Learn What a Working Capital Loan Is

Working Capital
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Working Capital is an amount of money borrowed from a bank or other lender and used by a new business for money to keep operations going and pay business bills. Net working capital is the difference between all the current assets minus all the current liabilities. Current assets are those assets you can turn into cash quickly, like accounts receivable. Current liabilities are those bills you must pay now or very soon. You can see that what we're really talking about with working capital is cash.


The Importance of Working Capital

Businesses function on a day-to-day basis with working capital. You might say that working capital is the life-blood of a business. No blood and the business stops going. That's a little dramatic but it emphasizes its importance. For many new businesses, having enough working capital means the difference between the success and failure of the business.

Having enough working capital for your business to function day-to-day is most important during the startup phase. At this point, you may have a negative net working capital, because money is going out faster than it's coming in. And you may decide you need a loan to cover your expenses while you work on getting to a positive working capital position - that is, having cash in the bank. 

How Working Capital Is Valued

Working capital on a business balance sheet includes all current assets: cash, accounts receivable, prepaid insurances, and inventory. These balance sheet items can be quickly turned into cash, if necessary, to pay current expenses of the business

As noted above, net working capital is a financial metric used to analyze the strength of a business. The ratio is: current assets minus current liabilities = net working capital. A good ratio would be 2:1; twice as much in current assets as in current liabilities. A higher current asset number allows the quick sale of assets, usually at a loss, to pay off current liabilities. 

How Working Capital Is Used in a Business 

Working capital is a liquidity (cash)concept. A business might show a "profit," but if it cannot maintain a positive cash position (that is, having money in the bank to pay bills each month), the business cannot continue to operate.

How You Can Get a Working Capital Loan for a Small Business

There are two times when a business needs working capital funds:

At business startup, when bills must be paid but there is little money available because you are just beginning to bring in money from sales. At these times, you may be able to get a temporary working capital line of credit, which allows you to draw on the credit line as necessary to meet cash flow shortages. 

At times of change, growth, and expansion, when your business is moving forward and you need cash temporarily to finance that expansion. In these cases, you may want to consider a loan or line of credit from a lender with whom you already do business. For example, PayPal offers a working capital loan for customers with "strong PayPal sales." 

Available Programs for Working Capital Loans

The SBA Export Working Capital Loan (EWCL) program is for U.S. small businesses that are able to generate export sales, to help them increase these sales. The SBA says their aim for this program is "to ensure that qualified small business exporters do not lose viable export sales due to a lack of working capital." Here are some details about the EWCL program:

  • The SBA provides a 90 percent guarantee on these export loans.
  • The loans are for manufacturers, wholesalers, export trading companies and service exporters that have been in existence for one year (although the one-year requirement can be waived if the business can show expertise).
  • Collateral for these loans is the inventory and the receivable generated by the sale. The SBA also requires the personal guarantee of owners [20 percent or more ownership).
  • The maximum EWCP line of credit/loan amount is $2 million.

    The basic SBA 7(a) loan program includes working capital loans.