Business appraisers typically gather a lot of historical financial data when working with their clients on valuation assignments. They review income statements and balance sheets while looking at the market and industry data that all help shape their conclusions. Going back five or more years is not uncommon, while at the same time discussing reasonable future expectations within the confines of the current company profile.
On occasion, however, an appraiser may engage with a new “startup” or a company that’s been in development for years with little to no income that projects a formidable 5-year forecast of significantly higher revenues. How should that appraiser approach the valuation effort without ignoring historic performance or the external data they usually rely on when looking at more traditional businesses?
The answer is largely dependent on the credibility of the forecasted revenues and their client’s underlying reasoning behind these estimated projections. Here are a few questions to ask both the client and yourself as you work through the analysis:
Is the business unique in any way to its competitors or to comparable businesses in the market?
If yes, then it makes sense to focus on those areas to support the projections that might otherwise appear unreasonable on the surface. If the answer is no, then use the available market to create some checks and balances with the forecasted figures.
Has there been any tangible infrastructure developed within the company that sets the stage for realistic expectations of the longer-term forecasted growth?
It is common with a 5-year forecasted projection to aggressively estimate much higher revenues in the latter half of this period. What has been accomplished today that might further enable the appraiser to agree the longer-term outlook is not overreaching?
What degree of hypothetical or extraordinary assumptions is being made to support the aggressive growth?
Is the client making one too many assumptions about the internal structure of the company or making future market predictions that just don’t add up to a reasonable expectation?
Overall, there will be additional challenges with these valuation projects where reliance on heavily forecasted projections far outweigh historic data. As an appraiser, don’t be afraid to question the client if you are not comfortable with the overall picture they are presenting. Have them provide a clear, sensible outline that supports the aggressive forecasts, and ensure you make statements in your report which show the level of reliance you put on the assumptions and conditions. After all, it is your work that will potentially be relied upon by other parties who may be investing in the future of your client’s company.