Working Capital and the Role it Plays in Your Business’ Success

Working Capital, what is Working CapitalThe accounting term working capital is essential knowledge for all business owners. Basically, it is the ability of a business to meet its ongoing obligations. Learning about some of the different aspects of working capital is vital for any successful business owner.

Net operating working capital (NOWC) is the gap between a business’ current assets (accounts receivable, inventories, cash, though excluding marketable securities) and its non-interest-bearing liabilities (which are financial obligations a business must meet, except those not subject to interest payments).

This calculation looks at a business’ cash flow availability and determines available current assets able to be liquidated inside a calendar year.

The formula is as follows:

NOWC = Current Assets – Non-Interest-Bearing Liabilities

Operating Working Capital (OWC)

OWC measures a business’ current assets and calculates how much the company’s day-to-day operations cost. This includes meeting supplier invoices, turning accounts receivable (AR) into cash, obtaining inventory, and making sales on inventory and/or services.

The higher the OWC, the easier it is for a business to pay supplier invoices, leverage pre-pay or early pay discounts, maintain healthy inventory stocks, and offer customers favorable terms to grow sales further.

OWC is calculated as follows:

OWC = Current Assets – Non-Operating Current Assets

It’s important to remember that cash isn’t included because this asset is considered a non-operating asset. While cash isn’t immediately connected to operations, it can be re-considered an operating asset once supplies and related items are obtained with it.

Operating Working Capital Considerations

The OWC calculation determines how proficient the business is with its finances. Since it immediately reveals the amount of funds a business has, the larger the resulting figure, the lower the funds a company has available to complete its rotation.

Companies can lower their results by increasing the rate of inventory turnover, increasing the percentage of customer payment collection, and working with vendors for better provider terms. As a business improves this metric, it can free up funds to reduce its loans, pay dividends, and/or build out new or existing revenue streams. 

Net Working Capital (NWC)

Also referred to as working capital, NWC is defined as the difference between total current assets held by a business and its liabilities. It shows a business’ level of liquidity. This looks at how capable a company is in generating profits, chiefly when it comes to near-term financial obligations (paying wages, electric bills, leases, etc.). It also tells a business if and how much it’s able to re-invest to grow profits and increase product or service capabilities.

It’s calculated as follows:

NWC = Total Current Assets – Total Current Liabilities

Total Current Assets = Cash Assets + AR + Inventory  

Current liabilities are short-term financial obligations due within 12 months, including accounts payable (AP) and accrued expenses.


Positive net working capital implies a business can meet current financial obligations and invest in other operational needs. If the NWC is too high, the business isn’t using its short-term assets efficiently. Since some current assets can’t be converted to cash easily, NWC isn’t always the best measure of liquidity. It can similarly signify underused resources.

While there are unique considerations for every business, the more business owners and management are versed in these concepts, the more likely they are to increase their chances of surviving and thriving.


Author: Service2Client

Rasmussen Tax & Accounting is a firm that provides a wide variety of accounting, tax and financial management services. Most of our clients are located in Marshall County, but we also serve clients all across Iowa.
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