Business Valuation: The Process and Methods (Explained)
There are more than 33 million small and medium-sized businesses scattered across the US. Many of those businesses are concentrated in urban areas, such as the metropolitan St. Louis area. The simple population density concentrates people with entrepreneurial leanings into a small area.
Despite all of the hard work and long hours, often 50 hours a week or more, there does come a time when most business owners are ready to pack it in. If they want to sell the business, rather than simply close, they’ll need a business valuation.
Not clear on the nature or use of a company valuation? Keep reading and we’ll cover the essentials of the valuation process and methods.
What Is a Business Valuation?
In simple terms, a business valuation aims at creating a realistic assessment of the business’s economic value. Some business valuations assess the value of the entire business, while others only look at evaluating part of the business.
For example, let’s say that you run a medium-sized manufacturing concern. You have two production plants that serve two different kinds of clients.
Let’s say that you’re the sole owner and want to retire. If you don’t have someone in mind to take over the business, you may decide to sell it.
If someone comes along and only wants to buy one of the production plants, you’d do a partial business valuation. If someone wanted the whole business, you’d do a full valuation.
The most recognizable use of business valuations is for the purpose of selling the business. It’s not the only potential use for a valuation.
In some cases, potential investors might want a valuation before deciding if or how much they’ll invest. Business valuations happen sometimes during divorces to ascertain the full scope of the couple’s assets.
You might also want a valuation for tax planning, estate planning, or even for mediation with stockholders.
What Is the Business Valuation Process?
The exact steps taken in a business valuation process depend in part on the particular valuation method selected. We’ll cover the main methods below. What follows is a general sequence of events that occur in most business valuations.
The individual or company providing the valuation will look for clarity about the scope of the valuation. For example, are they determining a value for the entire business, part of the business, or a specific number of stock shares?
As part of this step, they’ll also want a specific date for setting the value, since the total value can fluctuate over time. In many cases, they’ll simply set the date for the business’s most recent tax filing.
You must clarify what the report is for. If you need it for estate planning, rather than litigation, the depth of the valuation may vary. They’ll also need to know what kind of report you need, as reports can range from basic summary reports to in-depth reports.
The valuation service will likely ask you for a lot of documents. The exact documents will vary from business to business and industry to industry.
For a retail business that depends on a high volume of transactions, the company may want fairly in-depth sales reports. For a business that makes approximately 6 custom yachts per year, a profit and loss statement might suffice.
In most cases, the company will provide a specific list of documents it wants.
The valuation service will then analyze the information. They’ll typically compare it with industry information, since this can shed light on whether business profitability is average, above average, or below average.
Depending on the analysis results, the valuation company may also come up with a set of follow-up questions for the owner or management team. This kind of management discussion typically focuses on clarifying information or understanding factors that the documents may not make clear.
After that discussion, the valuation company will use one of the methods below to develop a final valuation. They’ll issue a report that the business owner can then provide to potential buyers.
This process can move quickly or slowly, depending on the size, complexity, and industry of the business.
Business Valuation Methods
There are several business valuation methods that a valuation company might employ to value a business. Let’s take a quick look at the most common approaches.
Book value is one of the simplest approaches. It essentially adds up all of the assets on the business’s balance sheet. Then, it subtracts all of the liabilities on the balance sheet from the total asset value.
The liquidation value assumes that you own a distressed business. This approach adds up the value of your assets and subtracts a percentage from that value for a final value. The valuation company must determine the exact percentage it will subtract.
Market value can take a couple of forms. A basic market value approach simply multiplies the number of shares in a company by the going sale price of that stock.
A more complex version compares similar companies to arrive at a relative value for the business. This approach can provide a better real-world picture, but it is also subject to market errors like as an industry bubble overvaluing businesses.
Discounted Cash Flow
The discounted cash flow approach assesses the immediate value of predicted future profits. In this approach, the size of the discount applied to that value reflects the risk that the business will underperform.
Each approach has benefits and problems. Ideally, you should get multiple valuations based on different valuation methods for a clearer picture.
Business Valuation and You
Business valuation is a tool that you can use to determine a realistic asking price for a business you want to sell. There are several possible valuation methods that you can use, but multiple valuations give you the most clarity about your business’s ultimate value.
Fortunately, while the methods of business valuation can prove complex, you can hire someone else to take on that headache.
Fusion Business Services helps St. Louis-area business owners value and sell their businesses. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Fusion Business Services today.