10 tips to get your business valuation right

Don't make the mistake of over or under valuing your business. Use this quick checklist and you'll be well on your way to securing investment

1. Get advice

Pick two or three accountancy or corporate finance firms. Ask them to place a price on your business.

2. Avoid formal valuations

Don’t bother with formal valuations. They’re expensive and buyers will make their own assessment. The exception may be family businesses where you are selling to other shareholders.

3. Assess the market

Assess the ‘sexiness’ or ‘fragility’ of your sector. Advisers will fire questions and take a view. Be realistic. Consider your competition, notable changes in the market, the management team, your own importance to the business, and anything that may boost, or indeed, threaten your price, such as outstanding litigation.

4. Make comparisons

Look at comparable public companies’ share prices in your sector. This is always a good starting point, but be aware of equating your performance with that of a more successful player in your sector.

5. Apply various valuation methods

Try various valuation methods and find a middle ground. Methods include an ‘earnings multiple’ (profits after tax); an ‘EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) multiple’, applied where you have debt in a business; ‘asset-based valuations’ if the business has strong intangible assets, such as patents or key employees; and ‘discounted cashflow’ based on estimated future revenues, such as companies that have yet to commercialise a product.

6. Spread your fees

If you’re selling, offer advisers a financial incentive based on completion, such as a percentage of the transaction. This will ensure they strive to create competitive tension when marketing the business. Pick advisers with industry knowledge, track record and contacts at home and abroad to maximise the chances of driving up the bidding.

7. Offer incentives

Incentivise your key management members. This helps to maintain the value throughout the process so that the team keeps its eyes on the day-to-day.

8. Take property and cash with you

Pull property and cash in the business out of the equation – unless it is part of your valuation method. Make sure though that the promised growth is not dependent on those assets remaining in the business.

9. Don’t inflate figures

Don’t change accounting policy to inflate profits. It gives the buyer a great reason to renegotiate and is unethical.

10. Be realistic

It’s a universal truth that all entrepreneurs think their business is worth more. But if you hang onto that view you may just scupper a fair and worthy deal.

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