When you think of a crystal ball, what types of people come to mind? Prophets? Magicians? Shady fortune tellers? While all of these people are associated with the act of attempting to predict the future using a crystal ball, there is another group of people who still today rely on their figurative crystal balls whether they know it or not: business owners.
Every day, business owners must make estimates and guesses about the future of their companies with the intent to position themselves to take advantage of whatever opportunities may arise. Whether through preparing budgets for next year or creating 5 year projections for use in business planning, business owners often need to gaze into their crystal balls and attempt to predict the future.
Getting business owners to dust off their crystal balls is essential during the business valuation process. Owners or management are often hesitant to provide projections or estimates to business valuation analysts, sometimes under the notion that if the analyst has access to the company’s historical financial statements, they have all that they need to properly determine the company’s value. While historical financial statement analysis is a key component of any reliable business valuation, it is the future operating expectations of a company that truly drive its value.
Imagine being presented with the option to invest in either of two companies for the same price. Company A generated $10 million in annual cash flow up to the valuation date, but due to changes in the industry, is only expected to generate $1 million in annual cash flow going forward. Company B only generated $1 million in annual cash flow up the valuation date, but is expected to generate $10 million in annual cash flow going forward due to the development and release of a new product. Which company would you rather invest in? Obviously, considering the limited facts presented, the rational investor would choose to invest in Company B due to its superior operating expectations compared to Company A.
Value is driven by future operating expectations, not historical results. Only in cases in which management’s expectations are that future results will mirror the company’s historical operations can historical results reasonably be relied upon to determine a company’s value. Historical results can also be relied upon to determine the reliability of a company’s projections.
Therefore, if a business owner is in need of a business valuation, it is important that he or she dust off their crystal ball and spend some time thinking about the operating expectations for their company. While none of us can predict the future with any certainty, obtaining some sort of expectation for a company’s future operating results is essential to the development of any properly performed business valuation.
Looking for business valuation assistance in Cleveland or Akron? Contract our Business Valuation Services group at 440-449-6800 for more information.