Tag: risk

Considerations in Buying a Business

 

I have helped many clients purchase businesses, and probably advised just as many to walk away from deals.  What makes a deal good and what are the important factors in evaluating the purchase of a business?  If you are considering purchasing a business, your goal should be to minimize the risk that you will overpay for the business.

businessman looking to successBuying a business is an investment decision, no different than buying stock in a publicly traded company. When investing in public company, you consider two factors; how much can you expect to receive in dividends and what do you expect the stock price to be when you sell.  Not all stocks pay dividends, but absolutely no sane person would purchase stock in a company if they expected the share price to go down during their period of ownership.

It is the same when you buy a business. The important factors are how much income will be available for distribution to you (the dividend) and how much will the business be worth when you are ready to sell (the share price).  The problem is, there is usually more uncertainty (risk) in a private business than in a public company.  As a purchaser, what can you do to understand and minimize the risk?

Consider the risk

Accounting records tell the story of a business, and speak for themselves. If the business does not have good accounting records that go back at least five years, that is risk.  The more explanations and stories that are needed to support the accounting records, the greater the risk.  I always tell clients that they should only pay for what the seller can prove.  As far as we are concerned, if income isn’t reflected on the books and reported on the tax returns, it does not exist.

Concentration risk is another important consideration. If the business is economically dependent upon a single customer or a few customers, a single product supplier, or a few key employees, the future of the business is risky.  What would the business look like if the important customer was no longer a customer, the single supplier could no longer supply product, or some key employees went to work for a competitor?  Could the business continue profitable operations if one or more of these events occurred?

More than a salary

If you buy a business and the only thing you get is a salary for working there, you are not buying a business, you are buying a job. Take the emotion out of your decision. You would be better off getting a job somewhere else and not putting your investment at risk. However, if you expect the business to grow, allowing you to receive more money in the future, and eventually sell the business for more than you paid, that is a different story and should be your goal.

I have touched on a few of the many things that must be considered in the purchase of a business. Before you buy any business, you should conduct thorough due diligence, which is usually performed by CPAs and attorneys experienced in business purchase and sale transactions.  This will help you understand the business, its risks, and provide the information that will allow you to estimate the value of the business.

If you’re buying a business and have questions about the risks involved, contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected]

What is Risk? How Does it Affect Business Value?

 

risk and business value
What are the risks in your business, and what can you do to reduce them?

According to Dictionary.com, risk is defined as “the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or a dangerous chance.” In the business valuation context, risk refers to the possibility of financial loss or drop in asset value.

In layman’s terms, the risk in buying a business is that you will overpay for it. The more risk that is associated with an investment, the higher the return that is demanded by the investor. The higher expected returns are achieved when the market places a lower value on a business that is perceived as having higher risk.

In estimating the value of a business, the analysis is based on expected cash flows and the risk that such cash flows will not be received as expected. An astute buyer seeks to minimize risk, through careful evaluation and understanding of the business he or she is considering buying or investing in. As I have said in previous blogs, the evaluation of a closely held business is no different than the evaluation done in purchasing 100 shares of a public company:

  • Will the company continue to pay dividends?
  • How much will those dividends be?
  • What will the shares be worth when you are ready to sell them?

Certain risks, such as the economy in which the business operates, are uncontrollable. Some risks, such as future competition, may be anticipated but others, such as technological obsolescence may come as a complete surprise. Many years ago, a client purchased a chain of successful photographic film developing labs and continued to operate them successfully until the advent of digital photography. The client certainly did his homework, but did not see the change that was coming. Neither did Kodak and look what happened to them!

Controllable risks to consider

If you are buying or selling a business, what are some of the controllable risks that you should look out for?  Here are a few of the more common ones:

  • Poor accounting records – A company’s accounting records should tell the full financial story of the business. With all the low-cost accounting software that is available, there is no reason that every business should not have great accounting records. A company’s books should speak for themselves; the more stories, explanations, and exceptions, the greater the perceived risk.
  • Customer concentration – Is the continued success of the business dependent upon a single customer or a few customers? If the loss of any of these customers would negatively impact the business, that is a significant risk.
  • Supplier concentration – Is the business dependent on any suppliers that cannot be quickly and easily replaced? This could be a problem if anything happens to one of those suppliers.
  • Key employees – Is the business dependent on the services of one or more employees? Are there enforceable employment contracts and non-compete agreements in place with them? If the business does not have these agreements (signed by all parties and on file), what would happen if those employees went to work for your competitor?
  • Foreign competition – Can the product or service offered by the business be purchased at a lower cost from a foreign provider? Everything from tax preparation to manufacturing to technology consulting can be outsourced overseas these days. If this hasn’t affected your business yet, chances are it soon will. What are you doing to remain competitive?

Taking these factors into account, what are the risks in your business, and what can you do to reduce them?

Everything you do to reduce business risk will be a step toward increasing your company’s value. If you’d like a fresh look at the risks inherent in your business, or to discuss the business valuation of your company, contact me at 201.655.7411 or  [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Increase the Value of Your Business

 

increase the value of your business
Reducing costs can help you increase cash flow and, as a result, the value of your business.

The value of a business is based on two factors: the expected future cash flow of the business and the risk that future cash flow will occur when and in the amounts expected.

Cash flow and risk are the meat and potatoes of business valuation. The valuation report that is produced is just a detailed analysis of these factors. Continue reading “How to Increase the Value of Your Business”

Using Rules of Thumb in Valuing a Business

 

business valuation
Rules of thumb may be easier, but considering factors such as cash flow and risk lead to a more accurate business valuation.

From time to time, I receive a call from someone who wants me to tell them the value of a business that they want to buy or sell. They provide a few items of information, such as last year’s sales or net income and expect that I will apply a multiple to quickly and easily come up with a value*.

What they are asking me to do is apply a rule of thumb.

Continue reading “Using Rules of Thumb in Valuing a Business”