Is your liquidity ratio holding back your small business? (2024)

August 2023 |Is your liquidity ratio holding back your small business? (1) 4 min read time

Lenders and investors often use this factor to assess a company’s financial health. Here’s what owners should know (and do) about it.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the difference between current ratios, quick ratios, and cash ratios.
  • In addition to reducing overhead expenses and selling unnecessary assets, digitize processes in your business to free up resources.
  • Reevaluate your balance of short-term and long-term debt based on your specific needs.

A steady stream of cash is key to a successful business, but that’s just one part of your financial picture. It’s also important to maintain a strong liquidity ratio, which indicates the business is able to pay off its existing debts with its existing assets.

The easier an asset is to access quickly, the more liquid it is. Cash is generally the most liquid asset because it’s available at the touch of a few buttons on an ATM pad or a digital app — or sometimes in your wallet. The better a business’s liquidity ratio, the more attractive it will be to lenders and investors, both of which can be extremely important for growth.

While this may sound fairly simple, there are several types of liquidity ratios and ways to calculate them.

Understanding liquidity ratio

One of the most common types of liquidity ratios used to determine a company’s financial health is the current ratio. This compares all of the business’s current assets to all of its current obligations.

Quick ratio and cash ratio are two types of liquidity ratios that lenders and investors sometimes look at. Quick ratio factors in only the business assets that can be accessed relatively quickly, and the cash ratio focuses even more narrowly, comparing obligations to only cash and cash equivalents.

To calculate your business’s liquidity ratio, you simply divide the assets (current, quick, or cash) by business liabilities (debts/obligations).

What the numbers mean

Lenders and investors may use liquidity ratio calculations to determine how healthy your business is. They generally want to know that you have cash flow under control, you spend responsibly, and you pay off your debts. Here’s what counts as healthy, high, or low.

  • Healthy current ratio: A business with a healthy current ratio can typically meet its short-term demands and still have enough cash to invest or expand. Generally, a current ratio of 1.0 means that a company’s liabilities do not exceed its liquid assets, though this can vary by industry. Numbers below 1.0 may be acceptable in industries where there’s a quicker turnover in product and/or payment cycles are shorter. In this case, lenders may compare the business’s liquidity score to the industry average to determine its status.
  • High current ratio: This refers to a ratio higher than 1.0, and it occurs when a business holds on to too much cash that could be used or invested in other ways.
  • Low current ratio: A ratio lower than 1.0 can result in a business having trouble paying short-term obligations. As such, it may make the business look like a bigger risk for lenders and investors.

What business owners can do

Here are five ways to improve your liquidity ratio if it’s on the low side:

  1. Control overhead expenses. There are many types of overhead that you may be able to reduce — such as rent, utilities, and insurance — by negotiating or shopping around. You can also look at where you expend time and energy. Explore how to identify potential cash shortfalls and tips for more effectively managing your cash flow.
    One simple move: If your company has a paper trail, going digital can save you time and money that’s now spent submitting and accepting paper checks.
  2. Sell unnecessary assets. Eliminating items such as surplus business equipment can provide a small sum of capital and reduce the average cost of equipment maintenance. Learn more about selling business-related real estate.
  3. Change your payment cycle. Talk to your vendors about opportunities for discounts if you pay early, which can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. On the flip side, you can consider offering your customers discounts for submitting payments ahead of schedule.
  4. Look into a line of credit. A line of credit could help you cover gaps in cash flow due to payment schedules. Some business lines of credit offer access to up to $100,000 per year, with no annual fee for the first year. If you’re considering this, ask yourself these four key questions — and be sure to compare terms before choosing a lender.
  5. Revisit your debt obligations. If you have short-term debt, switching to long-term debt can lower monthly payments and give you more time to pay off the sum. On the flip side, switching long-term debt to short-term debt may mean higher monthly payments, but your debt may be paid off more quickly. Also consider options like debt consolidation and loan refinancing, which may help lower monthly payments now, while also saving you money in the long-term.

Contact a Wells Fargo banker to learn how you can start improving your liquidity ratio today.

Is your liquidity ratio holding back your small business? (2024)


Is your liquidity ratio holding back your small business? ›

For instance, a declining liquidity ratio may indicate deteriorating financial health or inefficient working capital management. However, it may also mean a company is trying to hold onto less cash and deploy capital more rapidly to achieve growth.

What is small business liquidity ratio? ›

It gauges the business' ability to pay back its short-term liabilities with short-term assets. If you have a current ratio of 2:1, you have a financially healthy business.

Why is liquidity important to small businesses? ›

Your liquidity position is a good indicator of the financial health of your business. Pay bills and operating expenses. To pay your bills and operating expenses, you need liquidity. At the very least, make sure your cash position covers your short term obligations.

What does it mean when a small business owner has low liquidity? ›

Liquidity is the ease with which a specific asset can be converted into cash, meaning that cash is the most liquid asset a small business owner can have on their balance sheet. On the other hand, an asset with low liquidity is one that could take more time to sell and result in a significant change in its value.

What happens if a business has poor liquidity? ›

Poor liquidity, on the other hand, means a business is at higher risk of failing if suddenly faced with unexpected debt, for example, a costly machine repair or a large VAT bill. If the business is unable to convert enough assets to cash quickly to cover the debt it can push it into insolvency.

How much liquidity should my business have? ›

The owner might decide to set aside $90,000 to $180,000 to cover three to six months' worth of expenses. But cash-flow can vary from month to month, so it's typically best to use a three- or six-month average for a more realistic view of how the business has been managing its cash.

Is a liquidity ratio of 5 good? ›

Generally, a good Liquidity Ratio should be above 1.0. This indicates the company has enough current assets to cover its short-term liabilities. A higher Liquidity Ratio (above 2.0) shows the company is in a stronger financial position and may have spare cash available for investments or other opportunities.

What is a good liquidity ratio? ›

Generally speaking, creditors and investors will look for an accounting liquidity ratio of around 2 or 3. A higher liquidity ratio means that your business has a more significant margin of safety with regard to your ability to pay off debt obligations.

How to maintain liquidity in a business? ›

Ways in which a company can increase its liquidity ratios include paying off liabilities, using long-term financing, optimally managing receivables and payables, and cutting back on certain costs.

Is it good for a company to have high liquidity? ›

It's also important to maintain a strong liquidity ratio, which indicates the business is able to pay off its existing debts with its existing assets. The easier an asset is to access quickly, the more liquid it is.

What if liquidity ratio is too low? ›

A ratio of 1 means that a company can exactly pay off all its current liabilities with its current assets. A ratio of less than 1 (e.g., 0.75) would imply that a company is not able to satisfy its current liabilities. A ratio greater than 1 (e.g., 2.0) would imply that a company is able to satisfy its current bills.

What problems are caused by low liquidity? ›

Liquidity risk might exacerbate market risk and credit risk. For instance, a company facing liquidity issues might sell assets in a declining market, incurring losses (market risk), or might default on its obligations (credit risk).

Why is too much liquidity not a good thing? ›

It can also be a hurdle for business expansion. Excess liquidity suggests to investors, shareholders, and analysts that the firm is unable to effectively utilise the available cash resources or identify investment opportunities that can generate revenues.

How to improve liquid ratio? ›

9 simple ways to improve liquidity in your business
  1. Increase revenue. Increasing revenue is not always about raising prices. ...
  2. Control overhead expenses. ...
  3. Sell redundant assets. ...
  4. Change your payment cycle. ...
  5. Enhance accounts receivable. ...
  6. Utilise financing tactics. ...
  7. Revisit your debt obligations. ...
  8. Automate and go digital.
Feb 24, 2023

How to solve liquidity ratio? ›

Types of liquidity ratios
  1. Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities.
  2. Quick Ratio = (Cash + Accounts Receivable) / Current Liabilities.
  3. Cash Ratio = (Cash + Marketable Securities) / Current Liabilities.
  4. Net Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities.

How to solve liquidity problem? ›

8 Ways to Solve Liquidity Challenges
  1. Identify the root causes. ...
  2. Improve cash flow management. ...
  3. Explore financing options. ...
  4. Diversify revenue streams. ...
  5. Explore interest rate derivatives. ...
  6. Cut unnecessary costs. ...
  7. Monitor and adjust. ...
  8. Seek professional advice to solve liquidity challenges.
Oct 30, 2023

What does a liquidity ratio of 2.5 mean? ›

The current ratio for Company ABC is 2.5, which means that it has 2.5 times its liabilities in assets and can currently meet its financial obligations Any current ratio over 2 is considered 'good' by most accounts.

Is 0.8 a good liquidity ratio? ›

A good current ratio is between 1.2 to 2, which means that the business has 2 times more current assets than liabilities to covers its debts. A current ratio below 1 means that the company doesn't have enough liquid assets to cover its short-term liabilities.

What does a liquidity ratio of 1.5 mean? ›

A current ratio of 1.5 would indicate that the company has $1.50 of current assets for every $1 of current liabilities. For example, suppose a company's current assets consist of $50,000 in cash plus $100,000 in accounts receivable. Its current liabilities, meanwhile, consist of $100,000 in accounts payable.

What does a liquidity ratio of 0.5 mean? ›

A low liquidity ratio, such as 0.5, indicates that a company does not have enough current assets to cover their current liabilities.


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