Figuring out what a business is worth is a difficult thing – especially if you are a first-time business buyer.
What do the last several years of tax returns say about what the next few years might be like? How much is the inventory worth? Should you even care what the inventory is worth? How much cash flow does the business generate? What kind of monetary benefits does the current owner get from the business? What are multiples and how were they used to come up with a price?
These are all great questions that you and your broker will discuss when deciding if a particular business is worth what they’re asking. You’ll also use the answers to those questions to decide if a business fits with the goals you have for business ownership. What you may have noticed about this list of questions is they all have a numerical answer of some sort. Businesses are, however, far more complex than just numbers can explain – so let’s look at one marker for value that you may not have considered – the value of your future life.
Two businesses may appear nearly identical on paper – but in terms of value to you as a buyer and in terms of list price they may be very different. Why? One business has far better non-monetary benefits for the owner than the other. Here’s an example:
There are two nearly identical pizza shops in the same area of town. They both generate $100,000 a year, but in one the owner works 80 hours a week – the other owner only works 20 hours a week. Which shop would be worth more to a potential buyer? The one with the vastly better work schedule, right?
There is far more to owning and running a business than just the numbers. You are buying yourself a job and a lifestyle, and for a better job and lifestyle you are probably going to have to pay more. The day-to-day schedule of the current owner, having a strong management structure in place that allows an owner to do things like take vacations – these bonuses are going to cost you more up front, but will give you as an owner a far better lifestyle down the road.
These non-monetary benefits can be hard to put a number on when deciding if a listing price is fair or deciding what to offer the seller, but they are an important part of the value of the business and can’t be overlooked. Talk to your business broker about how to put a value on these perks when drafting your offer. They will be able to help explain the nuances of a particular business listing price.
Are you looking at businesses to buy and feel like the prices are all over the map? Do you have questions about how to evaluate listing prices? Ask us! Leave any questions or comments and we would be happy to help.
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