In the third quarter of 2019, more than 2,400 small businesses were sold. The median sale price was roughly $278,000, up 3.3% from 2018.1
As a business owner, ascertaining the value of your business is important for a variety of reasons, including business succession, estate tax estimates, or qualifying for a loan.
There are a number of valuation techniques, ranging from the simple to the very complex. Outlined below are three different approaches to valuing a business.
- Asset Based: Calculates the value of all tangible and intangible assets held by the business. This approach ignores the future earning potential of the company. Thus, a pure asset-based valuation model is often used for companies that are bankrupt or looking to liquidate.
- Earnings Based: Seeks to arrive at a business’ value by applying a multiple to normalized earnings, i.e., earnings adjusted to subtract owner’s compensation and related expenses. The multiplier can vary substantially, depending upon the industry and the outlook for the business.
- Market Based: Compares the business to recent sales of similar companies.
Business valuation is not just a formulaic exercise. For instance, there is a value to the business of being a “going concern” as opposed to the start-up alternative. Ownership percentage will also matter; purchasing a minority share that has limited control may result in a discount to the actual value. The prospects for the business can impact its value. A greater premium will likely apply to a company engaged in a leading-edge technology than it would to one involved in a mature market.
Valuing a small business is not an exact science. Some aspects of the valuation may be debatable (e.g., the remaining life expectancy of a machine), while other aspects may be positively subjective (e.g., the value of the company’s reputation).
Willing Seller & Buyer
The true value of anything can only be determined when a willing seller and a willing buyer agree on a price of exchange. As a consequence, any valuation exercise may yield only a rough estimate.
Before moving forward with a business valuation, consider working with legal and tax professionals who are familiar with the process. Also, a qualified business appraiser may be able to offer some valuable insight.
1. BizBuySell, 2019