply put, working capital is the cash you generate or have to cover your expenses.  Although it’s relatively easy to explain, it’s continually changing, which make applying it more difficult to your business.

Even successful businesses owners experience anxieties with their working capital.

Working capital management is an effective strategy that has significant potential to guarantee your business enjoys long-term success.  Let’s discuss how to manage your working capital so you can sleep like a baby at night.

The Working Capital Cycle

The working capital cycle refers to the time it takes to turn your service or product into cash.

Focus on and take control of your financial future

If your working capital cycle is too long you’ll require more cash while you wait to be paid. You’ll need to pay certain expenses, such as rent and salaries, while you wait.

It’s essential to know what cycle you operate on to determine how much working capital you’ll need.

For example: hairdressers receive their cash immediately and have a short cycle.  Compare this to avocado growers who operate on a seasonal basis. They have a longer cycle – often needing to pay pickers, rent, etc before they are paid.

Determine how much cash you’ll need to have on hand or easy access to. A good-rule-of-thumb for many businesses is to have enough to pay two or three months expenses.

Assess Your Working Capital Management

Having a profitable business is not the same as having cash in the bank. When you’re paid will often be different to when you need to pay your bills.

Consider the following strategies to help you manage your working capital:

  • Make it really easy for your customers to pay.  Consider using mobile payment methods that banks currently promote.  And make sure you always add your bank details and payment terms on your invoices.
  • Reduce stock levels and order wisely.  Buying in bulk to obtain bigger discounts might be tempting.  But remember you need to turn your stock into cash. Sell obsolete and slow moving inventory.  Compare your stock-levels with industry benchmarks.
  • Delay or avoid buying expensive plant and equipment with cash. Look at other options, such as loans or leases to spread repayments over several periods.
  • Be careful that you don’t over-trade.  A big order from a new customer might sound good.  But if you’re running at full-capacity or need to increase your expenses your cash reserves can quickly run out.
  • Avoid large unplanned drawings and check whether your business needs the cash more than you do.

Shorten Your Cycle To Improve Your Working Capital

It’s critical that you review the quality of your working capital.  How long do your debtors take to pay you? What payment terms do your suppliers give you?

Collect what you are owed promptly.  Ensure your systems and processes identify slow payers and that you take appropriate action when required.

We’ve written many articles on how to ensure you’re paid on time.

Review your credit terms.  Are they reasonable or are they damaging your cash flows?  Do you offer better and longer terms than your competitors?

Talk with your suppliers.  Could you negotiate betters terms? Remember, if you’re paying your bills on time but your customers aren’t, your working capital will be under much greater stress.

Cash-Flow Projections

Maintaining up-to-date cash flow forecasts will undeniably help you manage your working capital more effectively.  It’s key to managing a successful small business.

Good cash flow management will help you forecast future surpluses and shortages.  You’ll be better placed to make more informed decisions around meeting loan repayments, tax liabilities, and other expenses and if you can afford new equipment.

Working Capital Formula

The working capital formula indicates your ability to pay your bills on time.

It’s calculated by dividing your current assets (such as cash on hand and at the bank, stock, debtors) by your current liabilities (including unpaid bills, tax liabilities, etc).

If your current liabilities exceed your current assets you may have a problem if you don’t address it.

You should consider seeking professional advice – either from your bank or accountant. They will be able to work with you to develop a working capital management strategy that suits your needs.

  1. Sarah Jones 3 years ago

    Such commonsense information that I’m sure many business owners forget!

    • Author
      Mark Gwilliam 3 years ago

      Thanks Sarah. I think it’s important to use commonsense.

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