How selling my own business made me think differently about value
“Value is in the eye of the beholder,” some may say. When I sold my valuation business to Welch Capital Partners in 2018, I learned that the concept of “value” is much broader than my theoretical learnings had led me to think.
My seller’s journey
After years of dreaming of running my own business, I finally hung out my shingle in 2013. As my family’s sole breadwinner at the time, it was a big but exciting jump for me to launch my boutique valuation services business and venture out into the world of entrepreneurship. Even the most mundane tasks, like making business cards, were exhilarating. I was finally my own boss, and I looked forward to building a business that was successful and a great place to work.
So, when multiple firms approached me just four years later to buy my business, my instinct was that it was too early to sell. I was coming off my best year financially, and the future of my business looked bright. Was it the right time? But attracting external interest in my business sparked something in me. It showed me that my company had value to others. What was that value? What would I sell for? These questions, among others, ran through my mind every night.
After some reflection, it became clearer to me: I was ready to make the leap. With 15 years of training in business valuation, I’d built up a strong expertise in intrinsic business valuation and fundamental analysis. I had applied the discounted cash flow method hundreds of times. I thought I knew how to distinguish between a good company and a good investment. I intimately understood the risk/return relationship. I was ready for the “dance” with prospective buyers, and I figured I had the upper hand.
More than math
I soon learned that although the fundamentals mattered — strong potential earnings and cash flow, good revenue growth, recurring versus non-recurring customers, etc. — other features mattered more. Beyond dollars and cents, there was much to consider as I decided the future of my company: strategic fit, product/service diversification, market presence and professional reputation, market value proposition and competitive advantage, and other factors.
I also realized that achieving a strong valuation was not just about the characteristics of my company. It was also about how a buyer could help make my business better and increase its potential value. As my discussions progressed, so did my mental checklist of the qualities I was looking for in a potential buyer:
- The buyer’s strategic vision was aligned with mine and would allow my business to grow.
- The buyer’s customer base and referral channels would increase revenues of my business.
- The buyer’s brand was strong in the marketplace and could be leveraged to increase opportunities for my business.
- The buyer’s employees had sufficient skills to support my business and could expand their knowledge and opportunities from its acquisition.
This congruence between the buyer and seller — the degree to which their interests and goals align — is important in maximizing value on an exit. For me, this alignment played an important role in the successful sale of my company. It’s also just as important for a seller to do their due diligence on the buyer, as this will help you align on the valuation.
A balanced approach
As I continued to explore these synergies with potential buyers, it became increasingly important to find the right “home” for my business. Some of the buyers did not align with my new, broader concept of value, so we didn’t negotiate.
As a professional valuator, I know that intrinsic or fundamental value will always be essential. However, the other characteristics of bringing two companies together successfully are just as important. And as much as I enjoyed being my own boss, selling my own business taught me the lessons I needed to learn to make me a better valuator.
Sometimes, you just have to look beyond the numbers.
It has been 4 years since I sold my business to Welch Capital Partners, and I continue to lead a thriving and growing valuation practice. All our clients are appreciative of not only the expertise we bring as valuation specialists but also those additional insights and stories we can bring from our own individual experiences.
This blog was written by Adam Nihmey, CBV, CFA, Managing Director, Business Valuations, of Welch Capital Partners.
Did you want to better understand the value of your business? Are you thinking of selling your company like he did? Email Adam at email@example.com to have a chat.