There's more to it than just looking at your profit margins. We're taking a look at three important things to look at when assessing the value of a small business.
The first, and probably most logical, place to start is the financial value of the business. This is reasonably straightforward to calculate, although it is advisable to use the services of a good accountant or financial manager to make sure everything is taken into account. The simple calculation is Assets – Liabilities to get the fixed value, plus average profit over the last three years to gauge potential income.
Market value has less to do with its financial value and more to do with whether it has potential to grow beyond its current position. There are several questions you can ask to determine market value:
Where does your business sit in relation to other, similar businesses in the market? Who is your target market and what are they doing at the moment? Does your product or service have any unique selling points that could attract investors or buyers? What is the potential for growth in the market generally and this company specifically? If there room for growth or is the market saturated? Look at other, companies of similar size to find out how they have fared in the last year – has there been a significant number of closures in the industry or is it booming?
These questions aren't going to give you a financial value, but will help you gauge whether it is worth selling, investing in or buying this kind of company.
Even in difficult market conditions, some companies have such a good reputation for customer service, product excellence, market presence, and goodwill that they are a good choice for any investor. Such companies tend to have repeat business based on their positive reputation and relationships with customers.
Fortunately, it is a lot easier to find information on a company's reputation than it used to be, say, twenty years ago. With social media, online reviews, publicly available reporting information and even something as simple as email, it is reasonably easy to find out if the company has a good – or bad – reputation.
It is always extremely risky to take on a company with a bad reputation, although it is possible to publicize the fact that the company is under new management and that things will change. Counter-intuitively, it can also be extremely risky to take on a company with an impeccable reputation; there is always the possibility that the reputation relies heavily on some seemingly magic combination of factors that could shift under new management.
Whether you're the current business owner, a prospective investor or someone looking to buy a business, remember this – the value of a company lies in more than just the money it makes, and a savvy investor will take that to heart.