Business Valuation Blog | Understanding Buying / Selling a Company

Behind Assets and Liabilities: How Professionals Determine Value of a Company

Posted by Business Valuation Specialists LLC on Oct 12, 2016 3:00:00 PM


When it comes to determining the value of a company, many people, business owners included, consider only what the balance sheet says or what their local competitor sold for recently. But is that a valid way to determine what a business is truly worth? Not by a long shot. Here's our look at how professional business appraisers calculate the valuation of a company:

Behind Assets and Liabilities: How Professionals Determine Company Value

When a professional appraiser needs to determine the value of a company, the balance sheet approach is one of the last approaches used. Why? Because most businesses are far more than simply the sum of their assets minus the total of their liabilities. There are many factors, such as goodwill and reputation, position within the market and many other aspects that can affect the outcome of business appraisals. Here are two of the most commonly-used approaches to business valuations:

Income-Focused Valuation Methods

When a business is being bought or sold, the person who is selling the business is losing future income. For this reason, many businesses are appraised using an income-focused methodology that takes that income into account when determining the final value for the business. Two different methods are used to calculate the appraised value, specifically based on whether the company's income has remained steady or has been irregular in the past:

  • The discounted earnings or discounted cash flow method is used when income has been irregular or periods of growth are irregular, and is used to determine the current value of future income.
  • The capitalization of earnings method projects the steady growth of the past into the future to determine the current value of that income.

Market-Focused Valuation Methods

The market-focused approach takes into consideration what similar companies have sold for in the market, but customizes the sale figure to the business being appraised. The company used for the baseline may be a similar publicly-traded company or have similar transactions, earnings or revenues to the company being appraised. Common methods used include:

  • The guideline public company method, which uses the price paid for minority shareholders in a similar public company in the industry and adjusts it to the company being appraised.
  • The guideline company transactions method, which compares the sale price of companies that are of similar industries, size, location and products or services offered and makes adjustments to account for the differences between the sample company and the business being appraised.
  • The multiple of discretionary earning method, which adjusts the financial statements from a small company by dividing the sample company's transaction value by its discretionary earnings, which is then used as a multiple for the company being appraised.
  • The gross revenue multiple method, which is similar to the discretionary earning method in that it takes the transaction value but divides it by the sample company's gross revenue to develop a multiple for use in the company being appraised. This can be a poor choice if the sample company and the company being appraised are not similar in terms of profitability.

As you can see, there is much more involved in determining the value of a company than simple bookkeeping or real estate values can provide. The best way to ensure your company is receiving a quality business appraisal is by working with a certified business valuation specialist.

Topics: value of a company, Income Approach, Market Approach, Asset Approach