Understanding the Lifeblood of Business Called “Working Capital Cycle”

May 23rd 2024
Working Capital Cycle

The working capital cycle, which measures how quickly a business can convert its current assets into cash, is a critical financial indicator. It gauges the efficiency and profitability of a company. Therefore, business owners should grasp this concept to optimize their operations and maintain economic stability. 

Running a business requires constant adaptability and quick thinking due to the ever-changing internal and external factors, including political dynamics, policy alterations, leadership transitions and more. 

Managing a business in an unpredictable environment is challenging, especially for leaders. Cash is essential for daily business operations, highlighting the importance of understanding the working capital cycle. 

Definition of Working Capital Cycle

The working capital cycle is a crucial indicator of a company’s financial health, reflecting its efficiency in managing cash flow. Measuring the time it takes to convert current assets into cash to settle current liabilities, provides insights into the company’s operational performance. 

The working capital cycle is crucial for businesses to sustain their operations and fulfil short-term financial responsibilities. With a negative cycle, companies can rapidly use their current assets to settle current liabilities, aiding in effective cash flow management. Conversely, a positive signifies poor cash flow management and potential financial challenges for the company. 

How Does a Rupee Go Through Different Stages of Working Capital Cycle?

The working capital cycle is the ongoing movement of cash in a business. It shows how money is spent on resources and then comes back as revenue. Knowing this cycle is important for businesses to manage their cash flow properly. Let us explore how a rupee flows through this cycle. 

1. Initial Investment: The cycle kicks off as a company invests cash in raw materials or inventory required for production. This initial investment can be funded through different methods such as - 

  • Cash on hand: The company utilizes its available cash reserves to acquire necessary resources.
  • Debt financing: Debt financing allows the company to access capital by borrowing money from banks or other lenders, which is then used to acquire resources essential for its operations. Consequently, this gives rise to accounts payable, representing a current liability on the company’s balance sheet that needs to be repaid within a defined timeframe.

2. Production and Inventory: The company takes the acquired resources and uses them to manufacture goods or provide services, which are kept as inventory, a current asset on the balance sheet. At this point, the company’s funds are tied up in the inventory and are not immediately available as cash. 

3. Sales and Accounts Receivable: When the company sells its products or services, it receives revenue, but customers may not make immediate payments. Instead, they may be given credit terms, resulting in accounts receivable, a current asset indicating that the company has extended credit to its customers and is awaiting payment. 

4. Collection and Cash Flow: Once customers settle their accounts receivable, the company receives cash, enabling it to fulfil its obligations to suppliers and continue its operations. This consistent flow of cash allows the company to maintain a healthy financial cycle and support its ongoing business activities.

What is the Importance of Working Capital Cycle for Businesses?

The working capital cycle is crucial for assessing a business’s profitability and financial obligations. A shorter cycle allows for faster cost coverage, reduced overheads and increased investment in growth. On the other hand, a longer cycle can lead to financial strain as managing working capital becomes challenging with limited cash flow. 

What are the Pillars of the Working Capital Cycle?

There are 4 important pillars of the working capital cycle and they are - 

  1. Cash: Ensuring a robust and steady stream of cash coming in and going out is essential for the financial stability and growth of any business. It involves effectively managing receivables and payables, optimizing operational efficiency and making strategic decisions to balance short-term needs with long-term objectives. 
  2. Receivables: These refer to the amounts owed to a company for goods or services provided on credit. It represents the company’s right to receive payment in the future. Managing receivables effectively is crucial for maintaining healthy cash flow and ensuring timely collection of money owed. 
  3. Inventory: The time taken to sell the inventory is a crucial metric in assessing the efficiency of inventory management. It represents the average number of days it takes for a company to convert inventory into sales, providing insights into how well the business is managing its stock levels. 
  4. Billing: It is the time taken by buyers to make the payment to the seller or service provider

How Do You Measure the Working Capital Cycle?

To calculate your working capital cycle, you must first identify your current assets and current liabilities. Then, you need to calculate the average number of days it takes for your business to convert its current assets into cash and use that cash to settle its current liabilities. This cycle is important for understanding the efficiency of your business’s cash flow management. 

Given below is the formula through which you can calculate or measure the working capital cycle:

Working Capital Cycle = Inventory Days + Accounts Receivable Days Accounts Payable Days


Now, let us understand the concept with the help of an example. 

Example of how to calculate/measure working capital cycle

Let's consider a mid-sized textile manufacturing company in India, "IndiTex Pvt. Ltd." This company manufactures and sells cotton garments to both domestic and international markets.

Step 1: Inventory Days

The average inventory period is a crucial metric that indicates how efficient a company is in managing its inventory. For IndiTex Pvt. Ltd, having an average inventory period of 60 days suggests that they need around 2 months to convert their raw materials into finished goods and sell them. This information is valuable for analyzing the company’s operational efficiency and its ability to effectively control stock levels. 

Step 2: Accounts Receivable Days

The average collection period for IndiTex Pvt. Ltd is 45 days, indicating the time it takes for the company to receive payment from customers after a sale. This reflects the credit period granted by the company to its customers, enabling them to make payments within 45 days. 

Step 3: Accounts Payable Days

The average number of days it takes for a company to pay its suppliers for raw materials is an important measure of its financial efficiency. For example, if IndiTex Pvt. Ltd has negotiated a 30-day credit period with its suppliers, then the company’s accounts payable turnover ratio can provide insights into how well it is managing its cash flow and relationships with its suppliers. 

Working Capital Cycle Calculation

  • Using the given formula: 

Working Capital Cycle = Inventory Days+Accounts Receivable Days − Accounts Payable Days

  • Plugging in the values: 

Working Capital Cycle = 60 days+45 days − 30 days

Working Capital Cycle = 75 days


IndiTex Pvt. Ltd needs to maintain sufficient working capital to cover its 75-day working capital cycle. This cycle represents the time it takes for the company to pay for raw materials and receive cash from the sale of finished goods. The company needs to have enough working capital to avoid liquidity problems and ensure smooth operations. 

How to Optimize the Working Capital Cycle for Business Success?

If your business lacks the necessary working capital, do not worry, as this is a common issue for many business owners. Fortunately, there are simple tips you can implement to improve your working capital. These straightforward tips can provide a significant boost to your business. 

  1. Slow back-office work can delay sending out invoices, hurting your business by prolonging payment time and preventing customers from paying. Sending invoices quickly helps improve cash flow and access to working capital. 
  2. Business owners often forget overdue accounts, leading to late payments and decreased cash flow. So, do not forget the overdue accounts
  3. Deciding on payment terms for clients can indeed be confusing. While Net 30 is the standard, it often means waiting for payment for an extended period, leading to cash flow challenges. It is important to carefully consider your options to ensure a healthy cash flow for your business
  4. Offering early payment discounts or late payment fees can incentivize customers to pay promptly, resulting in improved cash flow. While there might be a slight loss in earnings due to discounts, it can be offset by the increased working capital that can be utilized for business operations. 
  5. Good inventory management saves money and ensures you have what you need when you need it. 
  6. Invoice factoring is a financing option for small businesses, involving a third-party company managing accounts receivables collections. It provides quick funding by advancing 80% to 90% of the invoice value. 
  7. Buying equipment can be tempting for lowering long-term costs but leasing can free up more capital and offer cheaper payments, making it a more accessible option for business owners. 
  8. Trade Credit Insurance offers financial protection for businesses worried about customer payment risks, protecting cash flow and helping to secure better financing terms.
  9. Conducting credit checks is crucial in assessing your customers’ financial background. It helps to determine if they have a history of timely payments, defaults or any underlying financial issues. This information enables you to make more informed decisions about which clients to work with, selecting those who have a proven track record of meeting their financial obligations. 
  10. New businesses may struggle to secure long payment terms with suppliers due to a lack of payment history. Building a good relationship and providing reliability can lead to better negotiation. Good payment behaviour allows for more flexible payment schedules. 

Also ReadWhat is Working Capital – Know Its Benefits


The working capital cycle, in essence, is crucial for any business as it determines the efficiency of resource-to-cash flow conversion. By optimizing this cycle, businesses can gain numerous advantages including enhanced profitability, minimized risk and a solid base for expansion. 

This article provided a detailed explanation of the working capital cycle, including its various stages and how to measure its efficiency. It also highlighted the importance of factors such as inventory management, receivables collection and supplier payment terms in determining cash flow. 

Analyzing and optimizing your working capital cycle can significantly improve your company’s financial performance. By implementing strategies such as streamlining invoicing and offering early payment incentives, you can unlock the full potential of your working capital. This will ultimately lead to faster revenue generation and a stronger bottom line for your business. 

Take control of your working capital cycle to ensure the success and sustainability of your business. This ongoing process will allow you to manage your cash flow effectively and reap the rewards in the long run. Do not wait, start taking action today and set your business on the path to thrive. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is a good working capital cycle length?

A: Having a shorter working capital cycle is important for efficiently converting resources to cash, but the ideal length can vary by industry. Grocery stores, for instance, usually have a shorter cycle compared to manufacturing companies with high inventory levels

Q: Can a negative working capital cycle be bad?

A: It is important to maintain a balance in the working capital cycle, as an overly negative cycle could indicate that a company is compromising its inventory levels to manage short-term cash flow. This could potentially affect its ability to meet customer orders. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly analyze the reasons for a negative cycle and mitigate any potential adverse effects on other aspects of the business

Q: How can I calculate the working capital cycle length?

A: A company's ability to convert its resources into cash efficiently can be measured by the working capital cycle length. This period is usually expressed in days and is calculated by factoring in inventory days, receivable days, and payable days. A shorter working capital cycle reflects a company's effectiveness in managing its working capital and optimizing its cash flow. The formula used to calculate the working capital cycle helps determine this crucial aspect of a company's financial health:

Working Capital Cycle Length (Days) = Inventory Days + Receivable Days - Payable Days


Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Post

Reach out to our Experts if you have any Doubts

Like the best things in life, Consultations @InvestKraft are free

Drop a Mail or give us a Missed Call & Begin your Investment Journey here


Subscribe to our newsletter