If you own or co-own a construction business, it’s likely the most valuable asset in your possession. But the question is and will remain throughout your tenure as an owner: Just how valuable is it?
The answer is variable because, as you’re likely aware, the value of a company rises and falls depending on a number of factors — not the least of which is the national economy and the state of your local construction market as it rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, it’s important that any business owner, including a contractor, place a high value on valuation.
More than M&A
Perhaps the most common purpose of a valuation is a prospective ownership transfer, such as a merger or acquisition. Yet strategic investments — such as expanding into a new construction specialty or buying a large piece (or multiple pieces) of new equipment — can also greatly benefit from an accurate appraisal. As growth opportunities arise, construction business owners have only limited resources to pursue chosen strategies. A valuation can help plot the most likely route to success.
But hold on, you might say, why not simply rely on our tried-and-true projected financial statements for strategic planning? One reason is that projections ignore the time value of money because, by definition, they describe what’s going to happen given a set of circumstances. Thus, it can be difficult to compare detailed projections against other investments under consideration.
Valuators, however, can convert your financial statement projections into cash flow projections and then incorporate the time value of money into your decision making. For instance, in a net present value (NPV) analysis, an appraiser projects each alternative investment’s expected cash flows. Then he or she discounts each period’s projected cash flow to its present value, using a discount rate proportionate to its risk.
If the sum of these present values — the NPV — is greater than zero, the investment is likely worthwhile. When comparing alternatives, a higher NPV is generally better.
Critical Parts of the Process
Understandably, many contractors don’t know what to expect from a valuation. To simplify matters, you can break down the appraisal process into three critical parts.
First, there’s the purpose. This could be as clear-cut as an impending sale, of course. But perhaps an owner is divorcing his or her spouse and needs to determine the value of the business interest that’s includable in the marital estate.
In other cases, an appraisal may be driven by, as mentioned, strategic planning. Have I grown the business enough to cash out now? Or how much further could we grow based on our current estimated value? The valuation’s purpose strongly affects how an appraiser will proceed.
Second is something called the standard of value. Generally, business valuations are based on fair market value — the price at which property would change hands in a hypothetical transaction involving informed buyers and sellers not under duress to buy or sell. But some assignments call for a different standard of value.
For example, say you’re contemplating selling to a competitor. In this case, you might be best off getting an appraisal for the “strategic value” of your construction company — that is, the value to a particular investor, including buyer-specific synergies.
Third is the basis of value. Private business interests typically are designated as either “controlling” or “minority” (nonmarketable). In other words, do you truly control your business or are you a noncontrolling owner?
Defining the appropriate basis of value isn’t always straightforward. Suppose a company is split equally between two partners. Because each owner has some control, stalemates could impair decision making. An appraiser will need to definitively establish basis of value when selecting a valuation methodology and applying valuation discounts.
The Right Expertise
As you can see, valuation is hardly a simple process. But it’s typically an insightful one when performed by a professional appraiser with thorough knowledge and experience in the construction industry. As your CPA, we can also provide helpful support. Contact us today for assistance.
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