Archive for April, 2018

Sooner or later, this questions pops up for most business people. Whether you are selling or buying a business, hand the reins to a younger generation, seek investment to grow the company, or need to fend off legal challenges, the issue of business value comes up.

Most business people have no clue about business valuation

Now if you are like the typical business person, you are busy running the company. Measuring what it is worth is not the sort of thing you do regularly. The same holds true for most business professional advisors, including CPAs and lawyers. Business valuation is a specialized area that calls for know-how and attention to detail.

Just like with any business chore, cutting corners does not pay dividends. You can ask your business partners for advice, but odds are they know little. Opinions and anecdotal suggestions are no help, most are misleading and overly simplistic. The devil, as the saying goes, is in the details.

How to value a business – a high stakes game

Trouble is, business valuation is about as important a decision making point as it gets. Just consider the amounts of money at stake. Mishandling business valuation is likely to cost you thousands, result in a failed business transaction or a court judgment you will hate. Ask a seasoned business broker and your will hear an uncomfortable statistic: nine out of ten private business sales fall through because the buyer and the seller do not agree on the business value and its selling price.

Courts and tax man use business appraisals aggressively

It gets even more troublesome if you face a legal challenge or questions from the tax man. Courts have a way of enforcing their point of view and you may find a court appointed business appraiser does not agree with your idea of business value. Unfortunately, such business valuations are binding on all parties and professional business appraisers are trusted by courts and tax authorities.

Approach business valuation with respect

Whenever professionals are needed for a business task, you can surmise it is not easy. Indeed, business valuation has a lot of moving parts. For one thing, there are three fundamental ways to value a business. No one way, or approach to valuing a business, is definitive. Put another way, there are several ways to look at what a business is worth. Each approach offers a different perspective. Business appraisers are a detail oriented lot, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for measuring business value.

How to value a business? Three ways to do it

The three ways are formally known as the asset, income, and market approaches. Investing in a business requires capital to acquire business assets. The cost of creating a successful company is considerable. The asset approach seeks to reveal business value based on its operating assets and liabilities.

On the other hand, you can view any business as an income producing entity. Making money at an acceptable level of risk is the key objective and this is the view taken by the income approach to business valuation.

In the real world, businesses operate in a competitive environment. Similar companies can be compared to see what they are worth. Such comparisons are the cornerstone of the market approach.

If you take a look at a professional business valuation, all three approaches are used to figure out what a business is worth. In conclusion, business appraisers like to tie all their findings together in stating the business value. It could be an average of all the calculated values, or a range.

Troubled by business value result? Check the assumptions

One reason business valuations cost good money is that business appraisers are expected to study reams of business information in order to make careful assumptions and express their educated opinion at the end of the report provided to the clients. Such assumptions drive the conclusions of business value. If you have trouble buying the number, go back and review the assumptions.

What? Does the value of business goodwill change depending on the amount of current liabilities carried by the company?

It may not sound intuitive, but it actually is true. Consider the well known capitalized excess earnings business valuation method, the go to technique when valuing business goodwill.

A trick question: how much capital is committed to the business operations?

If you take a close look at how this method works, you will notice that the net asset value is calculated as the difference between the adjusted business assets less its current liabilities. This net asset value is then multiplied by the fair rate of return to estimate the capital charge, or the amount due on the committed business capital. The greater the net asset value, the higher the capital charge.

Excess earnings – what’s left after return on committed capital

Now for the fun part. The capital charge is next subtracted from the business earnings basis in order to calculate the excess earnings. This quantity gives the method its name. The idea is that a well run business generates earnings in excess of the capital charge thus providing superior return on investment.

Higher excess earnings indicate higher business goodwill

The capitalized excess earnings method determines the value of business goodwill by capitalizing these excess earnings. So the higher the excess earnings, the greater the business goodwill value. Businesses that put more money into the owners’ pockets are associated with higher business goodwill.

Notice that the capital charge is affected by both the total business asset values as well as the current liabilities. Given the asset values, higher current liabilities result in a lower net asset value and smaller capital charge. This in turn leads to higher excess earnings and increases the amount of business goodwill.

That’s how the capitalized excess earnings valuation method works. But what does it tell you in pure economic terms?

Higher earnings with less capital required often result in higher business goodwill

It essentially implies that those businesses able to operate on lower net asset bases have higher goodwill. These companies use Other People’s Money very effectively to finance their operations, usually in the form of short term borrowing from their suppliers.

The secret behind e-commerce success – lower working capital requirements

An example would be an e-commerce online retailer that gets paid shortly after selling the products. At the same time, the company enjoys attractive short term financing terms from its vendors. In addition, it reduces the need for working capital by managing its inventory just in time. The result is lower inventory shrinkage, more economic reordering strategy, and less capital tied up to meet the sales goals.

This is one reason online businesses are often able to out-compete their brick-and-mortar competitors. The online companies do not require expensive real estate for merchandizing and can manage their inventory and other direct selling costs more flexibly. Online businesses tend to focus on efficient and cost effective order fulfillment without the extra overhead of a retail store presence in a high priced shopping mall.