Most small business owners have only a vague idea of what their businesses would really be worth if they wanted to sell. And most of the ones who think they know what the business is worth are probably wrong. Professional appraisers who regularly conduct business valuations say that owners err on both ends of the spectrum. Some fail to include intangible assets in their estimate and tend to undervalue what they've built over time. Others think their businesses are worth much more than the market would dictate.
Business owners often bring in an appraiser to prepare for a purchase, a merger or an employee stock ownership plan. Or a valuation might be needed for estate and gift tax returns, buy-sell agreements, litigation, tax challenges, divorce or many other purposes.
But even if there's nothing on the immediate horizon, every business owner should have a current valuation in his or her desk drawer as a tool for helping make informed decisions about the company's direction. An objective and independent valuation gives you a much clearer picture of where you're going. Here are four more reasons to perform a business valuation and where you can find help:
- To understand where your business fits in the industry landscape. A business valuation will describe precisely where you fit in your industry or specialized market, including the market price or value of similar businesses recently sold or publicly traded.
- To gain more insight into your "real world" financial condition. As a business owner, you probably have P&L and other financial reports to give you a picture of your financial health. But a valuation that includes intangible assets can expand on, confirm or deny existing beliefs.
- Make fast decisions on expansion, financing, sale or merger opportunities. When opportunities knock, you might not have time to conduct a business valuation. Having a current valuation in hand will let you pursue opportunities as they arise.
- Make smart choices to enhance the value of your business. A valuation will highlight the things that make a business valuable, and show you ways that you can increase what your business is worth.
Selecting a business valuation expert is not an easy affair. There's no business valuation specific college major, and states don't require a license to practice business valuation. You can easily find business valuation and appraisal services at Business.com.
These resources can also help you find a qualified business appraiser or perform a business appraisal on your own:
- The American Society of Appraisers (ASA) is an international organization of professional appraisers. You can locate an accredited appraiser at the ASA website under "Find an Appraisal Expert." Visit www.appraisers.org.
- The National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA) also offers a free service online to help you find a credentialed business valuation expert in your area. See the "Credential Member Directory" in the "Resources" section of the website at www.nacva.com. You can search by location, area of specialization or industry keyword.
- Low-cost business valuation software can help you calculate a rough approximation on your own. Choices include Express Business Valuation (available at www.mbaware.com) and Corporate Valuation (at www.moneysoft.com).