The Importance of Capital

By: John Nowly

In general, capital is a term used to define resources used to make money. Basically, you use capital to make something else. If you are interested in economics, there is a lot to learn about the concept of capital as an input into the production process.

But we are talking about accounting and finance for your small business, so we will lean towards the accounting interpretation of fixed capital. In practical accounting terms, you can think of fixed capital as fixed assets. The fixed capital assets are used to make something which is then sold for revenue. This is how you convert your capital to cash.

If you want to see your capital, pull out your balance sheet and look on the asset side. Do you see machinery, buildings, trucks, or trailers? If your balance sheet does not include that level of detail you may need to ask the accountant for an asset listing. For those of you who are already hands on, you may have created the asset listing yourself.

In addition to your fixed capital, you should have some working capital. The working capital is what you use everyday in operations - think of it as your on hand capital. Remember from our earlier discussions that resources like inventory and raw materials are assets?

If you take your current assets, like cash, raw materials and inventory, then subtract your current liabilities, like accounts payable, you will get your working capital. Hopefully, the amount of working capital you have is enough to get you through a few weeks of tough times. The working capital is what you need to manage everyday because if you do not, it will diminish and you could run out.

Running out of working capital is bad because that means you are off balance. Your assets, including cash, will begin to pale against your liabilities. It is not easy, however, to manage the working capital. It takes hard work and understanding. We will talk a lot more about working capital in lesson two.

Most small businesses begin getting capital when they first start out. You plan to make money and you need to have some capital to use in making money. Some small businesses can take off from the beginning and do not need another infusion of capital.

If your business is growing at a rate that lets you reinvest earnings and keep growing then you might not need to look for more capital. But some business plans require regular infusions of capital, especially in the beginning growth stages, to stay on target.

It is okay to need more capital so long as your growth plans and future profits can support the payback of more capital. Some capital is secured through collateral and is not really at risk until you can not make a payment and the equipment is taken away. This could have disastrous effects on related parts of your production system.

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