Market Perspective

2021 Working Capital Survey: Small to Mid-Sized Enterprises Challenged by Uncertainty, but Remain Optimistic

March 15, 2021
The C2FO Team

A new C2FO worldwide survey of more than 6,700 leaders of small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) found surprising alignment in terms of access to liquidity, the cost of borrowing, and their outlooks for the future. 

Our 2021 Working Capital Survey was conducted across 16 countries in December 2020 and January 2021, focusing entirely on businesses with between 10 and 500 employees. Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Most respondents cited economic instability and uncertainty about customer orders as their biggest challenges — concerns likely fueled by the economic crisis that followed the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An average of 87% of respondents said they have enough liquidity for the next six months.
  • The cost of liquidity continues to rise, as 65% of respondents said they pay an APR of more than 8%.
  • Government support played a big role in helping businesses endure the pandemic, as 42% of worldwide survey respondents confirmed they received or had applied for funding from government programmes.
  • Late or extended payment from customers was a growing global concern. An average of 37% of respondents said late payments from customers had increased in 2020. 
  • Despite the challenges of 2020, overall optimism among respondents about their future business prospects was fairly strong — averaging 6.5 on a scale of one to 10.

A full report on the survey’s findings can be downloaded here.

C2FO conducted global surveys of SMEs in 2016 and 2017, but the 2021 Working Capital Survey is the most thorough and far-reaching, conducted in eight languages across 16 countries and consisting of 26 or more questions about topics like financial health, the cost of borrowing, support from government programmes and more.

Download the 2021 Survey 

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