Many key factors can impact the value of your business (opinion) |

Many key factors can impact the value of your business (opinion)

Buzz Harris
Special to the NNBV
Buzz Harris

RENO, Nev. — There are several key factors affecting the value of a business, and the No. 1 factor is the importance of knowing the business’ net cash flow in helping to determine its selling price.

Once a business’s net cash flow has been identified, a multiple against that number is applied to establish the businesses value. Generally, the lower the multiple, the higher the return on investment for the buyer.

For example, a business where the buyer pays a multiple of three will see a 33 percent annual return on investment while someone paying a multiple of two should expect to earn an 50 percent annual return.

In Northern Nevada, the majority of profitable privately held businesses will sell for one and a half to four times their net cash flow.

There are numerous factors that can impact the multiplier. One of the significant factors is the type of business the owner has.

For example, a manufacturing facility likely would have a higher multiple than a service business. Because the ease entry into many service businesses is easy compared to the capital costs associated with starting a new manufacturing facility, buyers are prepared to pay more for the latter.

The profitability of two businesses in the same industry we’ll have dramatically different multiples if one has a net cash flow $100,000 and the other has $1,200,000. A good rule of thumb is that the higher businesses net cash flow, the higher multiple.

There are a number of operational factors that can also have an impact. A business that has 80 percent of the revenues come from two customers will have a smaller multiplier than a business where no one customer represents more than 20 percent.

This reminds me of the client who was very proud to have taken his client base from a level of 18 to 20 customers down to two. Even though his profitability didn’t diminish with his new strategy, he never was able to sell the business because there weren’t any buyers who were prepared to risk losing approximately 50 percent of the revenues if they lost one client.

A business with strong market share will command a higher multiple than a weak competitor. For example, a Ben’s liquor store would likely command a higher multiple a corner liquor store.

If a business has key personnel in place, they will typically get a higher multiple than one who doesn’t. A typical buyer is generally prepared to buy a little more if the business has managers in place who can help with the transition. A good analogy is when buying a car, most people will pay more for it if has an engine in it.

Franchises, especially those with multiple locations can get a higher multiple compared to independent businesses. For example, the multiple that an independent restaurant netting $100,000 will likely sell for is smaller than a group of franchise restaurants who are each netting $100,000.

Where a business has been and where is now can also have an impact. Although most buyers are not prepared to pay a price based on current reality, if a business has shown steady growth over the past three years, a buyer may very well pay a higher multiple than a similar cash flowing business which is on a slippery downhill slope.

And finally, one key factor that is often overlooked is business owners who are prepared to carry a note as part of their deal. They undoubtedly will see a higher multiple. This is because buyers will typically expect a discount if they are paying all cash for a business, which will translate into a smaller multiple.

Buzz Harris is a licensed business broker with The Liberty Group of Nevada. Reach him at or 775-825-3948.