Your companys working capital is the amount of funds which is working to solve your short term operating needs. A good way to look at this is to think of all your current assets as your gross cash flow, and if you subtract your current payables and loan payments due, etc you then have a net working capital amount.
How your firm manages those current assets, and the amounts you have invested in that part of the balance sheet will ultimately determine what cash flow financing options are available to your firm, traditional or otherwise. Your ability to turn over those current assets, i.e. A/R, inventory, etc is what impresses a lender, as they view that turnover as ultimately repaying working capital loans, operating facilities, asset based loans, etc.
Most business owners dont see it this way, but your cheapest form of borrowing is actually your short term liabilities such as payables. The challenge though, is that those payables have short timelines with respect to being due, and your firm needs the working capital management solutions to address that need.
The irony that we have always found in working capital discussions is that the often used current ratio is somewhat meaningless. It doesnt do a lot to reflect what is happening now or in the future. Very simply speaking, most accountants or analysts look for a current ratio of 2:1, or more. So is a 4:1 ratio fabulous then?? Not really if your inventory is in work in process and your receivables are slow or uncollectible!
Accounts receivable and inventory are the two main asset classes in your working capital. No surprise there. Your ability to monetize (borrow against) them is ultimately your cash flow financing savior.
So, as we are constantly preaching, its all about the timing of your working capital and cash flow needs. Its that constant pattern of inventory turning to receivables turning to cash that dictates your success or failure in working capital management. A few very basic calculations that every business owner should know are your days sales outstanding in a/r, as well as your inventory turnover. They are simply arithmetic calculations.
Because of those two great assets, A/R and inventory you not only want, but are often forced to consider borrowing against these assets. In Canada this is accomplished in a variety of manners. They include bank lines of credit, non bank asset based lending facilities, receivable financing on its own, and occasionally inventory finance on its own merit. Even your SRED tax credits or purchase orders can be financed if applicable . You make a smart decision when you utilize one of the above solutions with a focus on borrowing what you need and using and managing daily to that need.
The problem we run into all the time is when clients approach us when they need funds urgently, typically when the overall risk is greater because of their current solvency situation. The bottom line is to determine the minimum amount of cash you need, include a buffer or bulge type scenario, and plan your working capital management and cash flow financing in a proactive manner. Some early warning signs of cash flow issues include declining cash balances ( obviously ) , extreme bulges in new orders , supplier payment issues , over 90 day receivables, etc.
In summary, dont over borrow, and dont under finance at the wrong time. Speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor on solutions available today in cash flow finance for your companys needs.