What Makes a Business Worth Investing In?

You have always been interested in investing in a business, however you always hold back because you are scared of making a bad choice and losing your investment. However, there are some ways to evaluate businesses to reduce the risk you are taking when you invest. Of course, risk is never eliminated, but when you properly evaluate what makes a business worth investing in then you will more than likely have your answer whether the company will be a success or failure before you invest your dollars. The following tips will help you make the right investment.

Investment Tip #1 Management

When deciding whether a business is worth investing in or not you need to evaluate the management because a business really is only as successful as its management. Because of this you want to evaluate if the management is knowledgeable, rational, and able to make the right choices to make the company money and prevent it from losing money. Of course, this is an easy question although the answer is a little more difficult.

Investment Tip #2 Business Plan

A business plan that is well laid out and shows positives, negatives, and how the company and management will handle problems within the business is very important. A good business plan shows that management knows where the company is, where it wants to go, and what it needs to do to get there. Be sure you take a look at a company’s business plan before you invest.

Investment Tip #3 Return on Investment

The ROE, or return on investment, is also crucial when you are considering making an investment in a company. Of course, the ratio of equity to debt can be confusing, but if you evaluate the ROE and other economic factors you should be able to tell if the company is bringing money in or losing it.

Investment Tip #4 Room for Growth

Making sure the business has room for growth in its market is also important. A company that has little competition is preferable, but a company with a moderate amount of competition and a plan to be number one is OK as well. Just do your research.

When you are interested in investing in a company you need to take your time and evaluate the company, look over financial statements, talk to management and have all of your questions answered to your satisfaction. After all, it is your money and you aren’t going to give your money to just any company. So, be sure and confident in the company and have that backed up with proof and you will decrease your risk investing in a company.

How Much is Your Business Worth?

There are 3 basic approaches to value your business: the Asset Approach, the Income Approach and the Market Approach.

The Asset Approach is based on the principle of substitution. Meaning, it assumes that no prudent buyer / investor would pay more for a particular business than the cost to reproduce it right across the street. The main flaw with the Asset Approach is that it does not do a good job of capturing intangible value (goodwill). How you (and your employees) treat your customers and the reputation you hold in the marketplace is not something easily duplicated (and therefore valued with the Asset Approach). So, beware of the limitations of this approach. Understand that although an Asset Approach provides a relative indication of value for highly asset intensive companies, it may serve merely as a liquidation value for your service oriented company. The Income Approach and Market Approach do a much better job of fairly capturing the value of your company’s goodwill or intangible value.

The Income Approach operates under the assumption that a buyer will pay for the cash flow that your business is set up to produce going forward as of the date of sale. Buyers buy cash flow. How much they are willing to pay for access to your cash flow depends on the risk associated with the buyer actually receiving it once you exit the business. If your company shows a consistent history of steady cash flow and/or growth a buyer is likely to pay more for your cash flow stream (less risk) than for the cash flow stream of a similar company with unstable cash that cannot reasonably be assumed to reoccur in future periods (more risk).

By valuing the cash flow of your company you are inherently valuing EVERYTHING that your company does. If your company did something different (made different decisions or operated under a different philosophy) your cash flow would look different and the value of your business would be different. Your cash flow reflects all the decisions you make within your company. So, I challenge you with this question, if the decisions you are making don’t increase your cash flow (and buyers will pay you only for your cash flow) why are you engaging in those activities that don’t result in increased cash flow? They are not adding value to your company.

The third approach to value is the Market Approach. If you own a home or have rented an apartment, you’ve done a form of the Market Approach. When you compare and contrast similar properties and then use the comparative data to value your property, you are doing a Market Approach. In residential real estate you may compare things like price/sq.ft. or price/bedroom and price/bathroom. Once you obtain these ratios from similar properties you multiply the ratio by the square footage, the number of bathrooms, or the number of bedrooms in your home to get to a value for your property.

You can do the same thing with businesses. However, as you may have guessed, the value of your business is not driven by its square footage and its bathrooms. It is driven by other metrics such as revenue, assets, growth, leverage, turnover, liquidity, etc. Publicly traded companies and transactions involving other private industry participants provide an understanding of how price relates to the various financial metrics of these companies. Then, just like we did in valuing your property, we apply these market ratios to the metrics of your business to determine its market value.

Valuation is a complex matter with many intricacies that are not discussed here. The purpose of this article is to familiarize you with the basic valuation approaches employed. I don’t recommend that you attempt to value your business without the help of a qualified expert. But, I do encourage you to gain an understanding of these approaches so you can better focus on building value within your business before it is time to sell.

How Much is My Business Worth?

If you are considering selling your small business, it will be important for you to evaluate your business in order to derive a reasonable asking price. Experts recommend that you assess the business from more than one angle in order to obtain an accurate picture of how much your business is worth.

Rules of Thumb Methodology

Begin by analyzing the history of your business to determine how much profit the business has been earning in excess of your own salary and benefits. Project future data based on your specific history, as well as general market trends to establish if the past is a fair representation of the future. This is typically known as “Rules of Thumb” methodology.

Market and Industry Trends

In examining trends, it is necessary to consider such items as supplier price changes, competition, and how the particular industry is performing. Also, take a look at prices paid recently for comparable companies in similar locations. Additionally, compare your company’s year-end gross profit and operating income to other industry competitors. If your company is closer to the top of the range in profitability, you can command a higher price for your business.

Owner Benefits

Then investigate the value of your business by using the Multiple Method; a pre-determined multiple (usually between 1 and 3) multiplied by the earnings of the business. The earnings or “Owner Benefits” amount can typically be used as an effective basis. This number is the total funds that you can foresee being available from the business based on past experience. The value is derived by adding the owner’s salary and benefits to the business’s profits; then adding back non-cash expenses.

The multiple that is used is mainly based on the industry. It is usually one time the value calculated if the business owner is the entire business, such as consulting or freelance services. Businesses with a solid customer base and more than 3 years in business most likely will be worth 3 times the basis.

ROI

Another calculation that should be looked at is the Return on Investment (ROI) that a buyer could expect to receive if they purchase your business. This is calculated simply as Gain from Investment minus Cost of Investment divided by Cost of Investment.

Assets

In addition, take into consideration the value of the business’ assets. This includes inventory and equipment.

Overall, it is important to keep accurate financial records. Buyers seeking financing to purchase your business will need to present information to back up the price being paid for the business.